Alderman’s Misleading Letter Just Another Brick in the Wall

After six months of a building owner’s pleas for help from Alderman Gardiner (45), he finally responds — with a misleading letter to neighbors presenting a false choice.

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.

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.

On November 30, 2020, days after the conflict with Alderman Gardiner escalated, a man smashes the front door of Murphy’s building with a brick.

The situation could be easily resolved by Gardiner by simply designating a “buffer zone” which would grant the ability to buy parking permits for the Lacrosse zone to residents around the corner on Montrose. Gardiner is aware of this concept; while he was ignoring Murphy’s requests for help, he designated a buffer zone for residents of the 5200 block of N Lovejoy to allow them to park on the permitted 5100 block.

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.”

Since then, Gardiner has been unresponsive to her requests for help. 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.

In Gardiner’s letter, distributed door-to-door to residents on 4400 N Lacrosse, he writes, “this letter is to gain further constituent feedback from residents… Surrounding residents who reside on Montrose are also seeking access to parking permit #2210 that may impact available parking on your street. An option, if agreed upon by the residents of 4400 N Lacrosse, is to rescind parking permit #2210 that will allow anyone access to park on your street.”

March 18, 2021 letter hand-delivered to residents on 4400 N Lacrosse.

The letter is misleading in that it’s not clear there are three distinct options: keep permit parking but do not allow residents around the corner to also park in readily available spaces, keep permit parking while allowing the residents around the corner to buy permit #2210, or rescind permit parking altogether. It’s unclear why Gardiner would rather drop off letters and knock on doors late at night over this issue instead of simply rectifying it with a buffer zone.

Gardiner’s late night letter drop after six months of inaction appears to have come after learning members of the press had contacted his office earlier in the day to talk about this issue.

This entire situation could have been avoided, had Gardiner simply created a buffer zone for a handful of residents or had he respected the City’s recommendation to not designate 4400 N Lacrosse as a permit parking zone in the first place. 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.

Aldermen can override DOF’s recommendation, which Gardiner did here and has done on several other occasions, often as political favors. For example, in one of Gardiner’s first official acts as alderman, he overrode DOF to impose permit parking on the block of 4700 W Hutchinson. This particular block failed three of the five legal criteria for permit parking; however, one of Gardiner’s most vocal supporters, the admin of the Six Corners Neighbors Facebook page, lives on this block so he overrode the City.

Who has juice on the 4400 N block of Lacrosse? Gardiner supporter and former Alderman Pat Levar.

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