Last week, I had a story about how Bensenville is taking a different tack in its fight with Chicago over the airport expansion. The new mayor is trying to negotiate with the city, rather than continue fighting demolition of 600 homes and businesses which have already been sold to the city. See the story here.
Included with the story were photographs of the "acquisition area," where the homes are boarded up and grass is waist-high. It's an eerie scene. Our photographer, Richard Chapman, did a gallery of photos online.
The story intrigued reader Greg Kolack, a photographer who wanted to check out the area himself. But while he was there, he ran into a hassle. Here's part of his e-mail:
"In the middle of one of the streets about 3 blocks away from Irving, was a grey van with a city of Chicago placard in its windshield. Inside was a man pretty much doing nothing - just sitting there eating an apple. This was about 4:00 pm. I passed him and doubled back since it was a dead end street, so I passed him a second time. When I was about a 1/2 block ahead of him, he started driving.
"As I turned a corner about 2 blocks later and got out to take some photos, he pulled up next to me. He said 'Which house are you going to buy?' I asked him what he meant. He said all these houses were going to be auctioned. I just laughed and he said 'I'm not kidding.' Then he asked why I was shooting photos and if it was for a paper. I said it was just for my own purposes. He made some more small talk, but he clearly was trying to scare / pressure me to leave. When I was done and got in my car he said 'Make sure you send me the paper that these photos are printed in.' He then followed me for another couple of blocks.
"I called the Village of Bensenville and they said Chicago only owns the property the houses are on, and the streets and sidewalks are still owned by Bensenville. They said I had every right to be there, and seemed unconcerned that this guy was trying to pressure me to leave.
"This made me wonder - all the houses there have clear No Trespassing signs on them stating that the houses have been purchased for the O'Hare Expansion project. Since Bensenville still owns the streets but the city owns the houses, who is responsible for enforcing the laws against trespassing on the land - Chicago or Bensenville? If Bensenville, is Chicago paying them to enforce laws on land that Chicago owns?"
After getting Greg's letter, I asked Aviation Commissioner Rosemarie Andolino -- what's with the guy in the van? And she said, yes, the city does have a property manager and security patrolling the area. While the city doesn't have police powers in Bensenville, they will ask someone to leave if they've been hanging around too long, and they will call police if someone is doing something illegal.
"Our concern is that people will break into those facilities and do types of activities we wouldn't want them to do," Andolino said. There has been reason to worry -- there was an arson fire in one of the houses. "We don't want people just hanging out there."
She said the same policy is followed at the airport -- officials don't want people loitering. They could be pretending to be a photographer, but really intending to steal, she said.
I asked if someone could just go in, take a few shots, and leave promptly when asked. She said yes, they're public streets, but emphasized again that they don't want people just hanging around, so they will hustle you out.
So, the message here is if you want to take a picture of the demolition area while it's still in its science-fictiony, after-the-apocalypse state, you can. But leave fast so you don't get hassled.