Council hopefuls debate future of Foster-Walker green space

Abbie VanSickle

The future of the green space in front of the Foster-Walker Complex has long been a sensitive issue, and the upcoming aldermanic election has brought it to the forefront again.

Woodlyne Jean-Charles, the former president of Foster-Walker, recently received a phone call from Robert Atkins, president of Northwestern Neighbors and a campaign adviser for Ald. Arthur Newman (1st), who is seeking re-election. Atkins left Jean-Charles a message saying he had important information regarding the dorm.

When Jean-Charles returned the call, Atkins said he wanted to make her aware of the possibility of the green space in front of the dorm becoming a faculty parking lot if Kellogg Prof. Allan Drebin were elected alderman.

Atkins informed Jean-Charles of a 1997 proposal by NU to make the green space into a faculty parking lot. The proposal enraged some community members and Foster-Walker students, who mounted a petition to stop it.

Atkins, who carried the petition, told Jean-Charles he wanted to make students aware that Drebin, who is opposing Newman for the alderman position, refused to sign the 1997 petition. He also asked Jean-Charles to start a new petition to show student support for the safe-keeping of the green space.

“I wanted to let the students know what went on in the past,” Atkins said. “A moratorium was put on [the proposal].”

He said he feared that if Drebin were elected, the NU administration would open the moratorium and reconsider the proposal.

He also was skeptical of the NU administration’s adamant denial of future plans to pave the space, calling the denial “campaign rhetoric.”

Newman said he knew about the call and wanted to let students know that he feels the green space issue will be raised in the future. He said he doesn’t see anything wrong with a community member contacting students during an election.

After speaking to Atkins, Jean-Charles notified Kiersten Elliott, the area coordinator for Foster-Walker, about Atkins’ call and voiced her concern about the future of the space. Jean-Charles said Elliot assured her there are no future plans to pave the space.

Eugene Sunshine, vice president for business and finance, said he was bothered by the news of Atkins’ call.

“We have no intention of building anything there,” Sunshine said.

Drebin also voiced concern about the call. He said he was angry that Atkins presented his refusal to sign the 1997 petition as a signal of his desire to pave the green space.

“I refused to sign the petition because I wanted to first find out what the needs were. I wanted to keep my mind open and find a satisfactory solution to the parking problem.”

Drebin said that if elected, he would take steps to solve the NU parking problem. He said he wanted to look elsewhere to solve NU’s parking problem.