Lincoln Park residents question Olympic plan

Though representatives from Chicago 2016 spoke about the Olympic games and their impact on Lincoln Park in positive terms, some audience members at a community forum last night questioned the environmental costs to the neighborhood.

The city's Olympic plan calls for triathlon events on North Avenue Beach and tennis matches at 3600 N. Recreation Drive.

The forum, hosted by the Lincoln Park Advisory Council, explored the impact the games will have on Lincoln Park.

Two Chicago 2016 officials, Gyata M.J. Kimmons and Patrick Sandusky, presented results of an economic impact study that found the Olympics will produce $13.7 billion of economic activity in Chicago between 2011 and 2021, and create 315,000 new jobs.

Sandusky, Chicago 2016's vice president of communications, said studies show there will be no harmful environmental impact to the area. He added that the lasting benefits of the Olympics will outweigh any negatives. 

"The legacy at Lincoln Park will be the tennis center, which will be refurbished and redone. Lincoln Park will benefit over the long run," he said. "The idea is that anyplace that we're going, we want to make sure its better after we leave and that we have a legacy that is sustainable and its something that the community wants."    

Panel member Allen R. Sanderson, a senior lecturer in economics at the University of Chicago, questioned  the economic impact study, noting that the report was paid for by Chicago 2016.

"I almost never see a commissioned report that suggests something else that the client did not initially want," he said. "The operating cost are huge. Greece spent 5 percent of its GDP on the Olympic games. Everybody looks at it as a total disaster."

Environmental impacts are another concern to Lincoln Park residents. Charlotte Newfeld, a steward of the Bill Jarvis Migratory Bird Sanctuary, located at Addison Street and Lake Shore Drive, has volunteered there for 12 years. While she is in favor of the Olympics in Chicago, she does not want the event in Lincoln Park to disturb the birds in the Lincoln Park area.

"Who did an environmental impact study? Who talked to the birds? What do we tell them? 'Sorry, wait here, we are having the Olympic games,'" she said. "There are other places where we can have a great deal of tennis. The city of Chicago has to live up to its calling of being a green city."    

W. Imara Canady,  who lived in Atlanta during the 1996 Olympics, said the city benefited tremendously.

"The overall, ongoing benefits to the city of Chicago are tremendous for our young people and families. The Chicago 2016 committee is getting the infrastructure in place to insure there is a lasting legacy that will be a benefit to the city of Chicago and not a hindrance," said Canady, an arts and cultural management fellow at the Chicago Community Trust.

"Following the spirit of what we saw with the movement of electing Barack Obama, I think the Olympics is the next right step to continuing to keep that spirit alive in Chicago," he said.