Parking, traffic woes near Obama home

November 6, 2008 3:12:28 PM PST
Increased security around President Elect Obama's home has presented challenges for his Hyde Park neighbors. Life gets a bit different when a president lives in the neighborhood: barricades go up and police and Secret Service agents settle in.

There used to be a bus stop on one stretch of Hyde Park Boulevard, but it's been moved. With the President-elect at home, the boulevard is closed to traffic for five blocks.

Stanley Brookins has to walk the mail a bit more than he typically would because no vehicles allowed within an inner perimeter.

"Does this slow down delivery a little bit? No it doesn't," said Stanley Brookins, U.S. postal carrier. "It doesn't slow it down too much, not too much."

Well, maybe just a little, Stanley concedes. The members of a congregation across the street must show photo ID for entry into their synagogue.

If residents have people coming over for dinner, it's a bit of a process.

"So we just, they park outside the barricade and we come out to pick them up," said Ayesha Aftab, resident.

It's early in this new arrangement in President-elect Obama's Kenwood- Hyde Park neighborhood. There've been some complaints largely about parking and traffic flow.

"I won't say many, but a number of constituents have called or emailed us expressing their concerns," said Ald. Toni Preckwinkle, 4th Ward. "We've told them that we're trying to work it out with the secret service."

It's a unique challenge for the secret service and Chicago police. Previous Presidents didn't live in a dense urban setting when away from the White House. George Bush has a ranch in Texas. So did LBJ. The elder Bush went to Kennebunkport. Clinton went to Hope. Carter to Plains. Nixon to San Clemente. Ford to Vail, and Kennedy to his compound in Hyannis Port. Not quite the same as shoulder to shoulder neighbors in Hyde Park.

A group of high school students from Muscatine, Iowa, - in for a visit to Bronzeville - was allowed to walk past the secured Obama block. They snapped some walk-by pictures, but were not allowed to stop.

"They're pretty careful about watching you and making sure you're not doing anything suspicious," said Kristin Erickson, Louisa-Muscatine H.S. Teacher.

Life does get different, but the security is not altogether unwelcome.

"For me it seems like I'm on the safest block in America. So, for me, it's worth it," said Aftab.

The Secret Service does not discuss specifics, but said it will balance providing a secure environment for Obama and his family with as little an impact as possible on neighbors.

The Secret Service and Chicago Police Department have been working on the plan, which is constantly evolving, for more than a year.


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