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Should You Leave Town During NATO Summit? Depends Who You Ask

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Jay Levine Jay Levine
Jay Levine is the chief correspondent for CBS 2 Chicago. He joined...
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CHICAGO (CBS) – With less than a month until the NATO summit in Chicago, the alderman whose ward will be most affected by security efforts was urging people to leave town during the summit, but the city’s top cop was downplaying potential disruptions.

Between shutting down parts of the Stevenson Expressway and Lake Shore Drive for motorcades and protection of high-profile heads of state meeting at McCormick Place, some believe the disruption caused by the summit will be significant.

But as CBS 2 Chief Correspondent Jay Levine reports, not everyone agrees.

Ald. Bob Fioretti (2nd) said “I’ve been advising people, if they can afford it, leave town.”

It’s not just the tentative security perimeter around McCormick Place where residents and businesses could see swarms of security forces, and be plagued by street closures in the days leading up to the summit.

At least five hotels in and around downtown are expected to serve as hosts to major international delegations attending the summit. The Hyatt Regency Chicago, the Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers, the Peninsula Chicago, the Park Hyatt Chicago, and the Chicago Hilton & Towers all are expected to be headquarters for NATO delegations, leading to tight security measures around their buildings.

Fioretti said people from as far south as Bronzeville to the Near North Side would be well-advised to stay out of those areas during the summit. He said the enhanced security in there could make getting to and from downtown and nearby neighborhoods a big headache.

“I think, especially Saturday, Sunday, Monday, (May 19-21)” he said. “People should be prepared, at least two hours in advance, to get to a destination here – at least 2 hours.

Not everyone agrees. Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy, after attending the unveiling of a street sign in honor of the late Chicago Police Cmdr. John Kupcyck, played down the possible disruptions.

“I think it’s gonna be minimal interruption to life in general. Quite frankly, it’s a two-day event. I don’t anticipate that it’s gonna flip the city over,” McCarthy said. “There’s only gonna be a couple of hotels with … high profile targets, so those are those the ones that are gonna have some lockdown. But that’s not going to be a big deal.”

There’s also O’Hare International Airport and other airports handling dozens of special diplomatic flights, perhaps dedicating one runway for their takeoffs and landings.

There could also be periodic closings of the Kennedy Expressway for motorcades to go to and from O’Hare.

Some downtown employers, like the Federal Reserve Bank, have been considering telling employees to stay home and telecommute on the Monday of the summit.

“It’s probably a good excuse to take a day off, if the employer will agree, but Chicago has the capacity and the wherewithal to overcome inconveniences,” said Ald. Ed Burke (14th), the dean of the City Council.

City workers will not be getting Monday off, which is as much a policy decision as it is a message from the mayor that Chicago is determined to carry on business as usual during the summit.

Even Fioretti agreed that Chicago’s moment in the spotlight during the summit is worth the extra hours on the road for commuters.

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