One small victory for people, pooches on the Riverwalk

By Dan Mihalopoulos Nov 13, 2017, 2:56pm CST


Jeffrey Graubart walking his dog Wriggles along the Riverwalk. | Rich Hein / Sun-Times

These are tough times for members of the news media, with the far left deriding us as corporate tools and right-wingers crying “fake news” when the facts contradict their world view.

Reporters have to find a measure of satisfaction in any small sign that we continue to affect life in our communities for the better.

So here’s a story about how we, the “enemies of the people,” still can bring about at least modest change to benefit the public — and your pets, too.

When downtown high-rise dweller Jeffrey Graubart and his yellow Labrador retriever Wriggles were unlawfully blocked from a stretch of downtown Chicago’s scenic Riverwalk, Graubart and his dog found the path cleared only after this columnist took up their cause.

Graubart, an entertainment-industry lawyer, unearthed public documents proving that the property managers and security guards at the 100 N. Riverside Plaza office building had no right to bar him and Wriggles from the trail between the headquarters of Boeing Co. and the Chicago River.

The facts were on Graubart’s side. All sections of the Riverwalk are governed by the same rules as city parks.
Still, for months, nobody at City Hall would take action on his and Wriggles’ behalf.

Repeated pleas for intervention brought no effective response from his alderman, Brendan Reilly (42nd). And Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s City Hall corporation counsel, Ed Siskel, ignored Graubart’s emails.

I met with Graubart and wrote a column Oct. 23 pointing out that the property managers for the building could not ban dogs from that stretch of the riverfront, nor could they rightfully lock the gates at each end of the path on the weekends and at 6 p.m. weeknights. Yet that’s what they were claiming they could do in signs posted at the entrances to the Riverwalk. And their security guards enforced those rules.

Eight days after the column ran, Emanuel administration officials at last woke up, sending a letter to the property manager at the real estate firm CBRE. Suddenly, City Hall was talking tough and demanding change.

“If you choose to post signs, they must accurately reflect city of Chicago Riverwalk policies for public property,” Zoning Administrator Patti Scudiero said in the Oct. 31 letter to Cory Roberts, the property manager for 100 N. Riverside Plaza.

“The existing signs posted at the two Riverwalk lower level entries incorrectly list time of use and prohibit dogs,” Scudiero wrote. “Please correct the signs by changing the hours of access to 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily, including weekends and holidays, and limit the prohibition of dogs to only those not on a leash. Please coordinate with building ownership and security to have these changes made immediately.”

The part of the signs that says dogs aren’t allowed was recently covered up. But the signs still claim that the area is open to the public only from 7 a.m. until 6 p.m. Monday through Friday.

The hours that public access should be allowed: 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily,
including weekends and holidays. | Dan Mihalopoulos / Sun-Times

Roberts, the property manager, did not return calls and emails about why.

Graubart says the security guards at the building — who shouted at him last month that the Riverwalk was “private property” and that Wriggles couldn’t go there — have stopped messing with him and his dog.

But he’s still miffed over the brushoff he got from city officials.

“Thank God, we still have the media in this country,” Graubart, 77, says. “Nothing would have changed. I am so delighted we have together accomplished some little something.”

A security guard confronting Jeffrey Graubart last month as he walked his dog
Wriggles down the steps to the Riverwalk. | Rich Hein / Sun-Times

There could be more fights for riverfront rights ahead. The shimmering new, 54-story building at 150 N. Riverfront Plaza also has put up signs that say dogs can’t use the freshly paved stretch of the Riverwalk there.

The building’s owners would be wise to let the path go to the dogs. Don’t mess with the power of the press and the privileges of the public and its pooches.

100NRiverside Letter by The Watchdogs on Scribd