CHICAGO (CBS) — The CBS 2 Morning Insiders will not give up on their quest to make sure hundreds of thousands of Chicago children have a safe, clean place to play.
CBS 2 reported twice before on the filth at Harding Park, at Division Street and Harding Avenue in the Humboldt Park neighborhood. The Chicago Park District assured CBS 2 that during the summer, the park would be cleaned every day.
So CBS 2’s Lauren Victory went back to see for herself.
There are families having fun at the Harding Park playground – an image we’d all like to see. But CBS 2’s investigating uncovered an ugly side to Harding Park.
Victory showed photos of the drug debris to the person in charge of cleaning at the Park District back in May.
“This makes me said,” Kathy Breitenbach, director of cultural and natural resources for the Park District, said at the time. “We’ll clean there every day, but when we come back the next day, we’ll often find the same problem.”
Breitenbach insisted that come summer, the cleaning schedule would be ramped up – with crews sent to Harding Park daily.
CBS 2 gave it three months, and then checked back at Division Street and Pulaski Road six times in recent weeks.
It was not hard to spot baggies – and lots of them – presumably from drugs at the park, along with cans and bottles from alcohol, food wrappers, a razor, clothing, and even a pair of underwear.
“That was nice that you guys fought for it,” said April Cortes.
Victory ran into Cortes and her young son, Jose, at Harding Park on one of her recent visits. She said CBS 2’s past stories led to action.
“The Park District came to clean up a few days after you guys came,” Cortes said, “but I haven’t seen them since.”
The Park District actually has been back since CBS 2’s May story. But CBS 2 got a hold of weekly task sheets for Harding Park – and was it cleaned every day? Not so much.
For example, beginning on Memorial Day – the unofficial start of summer – crews showed up on two of the seven days of the week.
The log shows one cleaning visit lasted 6 minutes. On the to-do list for the park, the only task completed was “pick paper.”
The week of June 3, there were only four days of cleaning recorded.
“They don’t care,” Cortes said.
In all the task sheets from March to the end of July, CBS 2 did not find one where cleaning crews showed up daily. In most cases, they stayed less than 10 minutes when they did come.
Cortes: “One time I got scared, because I thought (Jose) had put it in his mouth.”
Victory: “A bag. It was a – do I say the real word? It was a dope bag. He was looking for his car. He lost his toy car.”
CBS 2 wanted to know what Ald. Emma Mitts (37th) would say about our findings. She sent CBS 2 a media memo touting “significant sustainable improvements.”
Mitts also went on to suggest photos that Victory sent her recently “seem to be the exact same one you provided at the start of summer.”
That is not true. Victory appeared on camera with an Aug. 8 edition of the Chicago Sun-Times, and showed that illicit debris was still lying on the grass below.
Victory addressed Mitts, “When you say that ‘litter and paraphernalia have long been removed,’ unfortunately, that’s inaccurate.”
Why does it matter? So kids like Jose can play and be safe.
Cortes said she just wants the Park District to maintain Harding Park.
CBS 2 asked both the Park District and Ald. Mitts to talk on camera. Both declined.
We will continue to push to have the Park District live up to its promise of daily cleaning and removal of all debris.