Ald. Gardiner Could Help — But He Stubbornly Refuses

On Tuesday evening, CBS 2’s Political Investigator Dana Koslov spoke to building owner Barbara Murphy, one of her tenants, and Alderman Gardiner about an ongoing dispute about residential permit parking next to her building. In the interview, Gardiner misrepresents the tools at his disposal to help, instead spending his time erecting barriers to then justify his inaction.

As we’ve previously reported, Barbara Murphy, former owner of Josi’s Frozen Yogurt Cafe and current owner of a 16-unit residential apartment building at Montrose and Lacrosse Ave, has been involved in a months-long effort to get assistance from Alderman Gardiner after he created a problem by imposing new parking restrictions which now force her tenants, some with physical disabilities, to park blocks away from their homes.

The building in question sits on Montrose, just off of Lacrosse. In September, permit parking signs went up on the 4400 block of N. Lacrosse after Gardiner forced the designation through Council, despite the Department of Finance’s (DOF) recommendation not to require permits on that block.

When Gardiner was asked in his CBS interview about accusations this was done out of spite against Murphy, he neglected to answer, instead pointing to a letter issued by the City Clerk on Friday — the day after Koslov first contacted Gardiner about this issue — stating they’d just conducted an “unofficial survey” and they did not recommend designating a “200-address buffer zone” for this street.

Alderman Gardiner on CBS 2 Refuses to Help Resolve Constituents’ Parking Pains

Gardiner falsely stated in the interview there was nothing he could do, claiming city code prohibited him from creating buffer zones smaller than blocks of 200 addresses; however, just last year Gardiner did exactly that. In September 2020, just as this dispute was starting, Gardiner designated a small buffer zone for a block of 18-addresses on he 5200 block of N Lovejoy allowing them to park on the permitted 5100 block.

Ordinance introduced by Ald. Gardiner in Feb 2020 and passed in Sept 2020 to designate 18 addresses on Lovejoy as a buffer zone linked to a nearby permit parking zone.

While Gardiner points to the City Clerk’s hastily produced “unofficial survey” as an excuse to not help, he explains that he was justified in overriding the Department of Finance’s (DOF) official survey recommending against designating this permit zone in the first place because he lacks confidence in their methodology. Had he listened to DOF, he would have avoided creating this problem altogether.

City statute outlines several criteria that must be true to impose permit parking on a block, including that over 85% of available spots must be occupied, as determined by a DOF study. The DOF study for this block concluded that only 61% of parking was occupied — meaning there is plenty of parking available, as residents have also documented in videos — therefore it should not require a permit to park.

Gardiner also failed to mention aldermen have an even more finely tuned instrument to solve problems like this. Aldermen can issue letters of exception to allow specific individuals to purchase permits for nearby zones, no buffer zone required. Gardiner issued 91 exception letters since January 1 2020— two of those were for this exact zone in question on Lacrosse. While Gardiner has issued exceptions across the ward at a rate of 1.5 per week, Gardiner told Nadig News “he has no plans to make an exception for only one building because that would be giving ‘special treatment’.” It seems by not helping Murphy, Gardiner is treating her differently than others in the ward.

Due to the new parking restrictions, residents in the Montrose building are no longer able to park on Lacrosse. According to Murphy, with no parking on Lacrosse, Montrose, or Cicero, residents without on-property parking are now forced to park two or three blocks away, walking past open parking spots on Lacrosse. The building was constructed with four ADA compliant units. At least two of the tenants impacted have physical disabilities which make such distances difficult. Murphy says her son also has a physical disability, making him oxygen-dependent, and limiting their ability now to take their son to their building.

Murphy and her tenants have made dozens of attempts to work with Gardiner over the past six months. After weeks of calls and emails, they finally were granted a meeting at his office on September 17, 2020. According to Murphy, Gardiner was dismissive and condescending toward her and her tenants, as he looked out the window saying “sounds tough”, as they explained the personal impact of parking restrictions. Gardiner made reference to a September 8 social media post from Murphy, where she said she had “been trying to reach the Alderman’s Office since 9/1” and asked “Does anyone know how to elevate issues like this?”, telling her “social media is a double-edged sword.” According to Murphy, during the meeting Gardiner warned her to “keep quiet”.

According to Murphy, at one point in the meeting Gardiner asked her husband to step outside to speak man to man where Gardiner reportedly said something like, “We’re all Irish here, tell your wife to keep quiet on Facebook.”

Ignoring Gardiner’s warnings to “keep quiet” and to watch what she says on social media, last week Murphy created a Facebook group to tell her story. After Murphy reached out to other area elected officials and City departments for help, all of whom said unfortunately only the Alderman can solve this problem, Murphy told Gardiner she would be seeking legal counsel on November 27. On November 30, captured on multiple security cameras, a man who obviously targeted her building smashed the glass front door with a brick. It’s unclear if the incidents are related.

It’s in Gardiner’s power to easily solve this situation, through a buffer zone for the building or individual letters of exception; however, as he tags his social media posts with #peopleoverpolitics, he’s made it clear when it comes to critics, he intends to use his powers to do anything but help.

Chicago Northwest Side News. Watchdog. Holding public officials and candidates accountable.