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Is The Opposition To CCM In Grant Park Racist?

When I first heard of plans to move the Chicago Children's Museum to Grant Park I was firmly opposed to the idea. I had visions of green space being torn up and replaced by a monstrosity overrun by wide-eyed, sticky-fingered kids. But mostly my opposition stemmed from my jealousy of even more park development for affluent areas of Chicago. Back in March I posted an entry on this gardening blog, titled "Dear Mayor Daley," where I complained about the disparity of park development in undeserved neighborhoods. Today I'm still not pleased with situation we have in many of our neighborhoods that aren't near the lake but I'm no longer in opposition of the Chicago Children's Museum desire to move to Grant Park.

This week Mayor Daley flat-out accused the opposition of the move of being racists and anti-children. 42nd ward Alderman Brendan Reilley appeared on Chicago Tonight last night to explain that his opposition wasn't fueled by racism or a dislike of kids. He explained that his opposition arose from the fact that it would go against tradition to build in Grant Park and that he (and local residents) were concerned about the impact traffic would have on the area. He was joined on the panel by a spokesperson for the CCM that corrected my erroneous notions of the development and laid out the benefits of moving the CCM to Grant Park.

The image above is a rendering of what the museum would look like. Currently the spot houses Daley Bicentennial Plaza (the white structure between the tennis courts in the link) and the museum would be two stories below ground that would be accessible by car and bus. The street level of the building would also be accessible by pedestrians, buses and taxis. From these renderings I don't see any negative impact on Grant Park that isn't already there. According the to Chicago Park District website Daley Bicentennial Plaza already host programs that include; "fitness, yoga, aerobics, ice skating and preschool classes. In the summer, the park is devoted to day camp, tennis and Chicago style 16” softball."

The complaint by residents of the 42nd Ward and their Alderman that the museum would have a negative impact on the area because it would create congestion is ridiculous. Nothing gets on my nerves more than hearing people who move into the skyscrapers near the lake complain about new development being detrimental to the environment and the problems that it will create for traffic. I suppose they get in and out of their ivory towers by jet pack and never walk, or drive to and from their condos. Where was their concern when they made the decision to move to the area? The lake front hasn't been pristine land in many, many years and I can't muster any sympathy for people who's very presence creates the traffic problem they want to complain about.

I'm glad that Alderman Brendan Reilley has researched the history of Grant Park to help him arrive at his decision and that he's worried that allowing the CCM to move to Grant Park would set a dangerous precedent for stewardship of the park. But he should recognize that we're talking about a museum not a hotel/casino. The CCM hosts kids and families that represent every ethnic and socio-economic group that lives in or visits our city. Many of the people who would have access to the museum in the proposed location have probably never even been to Grant Park. Wouldn't it be great if all the children of Chicago had the same opportunity to visit and learn about the rich history of Grant Park?

Mayor Daley jumped the gun and in my opinion was out of line when he played the race card and labeled the opposition as racist-it seems to me that this more of a class issue than anything else. Grant Park is known as Chicago's "front yard" and it is time residents of the 42nd ward look over their shoulder and realize that those of use who live away from the lake are also part of Chicago and Grant Park is also our "front yard."

The Chicago Children's Museum is asking supporters to e-mail Alderman Reilley using a form on their website that you can access at this link. If you're a resident of Chicago or have ever visited the CCM please take a moment and sign and send the e-mail. I'm going to take my support a step further and deliver some of the Halloween candy that is already on store shelves to show my support for the CCM.


  1. MBT - I've been trying to follow this story and I still can't figure out why Mayor D thinks this is racist. I suppose I should take the time to go find an article that clearly explains his viewpoint - do you understand why he thinks this is racist? i mean are they planning to only allow minority children in this museum?

    I kind of hate to see them build ANYTHING in Grant Park but I can totally see your point.

  2. Gina,

    I'm wondering the same thing!

    I don't know where he got that from or if maybe he's privy to somethings that were said behind the scenes or something. But it seems he's saying the people who live in the skyscrapers around GP don't want minority kids running around in their 'hood.

    I'm against building in GP too but technically they're building over a building that is already there. And the architectural plans for this building are pretty nice and it looks better than the structure that is already there.

  3. well i say BUILD ON, then! i'm gonna do some digging to see if I can find out if big D has any real reason for this. i'll let you know if i find anything reasonable.

  4. Anonymous4:56 PM

    I just came across this blob on Google and would like to ask one simple question: is the museum going to be free for the poor disadvantaged kids instead of charging an $8 dollar admission fee?

    If they want to move away from the Navy Pier parking fees, would they make the museum free so the disadvantaged children from all backgrounds and races may benefit from it?

    I think everyone is hypocrit, including the ones in favor of the "poor children"...

  5. Hello anonymous,

    Were you raised in or live in Chicago?

    I ask because as a kid when we went on field trips to places I noticed that as a school group we never paid the full price of admission. School groups are given discounts at museums here some may even be free.

    Also "poor kids" (and even rich kids) can get passes at the local library that provides free admission to our cultural institutions.

    But you bring up a point I forgot to mention. With the museum being centrally located two blocks away from the hub of our public transportation more families would be able to afford to go there on their own since they wouldn't have to pay the huge parking fees in and around Navy Pier and contribute to the congestion that the 42nd ward complains about.

    Thanks for commenting you've given me yet another reason to support the CCM's move to Grant Park.

  6. Funny thing about that: the last time I was in Grant Park, I saw a whole lot of people using the park who looked Black and seemed to be under the impression that they were, in fact, of African descent. But, of course, they must been mistaken because as we all know, only white people ever want to enjoy the fresh air and sunshine? :)

    I'm amazed that this remark has been taken as seriously as it has been, by so many people. It's simple gutter politics on Daley's part, about as subtle as a sledgehammer in its delivery.



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