"NEIU Expansion Invokes Eminent Domain"
According to the report done by the local radio station (WBEZ 91.5) many businesses and apartments located one block west of Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago received a daunting letter from the university stating that it intended to acquire their property for some compensation. Northeastern Illinois University says that this expansion plans to include more on campus housing. Dr. Sharon Hahs, President of NEIU says that the character of the neighborhood needs to be "changed". Dr. Hahs views the area surrounding the university economically depressed and believes that it needs to be transformed and with the addition of the on campus housing, the community would shift from quiet streets to a more exciting and lively campus. The university frames this decision as a desire to inject some economic pep into the otherwise economically depressed neighborhood. They are noticeably less vocal about the fact that this plan is absolutely vital to the survival of their school, as enrollment numbers are at an all time low. Offering more housing will hopefully bring in more students and cause numbers to go up again. I think that the university is trying to make this seem like a less selfish act by primarily stating it is for the good of the neighborhood. In my opinion the addition of dorms in place of the shops and apartments could change the character of the town for the worse because more students means more antics and therefore additional disturbances to residents.
Understandably many residents and shop owners were deeply upset by this letter and one person in particular chose to take action. Dolly Tong (picture below), owner of a Chinese restaurant and an apartment unit above it is one of the more vocal business owners against the universities plans to expand. The Chinese restaurant she owns has been passed down from generation to generation in her family and the income generated from the business goes towards paying for her severely disabled mother's health bills. Without the restaurant she will have to start over, lose a part of her family history, and find a new source of revenue. Tong is reminiscent to me of Florence Scala, a neighbor of UIC who was effected by it's expansion in 1960. Florence tried to fight the City of Chicago with protests and it seems that Tong is doing the same, choosing to rally the people of North Park. Tong also is spearheading protests against the property take over much like Scala did in her time.
|Dolly Tong displays a book featuring the history|
of Chinese restaurants in the U.S. in which her family's
restaurant is featured.
What are your thoughts on this issue? Should Northeastern Illinois University look further west for expansion or should they be able to obtain land from residents residing closer to their campus?