Evanston’s Central Street Named One Of The 10 Great Neighborhoods in the U.S.

Check out my October package broadcasted on the Northwestern News Network about the American Planning Association naming Central Street in Evanston one of the 10 great neighborhoods in the United States.

The video also features my first time anchoring a newscast and my first stand-up!

Link to the full broadcast is here: http://www.nnntv.org/default.aspx?id=224889

Cold Wheels: Transportation for Edgewater’s Wheelchair Users

The number of transportation options for Edgewater residents extends far and wide, but they do not cater to wheelchair users in the area. Since most of the Red Line stations in the area do not have elevators, wheelchair users must stick to the Chicago Transit Authority buses and more expensive PACE Paratransit buses. The CTA hopes to add elevators to most of the north stations in the upcoming years. For now, wheelchair users must roll with the punches.

To Combat Poverty, You Must Care For Real

Edgewater food pantry Care For Real has combated poverty in the community for more than 40 years. This video profile looks into the lives of some of the volunteers and why they continue to work at the influential little pantry. The link below appeared on the Northwestern News Network.

Care For Real NNN Version from Junius Randolph on Vimeo.

Also, if Vimeo does not work for you, check out the Youtube version!

Crucial Chicago South Side Red Line Reconstruction Satisfies Officials and Frustrates Commuters

South Side Chicago resident Rhonda Franklin rolled out of bed at 5 a.m. to teach at Joseph Brennemann Elementary School on the North Side. She proudly rode the Red Line to work everyday from the 95th and Dan Ryan station to the Sheridan one.

But everything changed on Monday, May 19, 2013. That day, the Chicago Transit Authority closed the Dan Ryan branch of the Red Line for a five-month reconstruction period.

The reconstruction is part of Rahm Emanuel’s “Building a New Chicago” program, which also involves investing millions into Chicago Public Schools and refining the city’s parks. The reconstruction project should cost $425 million, according to the CTA website.

“They said it was going to be easy,” said Franklin.

The CTA provides free or reduced fare shuttles in some of the areas affected by the reconstruction, especially at the Garfield Green Line stop. People that need to go from 63rd to 95th Street must take those express buses. But those buses are not always “express.”

“’Express’ meaning ‘on time’ is true,” said Rhonda. “’Express’ as in ‘quick,’ not so much.”

Franklin is one of the more than 80,000 commuters affected by the shutdown, according to the CTA website.

“There is no project in modern memory that has generated this kind of pain for commuters,” said Joseph Schwieterman, a professor at the School of Public Service at DePaul University.

He called the Red Line a “work horse,” saying that it deserved repairs, even at the cost of losing some stations for the next five months.

“When you shut down service, the cost of your rebuilding goes way down and the impact of your rebuilding goes way up,” said Chris Robling, a former Regional Transportation Authority spokesperson.

Before the five-month reconstruction process started, the CTA could have closed the tracks only on weekends. But, this option required construction for the next four years. The five-month option saved $75 million.

“We need to address these slow zones,” said Catherine Hosinski, a CTA spokeswoman.

Construction crews at all of the Red Line stations past Roosevelt are replacing the entire track bed and adding new elevators to stations like Garfield and 63rd. The project should result in smoother rides and faster commutes.

Hosinski said reconstruction would be more beneficial during the summer because of school ending for kids. She also said she received mostly positive feedback from the reconstruction.

But most commuters have mixed feelings about the Red Line shutdown.

Clifford Hunt, a former South Side resident, acknowledged that the Red Line’s Dan Ryan branch needed repairs.

“It’s old as all get out,” he said. “Five months of shut down is okay compared to riding rickety, wholly outdated stations.”

Others, like Immigrant Youth Justice League Worker Daniel Garcia, are a little more skeptical.

“The shuttle bus won’t be very affective,” he said.

Sometimes the shuttles routes are not coordinated with the train routes. He recalled an incident where a substitute shuttle bus took him almost a mile further than his destination.

“I just gave up and walked to my destination,” said Garcia.

Other commuters understood Garcia’s sentiments, especially Franklin.

Now, she must find a ride to the closed Cermak and Chinatown station. Then, she catches the substitute bus to the Roosevelt Red Line stop, where she takes the northbound train to her school. This new journey adds more than 10 minutes to her already lengthy travel time.

“I don’t see the work they say they are doing,” said Rhonda, waiting for her ride back home from the Garfield Green Line station.

“I just hope they are.”

The Red Line Reconstruction’s effects on the Chicago White Sox

The Chicago White Sox have a losing record so far this season, but are the fans losing as well? The effect of the Red Line shutdown from the Cermak-Chinatown stop to the 95th and Dan Ryan stop has barely impacted the fans, but the Sox organization is making swift changes to accommodate their loyal fans. However, that doesn’t mean the changes can change their opinions, especially during the Crosstown Classic against that other Chicago team.

The Red Line Reconstruction’s effects on the Chicago White Sox

South Side Table Tennis

Chinatown commuters must now take an express bus to the Chinatown stop instead of the Red Line. This affects many businesses in Chinatown except for the Chicago Chinese Table Tennis Club, found in an alley on W 23rd Street. Talented players young and old gather there whenever they want to play intense, but fun matches. The characters and personalities of the owners and players ensure that this hidden place will never disappear.

South Side Table Tennis from Junius Randolph on Vimeo.

Edgewater’s New Library Does A Lot With Almost Nothing

Edward Remus, 27, searches for books in the adult section of the Edgewater Public Library for a patron.  Junius Randolph / MEDILL

Edward Remus, 27, searches for books in the adult section of the Edgewater Public Library for a patron.
Junius Randolph / MEDILL

Full time librarian Edward Remus will do whatever the Edgewater Public Library needs. He will scrub floors, act as a branch manager, plan adult events and even mediate conflicts.

“I don’t know if it’s right to say we do a lot with a little,” he said. “I think it’s more accurate to say we do a lot with nothing.”

Remus orchestrates everything from film screenings to knitting clubs at the library. He often cleans up after them too. He claims all this effort goes toward keeping the library a safe haven and community center.

“We can enrich people’s lives with knowledge, culture and by engaging each other,” he said. “And that’s an important aspect of libraries, as the third space and a public space.”

Remus checks the library's database for Egyptian history books for a patron. Junius Randolph / MEDILL

Remus checks the library’s database for Egyptian history books for a patron.
Junius Randolph / MEDILL

Remus planned a joint event with the Edgewater Historical Society last Saturday. The event centered on author and Edgewater resident Patrick Butler’s new book called “Hidden History of Uptown and Edgewater.”

Mostly senior citizens crowded into the library’s meeting room for his stroll down memory lane. Chairs ran out quickly, so some attendees stood in whatever crevice they could find. The line extended out of the door during the entire event.

“Events like these show that books are still alive,” said Betty Mayian, director of the Edgewater Historical Society.

The $13.7 million Edgewater Public Library opened on June 22 of this year to thousands of eager residents. The upgraded facility holds 54 computers, multiple study spaces and new meeting rooms. About 1000 people come in and out of the new branch daily.

The opening followed budget cuts and staff cut threats made by the mayor’s office in 2012. Even though the office increased Chicago Public Library’s budget this year to add more technology and programs, some residents think the targeted younger audiences are harder to satisfy.

“The library struggles to get younger people at events like these,” said 20 year Edgewater resident John Holden.

Even though the older crowd took over the event, some younger residents managed to sneak in.

“Most of us are probably hungover,” said younger resident Aimee Parduhn. She thought the event answered many questions however.

“You walk down the streets and see all the awards in the neighborhood,” she said. “It makes you wonder what it is all about.”

Mayian tried to get more young adults at the event by providing free coffee and snacks, but to little avail.

Despite residents’ beliefs, young people still find libraries useful, according to a Pew Internet Study released a few months ago. Almost 70 percent of people ages 16 to 29 visited a library in the past year, compared to 62 percent of adults over the age of 30. 85 percent of 16 to 17 year olds read a book in the last year, which stood as more than any other age group surveyed.

Teenagers maintain relationships with print, even though they remain embedded in the Internet and the digital age. The Edgewater Public Library caters to that population through maintaining multiple computers, having 24/7 Wi-Fi capabilities and planning events such as “The Science of Sex” film screenings and discussions coming up in December.

Remus points the patron to other Chicago libraries.  "There is a real opportunity here to see the results of your work," he said. Junius Randolph / MEDILL

Remus points the patron to other Chicago libraries.
“There is a real opportunity here to see the results of your work,” he said.
Junius Randolph / MEDILL

“The Wi-Fi never shuts off,” said Remus, cracking a smile. “We add value to the real estate in that aspect.”

Even though he acts as one of the library’s workhorses, Remus always finds joy in his job. Residents compliment events he organized, saying the humble librarian helps build the new library as a neighborhood cultural institution.

He recalled one recent incident where a woman commented on an open courseware class he taught. The lady said she taught skills learned in the class to her father. And those skills he learned intellectually sustained him for the last years of his life.

“I’m getting chills now thinking about this,” he said. “You don’t get that opportunity in a lot of lines of work.”