City sues owner of Big Blue Lincoln Park 'nuisance' statue

June 5, 2013 (CHICAGO)

Depending on how you see Big Blue, it is either a gorgeous art object beautifying a wealthy section of Lincoln Park, or it is an obnoxious eyesore dragging down property values. City attorneys have another name for it: a public nuisance - and they have filed suit against the owner to bring it within code. The 30-foot tall object still towers over the front yard at Burling and Armitage, and part of it hangs over the sidewalk. Since December of 2011, there has been a behind-the-scenes effort to get the 1970 N. Burling property owner to meet city code requirements.

City attorneys have filed a public nuisance lawsuit against the owner, contending that enough is enough. According to the suit, the sculpture and surrounding eight-foot brick wall "threaten the character and stability of the area," constitute an "unlawful interference with the surroundings" and are a blight on the neighborhood."

The public art sparked a neighborhood controversy from the moment it went up, including a web campaign that referred to it as a monstrosity. The owner of the home is a well-heeled city developer, John Novak. His construction firm headquarters features seasonal décor and is decked out annually for the Fourth of July.

As for the big blue sculpture on his front lawn, Novak said, "I don't care if people like it. This is America."

He said he wasn't aware the city had filed suit, although he has begun making changes that would seem to satisfy city concerns: moving the sculpture so it no longer hangs over the sidewalk and reducing the brick wall to meet code.

The saga of Big Blue was headed toward a very different ending, according to Alderman Michele Smith of the 43rd Ward. She says that Novak had agreed to remove the sculpture and donate it to Northern Illinois University in exchange for being allowed to keep the eight-foot brick wall around his place. But on the day of the hearing, he changed his mind.

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