Watch CBS News

Near North Neighbors Say Stalled Construction Project Has Turned Seward Park Into An Overgrown, Neglected Mess

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Seward Park is supposed to be a place for recreation and for kids to play – but instead, it's full of trash, drug baggies, and brick piles.

The neighborhood blight comes as the result of a stalled construction project. CBS 2's Charlie De Mar looked for answers Wednesday night on what the holdup is.

With tall grasslands and swampy stagnant water may have, one might be led to believe – at least looking at a picture - there is some kind of a nature preserve at Seward Park. There isn't.

It is all the consequence of months of neglect at the park on the Near North Side, off Division and Orleans streets near the former site of the Cabrini-Green housing development.

"They ended up starting a project, which they didn't have the scope of what it took to actually finish the project," said E.J. Karsten.

Karsten lives near the park and regularly teaches pickleball lessons on the courts. Construction fencing has sidelined him and anyone else who wants to use the public courts.

The basketball rims aren't even attached to the backboards.

De Mar: "And that's got to be frustrating for you."

Karsten: "Very much so. This project has not allowed for the community to be able to use those basketball courts."

In 2018, the Chicago Park District secured $4 million for improvements to the park - upgrades to the fieldhouse windows, roof, and concrete among the repairs.

But a hammer hasn't been lifted in months, and supplies for the project just sit there.

The city said it found more serious damage and needed time to secure proper permits.

"It's not acceptable," said Maria Scandariato. "Number one, if there was no progress being made on the park, the park should have been opened the entire summer."

Scandariato also lives nearby. She is frustrated that the seemingly abandoned construction site has locked her and the rest of the community out - while welcoming others in.

"What's happening is an increased number of homeless people who are occupying the park - like how are we addressing their safety and security?" Scandariato said.

"It's been hangout because, there's so many places you can hide around the fencing," Karsten added.

On Wednesday night, as CBS 2 photographer Scott Placko flew a drone over the park, a large pile of trash was visible leading up to the fieldhouse. That was when he spotted a woman on the steps slumped over.

We called paramedics. The woman was checked out and refused medical attention.

"Where kids going to hang out?" Scandariato said. "Where are they going to play?"

A Chicago Park District representative said the new permits have been secured and contractors are being remobilized - and work should start sometime in the next few weeks. But this project isn't expected to be completed until spring 2022.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.