Monday, January 13, 2014

TWO CENTS: Broadway Youth Center Vote Is Set For Tonight

UPDATED: We have been informed that the Good Neighbor Agreement that we cite below was not agreed to by Broadway Youth Center.

We are deeply disappointed and must withdraw our support for now.

The SELVN vote will go on as scheduled tonight, but there will not be a good neighbor agreement.

That is a disappointing development.


The Southeast Lake View Neighbors (SELVN) community group is scheduled to vote tonight on whether their group should express support for the Broadway Youth Center's request to receive a zoning variance that would allow the long-running service agency to operate in a church on a residential stretch of Wellington Avenue.

Such votes, which amount to nothing more than a group of citizens' recommendation to the alderman, are usually as boring as they are routine. This one, not so much.

Some neighbors are concerned that loitering and other problems experienced at BYC's previous location will wind up on their front porch. Some have even cited specific incidents.

The best solution, many agree, would be for BYC to take over empty space inside a public health clinic that is located on a commercial stretch of Clark Street near the Century Mall. As of the December SELVN meeting, that possibility was in the very earliest stage of exploration.

In November, CWB published two police reports from 2012 in which officers said that BYC staff "refused to anyway" when multiple witnesses said that an offender who repeatedly punched a victim in the face "was being hidden inside the Broadway Youth Center" and separately served as an "obstruction to justice" when the CPD investigated another violent crime that took place inside the shelter itself. We wrote,
(BYC) is a great idea and it has done a lot of good over the years. There is a very good reason for the services it offers to exist in our neighborhood.
While [parent organization] Howard Brown and BYC leaders would like to make this issue one of the neighborhood vs. people in need, it's really about them. It's about their poor decision making. It's about their obstruction of law enforcement. It's about what appears to be, at best, poor training of their staff. 
CWB has remained virtually silent on the issue since mid-November as the neighbors and BYC worked on solutions.

Since November, BYC and SELVN have hammered out an extensive Good Neighbor Agreement to address loitering and other concerns. Among the agreement's terms:
• BYC staff will patrol the immediate area in an effort to eliminate loitering. 
• BYC agrees to notify police whenever criminal activity is observed. 
• BYC will install security cameras, maintain the footage for at least 120 days, and make the images available to police, the alderman, and SELVN's designated representative upon request.
• A BYC rep will attend relevant CAPS meetings.
• BYC confirms in writing that federal law does not prevent them from co-operating with law enforcement as their staff previously insisted.
• BYC's hours of operations are specified.
Keep in mind, as recently as September, BYC wouldn't even agree to put their operating hours in writing. Needless to say, the agreement goes far beyond operating hours.

Something else. Since November, we've had the opportunity to speak with a couple of Howard Brown executives. We believe that those leaders were genuinely surprised and disappointed when they heard about the police reports that we published.

BYC's director stepped down in December and its associate director has been let go in a reorganization. A new leader is in place, although the community has yet to meet her.

Legitimate concerns exist about the enforceability of the good neighbor agreement. There really are no immediate consequences should BYC or SELVN fail to meet their obligations.

Also, Howard Brown Health Center is in rough shape financially and organizationally. Is it reasonable to expect that they will find the funding to secure and maintain surveillance equipment, much less the labor involved in patrolling the area and attending community meetings?

As we've frequently said, every person and organization in our community will play a role in getting our neighborhoods back on course. Part of that process will require social services to take ownership of their programs and to understand that they do have an influence on what happens outside of their doors. Bars do. Stadiums do. They do.

We are impressed with the steps Howard Brown has taken.


  1. The BYC’s primary purpose and day to day on-site function is to provide MEDICAL SERVICES including prevention, diagnosis, and treatment by physicians, nurses, and other health personnel and medical testing and analysis services.

    The BYC’s non-medical activities are ancillary and purposed to attract young people to the MEDICAL CLINIC for MEDICAL TESTING and MEDICAL TREATMENT of MEDICAL DISEASES.

    A medical clinic is NOT ALLOWED in an area zoned RESIDENTIAL RM-4.5 with or without a “Special Use Permit.”

    Using the BYC’s own data, by every measurement, the BYC is a medical clinic.

    The BYC’s primary purpose is medical: “HIV/STI testing” and “Health Services.”

    The BYC provided 3,282 medical sessions vs 1,649 non-medical sessions in 2012.

    The BYC provides medical services to 3 times more unduplicated youth than it provides non-medical services.

    The BYC provides 55 hours of medical services each week vs only 18 hours of non-medical services.

    The overwhelmingly majority of BYC staff are trained in medical and healthcare fields and provide medical and healthcare services.

    In order to meet the requirements of the Affordable Care Act [Obamacare], the BYC is hiring additional medical staff and firing non-medical staff.

    Alternative locations offer legal alternatives.

  2. The BYC does not belong on a residential street because they attract drop-outs, delinquents, and criminals from all parts of Chicago to the block where you’re trying to raise your kids. They create lots of problems for neighbors. The youth are disruptive, harass pedestrians and drivers, trespass in people’s yards, commit property crimes, and often argue and fight.

    1. "commit property crimes"

      They only commit "survival crimes" -- which according to BYC is not a crime at all.

  3. I think their (SELVN) fate is sealed at this point -- other "churches" in the neighborhood were so scared that the deal would fall through and BYC would look at other churches, that those other churches sent out those notices. God knows the Citizens for a Safer Lakeview tried their best to bring this to the attention of the surrounding neighborhood, but atlas it was not enough, me thinks. As far as I'm concerned, if the community comes up with a NO vote overall, then the community wins, but loses because Tunney is spineless to listen to his constituents and will forge ahead with the Zoning Committee meeting on Friday (which are most likely in bed with him anyway).

    1. Of course the alderman will advocate for this illegal zoning variance. At a previous meeting the alderman said that he has talked to (his friend) the mayor who is "very concerned about homeless youth in Lakeview". Translation: fix is IN.

  4. Who is the new Director of BYC and what is his/her background/experience?

  5. When BYC moved to the church on Wellington in July of 2013, they said this location was "temporary" remember? Since then, this organization has shifted to a very deceptive strategy: Now they bully the neighbors, use hate speech against the neighbors, file deceptive zoning variance requests which is totally illegal, refuse to sign neighbor agreement. The church fully supports all of these deceptive, illegal and bullying tactics, no justice for the neighborhood. When BYC moved there back in July of 2013, this was their strategy all along. Now they pretend to be professional victims.

  6. The Howard Brown “Mothership” for the BYC applied to the Zoning Board of Appeals claiming they were a “community center.” Howard Brown affirmed that all statements in their application were true, under penalty of law.

    But they’re not a community center. The primary use is medical!

    Did they lie on a government application? Did they lie because had they applied as a “medical health facility,” they would be summarily denied a special use permit? A medical health facility is an absolutely prohibited use in an area zoned residential.

    Why didn’t Howard Brown just find a location that was legal?

    What does Alderman Tunney say? Is Alderman Tunney going to uphold the law or knowingly support a fraudulent application?

  7. The BYC is paying about $50,000/yr to rent 10,000 sq. feet at 615 W. Wellington for a use that is illegal in an area zoned residential.

    The BYC could rent a larger space at 2849-2861 N. Clark, a Chicago Dept. of Public Health medical facility that is owned by the City, 80% vacant, and legal for medical use. The rent could be as low as $1/yr.

    It’s a tough decision....

  8. How interesting! The church gets paid $50,000 per year in rent! I always say follow the money! If you listen to these church leaders, you would think they are providing the space there as a public service to help "at risk youth", uh absolutely NOT.

  9. Tell me again where the $50,000 comes from (donations, taxes) and is it tax free to the church?