Block party shut down after concerns from neighbors, officials


Katie Pach/Daily Senior Staffer

Garnett Place. The city on Friday cancelled a block party after local residents and officials expressed concern about the event.

David Fishman, City Editor

City officials on Friday canceled a “pre-Dillo style” block party on Garnett Place after receiving complaints from local residents.

The party, scheduled for Saturday afternoon, had reached roughly 5,000 people on Facebook and about 35 people had made requests to DJ, supply food and help out, Medill senior Dani Levy said. City officials told The Daily they cancelled the event after it grew too large and changed in nature.

“Block parties are not necessarily controversial,” city manager Wally Bobkiewicz said. “(But) the true scope of what was requested wasn’t completely disclosed or understood by the city.”

The idea for a block party came from Levy and McCormick senior Kara Rodby, who had noted the absence of such events relative to other Big Ten schools. While eating dinner together last winter, the pair begin to lay the groundwork for the “1st Annual Garnett Block Party.”

In January, Rodby filed for a permit from the city with high hopes and low expectations, she said.

“I knew the application process was fairly simple, so I figured why not apply and see what happens,” she said. “I didn’t really think they would approve us.”

Rodby said she “didn’t think much about it” until a letter appeared in her mailbox roughly four months later. The city had approved the event — along with the consumption of alcoholic beverages — and even offered to barricade off the surrounding area.

“Best wishes for a successful event!” read a note from Traffic Operations supervisor Thomas Twigg.

Rodby said she was “very surprised” by the approval and immediately set out knocking on neighbors’ doors — a stipulation on the block party application. She and Levy made a list of local addresses and “amped up” their efforts to inform the community of their plans. Of the four non-student homes Rodby identified on Garnett Place, she said two approved and two did not answer.

The pair also set up a Facebook event and invited their friends. Rodby said they had always intended to make it “big,” but never expected the event to reach so many people. By Friday afternoon, more than 1,700 students said they planned on attending the block party.

As the sole name on the permit, Rodby said she felt somewhat concerned by the event’s rapidly expanding size. Nevertheless, she did her homework and concluded that she would be fine as long as the street was cleaned up afterward.

But on Thursday night, Rodby said she received a call from a “disgruntled” neighbor who declined to give his name.

“He said that Garnett is a very important street for truck traffic and that he did not want the block party because of that,” Rodby said. “The people who were upset didn’t even have the guts to say so to our face or try to talk to us about anything.”

The next morning, Rodby said, she woke up to the noise of city workers dropping off barricades and went back to sleep. Two hours later, however, the barricades were gone and Rodby said she had received a voicemail from Twigg alleging he had been “inundated with calls from angry neighbors.”

Twigg said he had received three calls from residents who asked him to cancel the event. The neighbors — some of whom harbor “very bad feelings” toward students on the block — told Twigg they were concerned about damage to property and noise.

In addition, Twigg said the event had grown out of proportion and warped into something other than a “block party.”

“A block party in the city’s opinion is basically (when) people who live on the block get together,” he said. “It’s not to have a concert, it’s not to have a DJ, it’s not to have a dance and bring everybody from outside.”

When Twigg found out the event had been shared on Facebook, he said he had no choice but to shut it down.

“I’m glad that I canceled it when I did,” he said. “This would have been a major problem.”

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Twitter: @davidpkfishman