Ivanhoe South

IVANHOE SOUTH

An interview with Kris Krouse, executive director of Shirley Heinze Land Trust

Conducted by Samuel Love, 19 April 2013 at Meadowbrook Nature Preserve, Valparaiso, Indiana

“Ivanhoe South is one of our real treasures at Shirley Heinze Land Trust, largely because of the way we acquired the properties. It is unique also from an ecological perspective, it’s extremely biodiverse and has some global significance as a dune and swale habitat. We had several volunteers that started picking up the property at tax sales in the early 1980s. So it’s actually one of the first project areas Shirley Heinze set out to protect.

In 1984 we had the first acquisition, a small lot. And when I say small lot think in terms of a subdivision that platted for development and a parcel that is sold for a house to be built on. That’s exactly what occurred here. It was platted and subdivided. Lots were sold to individuals but it never ended up getting to the stage of having roads put in or houses built on the parcels. So you have this swath of vacant land right in the middle of a city, a very urbanized place with industry nearby, four-lanes roads, and subdivisions.

This is in essence is a puzzle of 300+ parcels that we picked up at tax sales, one by one. In some cases we had funding, in other cases we didn’t, and now we have almost an entirely contiguous 30 acre swath in this area that we’ve protected with the exception of two lots that we’re focused on acquiring. Once they’re acquired we’ll be able to combine almost 30 acres. We were able to work with the City of Gary to vacate the undeveloped streets and alleyways within that platted subdivision., it’s something we worked on for about 10 years where we would approach the city. And I think it’s a reflection of the city’s interest and appreciation of what we’re trying to do.

We still have a challenge in that municipalities apply stormwater management fees to properties. We’re working with the city to come up with an amenable solution to many, many stormwater fees. Actually a pretty substantial amount of money. We’re hopeful that will get addressed soon. But that’s one of the things we’re working on the city with.

We are fortunate to have received funding from The Legacy Foundation and many individual donors to go in an remove tires and shingles and literally dumpsters full of trash and debris that has ended up on this preserve over many, many years. It’s one of the things you inevitably see. Land that is vacant isn’t necessarily managed so you deal with dumping issues and people don’t necessarily appreciate it if they don’t exactly know what the use is. So over the years we have installed a parking lot and put in a trail. There’s signage on the preserve so the residents in the area see it as a resource and we have also set out to conduct community hikes there, to get residents and Northwest Indiana as a whole invested and interested in this project area and our other project areas.”

What were your first impressions of the site?

“I took on a staff position with Shirley Heinze in 2005, so a lot of progress had been made prior to that. What we’ve done since I started with the organization is filling in the gaps by picking up parcels so that we can have more of a nature preserve where we own the property within the project area so it speak. The trails and parking lot, that’s something we really focused on in 2007 and 2008; making it a resource for the public is what I’ve seen transpire there. It’s really great to see people out there using the resource and that’s been a shift for us as an organization where we’re not only protecting the property, restoring it and managing it, but also making available to the public so they can enjoy it as well.

It does have implications when you think of a park where the design is to let people recreate in a natural resource. And what’s even more unique for this area, in some places you have state-listed species, or even things like the federally endangered Karner Blue butterfly that thrives and needs the dune and swale habitat. So the basis where there is value in limiting the access is protecting that particular natural resource and so it’s a little bit of a balancing act. We do have some properties we are very cautious about what the access would be if it’s a determent to any threatened flora and fauna, so it’s a little bit of a balancing act.”

What are future plans for the site?

“There are 12 acres of dune and swale that has been a part of our land acquisition prioritization document that we update and approve every couple of years at the board level. It’s one of our number one priorities and we’re pretty close to seeing that property through to ownership. Hopefully in the next month. And continuing to restore and manage the property. We’re in the process of getting a US Army Corp of Engineers Great Lakes Restoration Initiative project to take place at the site. That will really allow us to do more extensive canopy opening and invasive species and understory removal and planting of native plants to improve the ecology in places were it’s degraded.”

How can these natural areas help cities?

“It’s a great question. I think that Gary is very fortunate to have such ecologically significant resources. When you look at the dozens of municipalities in Northwest Indiana Gary has some of the most pristine natural land in this region. And in those properties that are protected are really a good resources for storm water management. It acts as a filter for stormwater runoff so instead of the city needing to maintain runoff, a place like Ivanhoe South serves that purpose in a natural way. It’s also acting as filter so that the water that works its way thru the system, and the hydrology of the system, is cleaner when it comes out than what it would be if it were just sitting in a retention basin. There’s a lot of other benefits to stormwater as it relates to natural areas, the reduction of flooding for example. It has positive implications there as well. I think the city is well aware of what the value is of places like Ivanhoe South and the trick is how do we articulate that to the broader community. Not just in Gary but any community where someone might not have an ecology background or understand the value of a wetland and how a wetland functions to benefit them. Things that we all need, better water quality, air quality, whatever it is that relates to the environment.”

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Miller Woods South (?)

Had the chance today to tramp around an 80 acre black oak savanna, currently owned by the City of Gary. The parcel is a mere block west of Lake St in downtown Miller and is south of the Miller Woods and the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.

It’s a healthy dune and swale with many native plants, a clear understory with lots of space in between the trees, invasive plants relegated to the edges, and very little litter. We counted 7 tires, 2 pop cans, and a shoe. A little stream curves around low dune ridges, a true rarity out this way!

Two interesting finds: First, a partially decomposed and badly mangled deer carcass. One of the unfortunate thing’s hooves was about 15 feet away. We also found the word “POACHER” spray painted on a tree. Word on the street is that a few old timers still hunt in these woods, that would perhaps explain the occasional early morning rifle shots I’ve heard. But no shells or other signs of human activity were noticed. The beaver have been busy tho.

 

Gary Designated Project Areas

This morning I received a 6 page PDF entitled “Exhibit B – Designated Project Areas” from a colleague. While no party is attributed on the document the language is that used by Maiaco representatives and their cronies in Gary, the clearest indication yet of which parts of Gary the city plans to hand over to the Chicago-based company for private redevelopment.

Not surprisingly the Broadway corridor in downtown (DPA 1) and Midtown (DPAs 4-6) factors prominently. The area in DPAs 4-5 never recovered from urban renewal projects schemes in the 1950s. The entire area south of 25th Avenue (“The 2-5” – DPA 6) is marked for redevelopment.

The neighborhood east of Ambridge is marked in DPA 2, and the eastern half of the Emerson neighborhood is marked in DPA 3.

On Gary’s far west side, DPA 8 marks the southern end of Black Oak.

On Gary’s far east side, DPA 9-A marks the entire Aetna neighborhood. DPA 9-B marks a small diamond-shaped area between downtown Miller and the Glen Ryan neighborhood. This area includes playground manufacturer Kidstuff and CARGO, the Calumet Artist Residency Gallery + Orchard.

DPA 7 is missing.

The Flaws in Joe Van Dyk’s Plan

by Gary Free Press
28 July 2016

[ed. note – Joe Van Dyk is the Gary Redevelopment Commission Executive Director]

So he stated over and over that every year there are 12,000 Gary properties on the tax sale. He repeatedly said that one in every five properties is on the tax sale every year.

So here’s a little math:

In total, there are approximately 55,000 parcels that comprise Gary. To start with, the Lake County Auditor lists around 17,000 in a tax-exempt status. (a great percentage of this 17,000 number are owned by some government entity, mostly some entity of the City of Gary. Also, the City of Gary has been acquiring 300-500 parcels per year through various methods, so this 17,000 number is certainly higher by now as the information from the Auditor’s office was received over 5 years ago.) So this leaves 38,000 to comprise Gary’s tax base.
So if as Mr. Van Dyk claims there are 12,000 Gary parcels on the tax sale every year, then instead of one in every five parcels that comprise Gary’s tax base being in tax delinquent status, it is more like one in every three parcels!

So what is Mr. Van Dyk’s solution? What is the MaiaCo plan? What is the Freeman-Wilson Administration’s master plan? To in its first year acquire 5000 more parcels and shift them to a tax-exempt status–indefinitely!
If MaiaCo does what they say in their proposal and acquires 5000 more parcels, then the total number of parcels in the city in a tax-exempt status will soar to 22,000. And surely they plan to continue acquiring in their second, third, fourth years and so on. But for now, let’s just concentrate on the numbers they stated in their proposal, the 5000. So then, out of the 55,000 total parcels, 22,000 will be in a tax-exempt status–not tax delinquent, tax-exempt–with no possible chance of producing taxes.

So assuming the 5000 will lower the 12,000 from the tax sale number to 7000 (unless tax default continues to climb) the number of properties which will comprise the city’s tax base will be around 26,000. The number of parcels in the city which will not be contributing to the city’s tax base will be about 29,000.

So what he does not tell you is that his plan–the MaiaCo plan, the Daley plan–depends on eviscerating an already severely depleted tax base. And what he doesn’t say outright, but certainly can easily be gleaned from anyone listening to one of his dog and pony shows is that this “plan” will take many years to bear fruit. In fact, he implies that it may take ten years or more to come to pass. (they even say that part of the plan will involve planting trees on vacant lots to be harvested once they mature 15 years down the road)

So as his team voraciously acquires property from the private sector, and as they do, instantly transfer it to a tax-exempt status, the burden shifts to the remaining taxpayers to shoulder the burden of costs to operate the city. So in numbers, less than half of the owners of property will be paying the freight for the more than half that pays nothing whatsoever–nor is required to.

So gutting the city’s tax base is not just some unintended consequence, it is the key component of their plan. And they don’t see any problem with it. They don’t worry about not being able to provide the services residents desperately need to survive. They could literally not care less about that. If they did, the city would not look the way it does. The pools would be open. The parks would be usable. The police cars wouldn’t be falling apart. The fire trucks wouldn’t be running on bald tires. The sewers wouldn’t be collapsing from one end of the city to the other. The sidewalks would be walkable. The streets would not be crumbling. The streetlights wouldn’t be burned out or knocked down. In short, if they cared a bit about the residents of the city, it would not be disintegrating before everyone’s eyes.

So this “innovative” proposal to further destroy the city’s anemic tax base has no plan contained within it to provide these sorely needed services. Nowhere have they even been mentioned. How are Gary’s residents supposed to live while this plan takes shape? And what if it doesn’t take shape? What if it fails? What if it turns out to just be another scam like GUEA was? After all, it is really just a grown-up version of the GUEA plan. (If anyone doesn’t not remember how that turned out, take a stroll through the Emerson neighborhood!) It was the same thing: aggressive property acquisition; promised redevelopment; all the same buzzwords; but what did we get? A thoroughly destroyed neighborhood with massive blight and abandonment. And 15 years after the implementation of the GUEA plan in Emerson, it is virtually a ghost town. Occupancy of that neighborhood is probably down to 25% (When GUEA stated their “plan” it was approximately 75% occupied.)

But while this administration knows full well about how flawed their plan is, they will attempt to spoon-feed everyone the same pap about development this and development that; but what they won’t tell you is that even if they were able to attract some development, any new development of any scale will be requesting a tax abatement. And in most every case a large development would be eligible to receive one; and anyone that has been watching city council meetings knows, is that the city council hands these out like penny candy. Typical tax abatements are for 10 years, meaning they increase 10% per year until they pay 100%. In effect, the petitioner gets 5 years tax free over the course of the tax abatement.

This is not an innovate solution. This is not creative thinking outside the box. This is the resurrection of a plan that has already failed miserably.

An innovative solution would include detailed plans on how to rebuild the city’s withered tax base. And it should not require its further destruction by the city!

Any plan should be able to tell residents how they will be provided for while Joe Van Dyk and Daley and his team work their magic. Being told everything will be all right and not to worry does not count as a plan.

Worry people! This horribly flawed plan puts the nail in the coffin. But that’s really what the goal is. The more unlivable the city is, the more abandonment; the more foreclosures; the more tax defaults; the more prey for MaiaCo to swoop down on.

Because their plan revolves entirely around property acquisition. If any development happens to occur, it is a byproduct. If they really had developers on the hook, why don’t they march them in now? Why don’t these developers just acquire the property themselves? Wouldn’t it be faster and easier to just buy it from the people that own it now? Or will these developers only come if MaiaCo is in control of everything?
More than anything, Joe Van Dyk’s sideshow leaves everyone with questions. But he has no real answers. And it is hard not to miss the irony of listening to him drone on about how to redevelop the city when he, has never developed anything in his life. He has never even been directly involved in any development. To him, demolition is development. To him, government agencies are development partners.

His plan leads residents not just down some bumpy road on their way to salvation, it leads residents on a road straight to perdition.

And finally, Daley should be ashamed of himself. He came to Gary, according to Freeman-Wilson, at her request. He came under the guise of altruism. That he has a thing in his heart for the city. But now, it seems painfully obvious that he has been making plans to feather his own nest all along. And oh how all of those starry-eyed University of Chicago students got used to set this selfish plan into motion. There is no altruism here, more likely sheer avarice. This plan is not based on charity or compassion as we were earlier led to believe, profits alone are what is its driving force. This probably will not come as a huge to surprise to anyone.

So Gary citizens beware. Because one day you may wake up and the city you now call home may no longer feel like home.

The MaiaCo Contract: A Neo-Colonial Nightmare

by Ruth Needleman
1 August 2016

[ed. note – the parenthetical citations refer to page numbers on the MaiaCo contract, which we will publish when we obtain a digital copy.]

This is an introduction to the MaiaCo contract. To begin with, MaiaCo will be assuming major responsibilities for the development of large areas of Gary. In fact, think of MaiaCo as our new private corporate Mayor and Redevelopment Commission in charge of deciding and implementing Gary’s future development.

The City will reimburse MaiaCo for every penny and minute it spends (100%) and then will give MaiaCo 65% of any income from land leases or sales to third parties, whether or not MaiaCo directly arranges the transaction, if it occurs within a “Designated Project Area.” The word “profit” does not appear anywhere. The new term is “Transaction Proceeds.” The “Designated Project Areas” will be mapped out over time, although within 30 days, the GRC and MaiaCo will “prepare an annual plan outlining the key strategic priorities, assignment of responsibilities and projected delivery of Resources.” Resources means time, work, materials and money committed to the project. It will be like paying for a private shadow government.

Once an area is designated, MaiaCo will take over all lands belonging to the GRC, and will have the GRC acquire all lands available through tax sales or otherwise. MaiaCo will bundle and sell or lease areas acquired to third parties for development. MaiaCo selects and oversees the third party developers, but it is not so clear who oversees MaiaCo.

How much community participation? Basically not much, unless you are considered to be a major stakeholder. [“ensure active participation by key stakeholders.”] (1) At our expense, MaiaCo will hire a Gary resident to open an office in the City, provide quarterly reports, and show up at selected public and private meetings. MaiaCo will produce a community involvement plan, which will enable MaiaCo to participate in any community initiative within the Redevelopment Area. This guarantees MaiaCo involvement in all economic activities in the Area; it does not guarantee the community itself any degree of participation. (13)

How about local hiring? The Contract only provides for the possible hiring of local businesses, contractors and subcontractors, but there are exemptions galore. For example, any business already working with MaiaCo will not have to meet any requirements for local hiring. Not MaiaCo but its contracted businesses will have to document efforts to hire locally. “Local” means Gary first, then East Chicago and Hammond, but “local” also means “businesses with a significant pre-existing presence in the Northwest Indiana region.” (3) So even though MiaiCo is “brand new,” local businesses have to already have an established record.

In addition, MaiaCo “may elect to engage a non Local contractor, despite the availability of a Local option, should MiaiCo reasonably determine that the cost or quality of the services to be delivered justify such a decision.” (4) MaiaCo gets to decide on a case by case basis.

Its contractors have to document efforts to hire local businesses to show “a good faith effort.” We all know what a good faith effort is! The contract includes percentage goals (20% local minority, disadvantaged, veteran businesses and 5% women-owned businesses), but not requirements.

Section 2 of the Contract outlines all the “Resources” that Maiaco will provide, everything from a new zoning plan to detailed architectural planning services, legal advice, infrastructure recommendations, preparation of documents, purchase and maintenance of lands and so on. MaiaCo will even assist and advise the GRC on any sale of property to any bidders, and be paid for it. Their only obligation to local hiring: “MaiaCo will be expected to take those commercially reasonable actions as agreed to by the parties in assisting and encouraging third party developers to achieving participation of local businesses.” (12)

Do we know who is part of MaiaCo? The materials identified only top officers, all white men, not one from Gary. But who are MaiaCo’s “affiliates, partners, joint venture partners, directors, shareholders, members, managers, officers, agents, attorneys, employees, mortgagees, successors and assigns and their respective partners…etc.”

When do we find out who will be taking our money, who will be benefitting from this Contract? Usually when a major RFP like this gets only one acceptable bid, the RFP goes out again. But this contract was rigged way ahead of time.

The MaiaCo principals all claim to have “proven and longstanding commitment to the City.” When will we see a list of all the projects in which people from MaiaCo have “successfully worked with the GRC and the City of Gary”?

What is missing is oversight, accountability and transparency. Without an outside Community Enforcement Mechanism, Gary will become the colonial creation of neo-liberal big money Chicago interests. A suburb of Chicago??? Will the history, traditions, culture and creations of Gary people be stripped away, replaced by gentrified housing and commercial interests unappealing to Chicago? Will the people of Gary, called in this document “legacy residents,” be pushed aside and sent packing? Gary has turned over the reigns of the City to a Mayor and his ilk who drove 65,000 African Americans out of Chicago to make way for “redevelopment.”

Gary 4.0

On Friday afternoon, 29 July 2016, the Gary Redevelopment Commission voted unanimously in favor of a scheme that will radically reshape the city. So much so we can declare a fourth major period in Gary’s history. Let us first re-examine the three previous periods:

1. The Magic City of Steel

Summer 1906: US Steel leveled a black oak savannah/dune and swale ecosystem between the hamlets of Clark and Pine to the northwest, Tolleston to the southwest, and Miller and Aetna to the east. They built the world’s largest (at-the-time) fully-integrated steel mill and a brand-new town for its workers. Actually they built only half a town, the First Subdivision, for its white ‘American’ workers. The immigrant Hunky and migrant Negro crowded into the raucous, unplanned Patch to the south. The corporation was quick to avoid the appearance of a company town but US Steel’s hegemony was in place from the start and remains so long after the corporation’s property agents, the Gary Land Company, had sold its last property and folded.

2. Gary’s Augustin Age

This term coined by historian Powell Moore describes Gary’s emergence from Indiana’s last frontier into a roaring industrial city. Gary’s downtown, formerly the First Subdivision, took shape with fine public buildings and a bustling commercial district. Neighborhoods of solid brick homes grew east, west, and south of downtown and the old Patch, now the Central District. But six decades of rapid growth through annexation and migration resulted in two Garys: one white, one Black. The Hunky became the ‘white ethnic’, won the right to a union, and built a new house in Glen Park, Tolleston, Brunswick, Miller, Aetna, or even the unincorporated areas beyond city limits. They segregated Gary’s Black residents to the increasingly-crowded Midtown. They created a Democratic political machine to maintain this system of oppression. And their failed attempts at urban renewal (or was it Negro removal?) would loom like a cold, dead, pale hand well into the 21st century.

3. End of the Century

The once-brash City of the Century held a quiet centennial. The mayor implored people to “come back home to Gary” but the plea was unheeded. The next census recorded the greatest population drop since the Reagan years, by 2010 the city had lost over half of its population in half a century. The indignity of all indignities, Gary was no longer even the largest city Northwest Indiana. The last third of the 20th century in Gary saw Glen Park attempt to secede. Downstate lawmakers bent the rules to create the town of Merrillville. Most of those with means left; first white flight, later Black follow. The Steel City became the Plywood City, the Magic City became the Murder Capital, the city of East Gary became Lake Station, and Gary became Scary Gary. It will be easy and tempting for the next historians to build narratives entirely around decline.

Those narratives will be key to the new period. They will help obscure the History inconvenient to Gary’s Neoliberal period and they will provide all the whitewashing necessary to make a privatization scheme between the city and MaiaCo seem justified. How did it come to this? What are the arguments for and against this scheme? What do Gary residents think about it? Stay tuned.

Gary #BlackLivesMatter forum

A #BlackLivesMatter forum on Monday, 27 April, 2015 brought nearly 100 people to the Dubois branch of the Gary Public Library. While riot guards were entrapping and inflicting harm on school children in Baltimore, event organizers here presented a list of specific demands while the community testified to personal abuses at the hands of police. Unlike a forum held in nearby East Chicago late last year (under the guise of #BlackLivesMatter but dominated by the local police and power elites), this evening’s event organizers were more careful to privilege the community’s voice, restricting the conditions by and when (local) power would speak. The typical reactionary victim blaming was largely avoided.

Local media failed to communicate the purpose and message of the forum. The Times filed no story, the Post Tribune reporter arrived late, missing the presentation of demands, and quoted none of the panelists or forum organizers, instead relying on the “hug-a-cop” frame. Among the demands of the forum were: an end to The Sweeps and predatory fines, anti-racist training for the police, and greater police accountability to the community through an independent citizen review board, more public reporting, and local residency requirements.

Panelist Kwabena Pratt reminded those in attendance of the words uttered by Lake County police Dan Murchek to an assembly of 16 police agencies during The Sweeps in Gary last year: “Let’s have fun and take a bunch of people to jail tonite.” Another officer said of the Sweeps: “This is like a treat.”

Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson was granted the privilege of final word. The essence of her comments were captured by local media.

As the forum ended and we filed out of the library a television near the entrance caught the attention of some attendants. We saw our first visuals from Baltimore and a palpable heaviness fell upon my friends and neighbors. And some back-and-forth began

“All those people who won’t have jobs tomorrow…”

“How can you compare property damage to murder?”

Oak Savannahs

A savannah is a transitional area. In our case, a transition between eastern forests and (middle) western prairie. In the southwest corner of the Great Lakes region and the rest of the American middle west it has been much abused under 200+ years of white settler supremacy. Only slowly are we coming to appreciate and implement wiser land practices of those who preceded us.

 Marquette Park, Gary, IN

Closest to home is Marquette Park, where since 2014 I’ve participated in many land stewardship efforts. While the beach tends to get the most attention, the southern part offers very dramatic hidden views of the backdunes, particularly the area south of Marquette Drive and the area north of Hemlock Avenue.

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marquette statue

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Miller Woods

A neighbor told me, with straight faced earnestness, that Miller Woods was “probably closest to what the region looked like before the white man came and fucked it up.” The Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore is hosting monthly 4th Saturday stewardship days in 2015 as part of the Miller Woods restoration project.

Miller Woods - Summer - 5

The Bur Oak Woods, Hobart, Indiana

West Pullman Park, Chicago, Illinois

West Pullman Park sits atop a sand-spit beach, formed almost 12,000 years ago, when the southern lakeshore ran along the limestone reef in Thornton, through Lake County, Indiana along Ridge Road, overlapping the older Glenwood Phase beach in Porter County, and curving north towards what would become Michigan, a mere mile or so from where the lake currently is today. It’s one of two visible old beach ridges in Chicago’s ‘Wild Hundreds’, and it’s one of a few undisturbed natural areas in Chicago.

 

Vacant, unsecured properties in downtown Gary

Union Station
Façade – west facing, front open, one plywood board has been removed.
South wall – 7 of 8 ground level windows are unsecured.

500 block Broadway
561 – Façade – west facing, plywood removed from lobby door.
East wall – alley side, secured.
North wall – small opening on ground level, near back of building.

575 – Façade – west facing, secured.
East wall – building is accessible thru the alley.

600 block Broadway
632-8 – Façade- east facing.
West walls – alley side was not surveyed.

Post Office (6th and Massachusetts)
Façade – north facing, plywood on main entry has been ripped out and is laying on sidewalk.
West wall – Massachusetts side back entry, plywood has been ripped out and is laying in stairwell.
South east corner – chain link fence is breached next to building.

700 block Washington
717-31 and 733-51 are accessible through street and alley.

700 block Broadway
728-730 – West wall – accessible through alley

Palace Theatre – Façade – west facing, two breaches along Broadway.
South wall – plywood removed from doorway facing 8th, near alley.
East wall – three full sized openings into building from the alley.

Memorial Auditorium 
Façade – chain link fence has been breached for years.

Waveguide + Radius in Gary

Howe Park
39th and Vermont
Gary, IN
24 January, 2015

With help from the Gary Park Department two Chicago-based experimental radio outfits, Waveguide and Radius, turned Howe Park into a performance and transmission site.

Michael Esposito, born in Gary, performs with EVP recordings he made in the vacant Indiana Bell building on Ridge Road, a block west of Broadway. The performance can be heard at Radius episode 59: Phantom Plastics.

Following the performance attendees travelled to the Bell building, some on foot some by car, all with radios tuned to 88.9FM. Sounds from the recent Waveguide radio workshops held at Arts On Grant filled the neighborhood’s air.

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As I caught up with some of our guests, sounds from recent #BlackLivesMatter actions in Hammond and Gary filled the neighborhood. And then the poetry of our recently departed and dearly missed Kelechukwu Brnfre. Glen Park, once a neighborhood that threatened to secede from Gary, was now a platform in the struggle against misery. I’m deeply grateful for all who made the moment happen.

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While the event concluded and guests mingled in front of the pavilion, a few of us admired the stands of milkweed growing along the chain-link fence enclosing an abandoned swimming pool now being colonized by cattails and other marshy grasses. Thinking what a wonderful sunken garden it would make we shook loose the remaining milkweed seeds.