Imagine that one day a man shows up at your door and tells you he intends to erect a building the size of a very large Ferris wheel directly behind your house. With that building/Ferris wheel comes a carnival of people moving into your neighborhood with no place to park, and as the wheel goes round, they can see everything happening in your backyard. With this, you lose your privacy, your neighborhood pride, and your sense that your community cares about you.

My partner Jane and I moved into our home at 800 S. Humphrey approximately 28 years ago. We spent a lot of money making this home our sanctuary. We would return to our sanctuary after working as university professors. Now retired, we dedicated our lives to speaking out for marginalized individuals, publishing 16 books addressing issues of race, diversity, and inclusion. We were drawn to Oak Park because of its dedication to diversity and because we felt safe here as a lesbian couple. In this house, we hosted many parties with friends and family, and created a garden we are proud of. This rendering of us and our neighbors as NIMBYs or racists is just a form of gaslighting. I suppose if you cannot adhere to logic, then you must resort to name-calling.

To put it mildly, we are heartbroken about the proposed building at 7 Van Buren. Besides being an eyesore, it will be the first step in destroying the neighborhood we so dearly love. Most letters in support of this project are not from residents of this neighborhood. These writers are invested in being armchair residents, much like the armchair/verandah ethnographers of the early 20th century who wrote about cultures from the safety of their surroundings/verandahs, telling others how they should live. 

These ethnographers rendered their ideas of culture, without an understanding of the privilege they inhabited. Like these scholars, those in support of this project have shown no empathy, sensitivity, or understanding. I’d appreciate a reasonable proposal, but this proposal, based on a series of factors, including extreme height and inadequate parking, seems like a desire to colonize, and take over for the sake of profit and personal gain.

If you really want this building, let Oak Park Residence Corporation build it behind your house. I invite anyone who has written a letter in favor of this project to trade homes with us so you can truly see what this feels like. And as the Ferris wheel goes round and round, ask if you would like to live in our house and be unable to get out of your garage as well as lose your privacy and all you have worked for over 28 years.

Theresa Carilli, PhD, professor emerita
Purdue University Northwest

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