Filbert Playlot Group Coming Up $100k Short

By Mike Fourcher | Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Filbert Playlot. Photo courtesy of Friends of Filbert Playlot Park.

Community organizers working to renovate the Filbert Playlot, 1822 W. Larchmont Ave., got a rude shock from the Chicago Park District on Monday when they learned that $100,000 promised by former Ald. Eugene Schulter (47th) would not be forthcoming.

It turns out that the $100,000 Schulter had committed in January was supposed to come from 2011 “menu money” funds, not 2010 funds, and because Schulter is no longer the 47th Ward Alderman, the Park District says the funds transfer is off.

“As soon as we heard Ald. Schulter was stepping down, we were very concerned about the committment he made,” said the President of Friends of Filbert Playlot Park, Emily Klingensmith. “Was it 2010 or 2011 money?”

Klingensmith estimates the Filbert renovation will cost between $300,000 and $350,000. For park renovations, the Park District typically requires the community to fund a third of the cost and for another government agency to fund a third before the Park District will commit the remaining amount. Other than the $100,000 Schulter had supposedly committed, the Filbert group has raised $22,700 on their own.

Former Ald. Eugene Schulter (47th) presenting Emily Klingensmith with a $100,000 check for Friends of Filbert Playlot Park at their January 30, 2011 fundraiser.

Friends of Filbert Playlot Park, as well as this publication, were led to believe that the funding was coming from 2010 funds. Klingensmith provided Center Square Journal with a February 8, 2011 email from a Schulter staffer stating, “Beth O’Reilly of the City Budget Office has made the necessary arrangements for the monetary transfer of funds from the 2010 menu to Filbert Play Lots project.”

“We were told that it was 2010 money and that it did not have to be recommitted,” said Klingensmith this afternoon. “I’d like to believe there wasn’t any kind of purposeful misleading of what was going on here.”

Thinking that her group was well on the way to fully funding their end of the project, Klingensmith contacted the Park District last week to ask when a landscape architect might be hired to work on the design. Instead, on Monday the Park District forwarded her a copy of Schulter’s actual funding committment letter from January 11, 2011, stating that he wanted to commit 2011 funds for the playlot. [A copy of that letter can be found at the bottom of this article.]

Schulter announced his retirement on January 17, 2011.

Now Klingensmith is hoping that recently installed Ald. Ameya Pawar (47th) will recommit funds from the 2011 menu money.

“We are looking into 2011 menu allocations. We are also inquiring about pending 2010 menu projects. I support the Filbert project and I am trying to get a complete picture,” said Ald. Pawar via text message this afternoon.

“We’re appreciative of Ald. Schulter and all his support,” said Klingensmith. ”We’re just surprised by this. He was helpful to us.”

Schulter Filbert Play Lot Letter

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  • Anonymous

    I respectfully note that the distinction in this letter that indicates funding is from the 2011 menu was re-written and submitted to the park district  with the menu distinction corrected to 2010 before being requested from Budget Director Eugene Munin.  They also received  a letter in support of Merryman Play Lot for the same amount.  Did someone call Director Munin to discuss this issue?  Did they talk to the Alderman or myself as his assistant at the time?  Perhaps someone could stop in Alderman Pawars office and go through the information given to him regarding this as well.  Feel free to pour over the files left in the computer I used.

    There was no effort whatsoever to misrepresent this support in any way.

    Alderman Schulter and I have always supported the parks in the 47th Ward, because the families that make commitments to these projects have their hearts and souls connected to their neighborhoods.

    Historically, over the 36 years he has served the public, Alderman Schulter has committed millions of dollars through the TIF districts to develop the parks in the 47th Ward.  He has been an amazing partner to the Chicago Park District and their efforts and limited budget.  He has developed the school playgrounds and parks with the Chicago Public Schools.  He has coordinated volunteers, corporate sponsors and grass roots efforts by neighborhood businesses and community groups to see these parks thrive and grow.

    These two play lots, specifically, are out of a TIF district and this solution was a perfect fit from 2010 menu dollars.

    The Park District sending along this incorrect letter is unfortunate and mis-leading.  Are they unprepared to work on Filbert this year?  Can they not match the dollars usually given by the Park District?  Are they using the absence of the office and the Alderman to delay?  Or is it just a mistake that has ‘nervous nellies’ running in circles?

    I have an opinion about that.  But nobody asked.

    Best Regards,

    Sheila Pacione

    • Anonymous


      I’m not sure if you are accusing us of misreporting information or not, but I’ll take the opportunity to address some of these points:
      - I spoke to Ald. Pawar about this and other records. He repeatedly said that he and his team are still trying to sort things out and do not have their hands on specific records yet. I think his comment in the story goes to that question.
      - I did not attempt to contact the Park District, but after reading your comment, I will FOIA the pertinent records.
      - Ald. Schulter has not left a forwarding number for these sorts of questions. However, I think the email message quoted in the story (which was from you to Ms. Klingensmith) as well as comments I took notes on from Rob Rawls in January, represented that the money was coming from 2010. Two independent groups were told by Schulter staff that the money was coming from 2010 funds. Then Ald. Schulter allowed this misperception to continue as he took photos with the Playlot group and enjoyed public support as a result.  These facts cannot be in dispute.

  • Anonymous

    Alderman Schulter has lived in the same place on Bell Street for a considerable period of time and I would think that contacting a man who is living in this neighborhood for years and is Committeeman of the 47th Ward Democratic Party (an office now located at 4237 N. Lincoln) might not be difficult or require a special follow up number.

    Alderman Schulter did not “allow” (insert finger quotes) this misperception to continue. You speculate that he did based on a letter with a typographical error.

    In the future, please feel free to contact me at shpacione@aol.com if my name or work product are being discussed in your publications. It may help to clear up unnecessary confusion.

  • http://spudart.org spudart

    $300,000 to renovate a playlot park? Maybe I don’t understand how much things cost, but I would absolutely love to see detailed line-item budget that outlines where every single dollar of this $300,000 is going.

    I love parks. Our city needs more parks. But charging $300,000 is only preventing us from getting better parks. Please correct me if I’m wrong about thinking this is an extremely high price. 

    • Anonymous

      The park by my house just went through this. Depending on design, it’s at least $300k, and the public must raise a sizeable portion of funds. However, while the public has to raise funds for a private project, they have no say in contractors hired, materials/providers used, or how funds are spent. Private citizens who manage to get parks renovated deserve medals, in my opinion. The bureaucracy and work involved is stunning.

  • Anonymous

    Thank you very much for responding to this article, and for explaining that Alderman Schulter sent a subsequent letter to the CPD clarifying that 2010 menu money had been committed to Filbert Playlot Park.  When the CPD told me last week that 2011 menu money had supposedly been committed, and that it needed to be re-committed by Alderman Pawar, I thought something was wrong.  As you know, you and I discussed this issue in late January / early February, and you confirmed that it was 2010 money that didn’t require a re-commitment.  When the CPD told me we needed a re-commitment last week, I didn’t know how to contact you since Alderman Schuler’s offices are closed.
    I will follow-up with the CPD first thing Monday morning to explain there is a subsequent letter from Alderman Schulter that commits 2010 menu money.  We have already been in touch with Alderman Pawar about this issue, too, and he will be talking with us early this week once he’s had an opportunity to get settled and review the records that were left for him. 
    FRIENDS OF FILBERT PLAYLOT PARK is very appreciative of the support and help we have received from Alderman Schulter and his staff.  I very clearly relayed these sentiments to Center Square Journal when they contacted me last Wednesday to inquire about our progress and updates.  FRIENDS OF FILBERT PLAYLOT PARK is also very appreciative of the support and help we have received from Alderman Pawar and his transition team.  Our community is very fortunate to have two consecutive Aldermen who understand the importance of providing safe, accessible playgrounds for our children.
    Thanks again for your help, and for clarifying this situation.  Feel free to contact me if you’d like to discuss this situation further, or if you have any suggestions for how our community can better navigate this process.  Filbert Playlot Park needs to be renovated as quickly as possible.
    Best regards,
    Emily Klingensmith
    President, FRIENDS OF FILBERT PLAYLOT PARK Advisory Council

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