Chicago (CBS) — A block party in Lakeview on Saturday was abruptly cut short after some residents complained to Alderman Thomas Tunney’s office that the event was actually a child’s first birthday party and not fully open to the public.
Lakeview resident Brittany Robinson, mother to a boy who recently turned one, told CBS 2 that she coordinated with Alderman Tunney’s office to secure a permit to host a block party on North Pine Grove Avenue. The party included a bouncy castle, which took up a significant portion of the street.
Midday, after Robinson was informed she needed to end the block party, she moved the festivities to her backyard.
“I was told, ‘This is a pilot block party. We’re going to see how it goes with your side of the block. If you get any complaints, we won’t have it next year’,” Robinson told CBS 2.
“I can’t fathom why you think it’s OK to close a city street in a densely populated area for your son’s first birthday party,” Silvers told CBS 2.
This is not the first block party in Tunney’s ward that left some residents feeling unwelcome. In September of 2017, Friends of Blaine Elementary School secured a permit for a block party. However, the event was part of a fundraiser and, while neighbors were technically allowed to attend, guests at the party had made a donation.
Asked via email about the Friends of Blaine block party, Chris Jessup, spokesperson for Ald. Tunney replied: “We learned about the Blaine event and its effort and similarly let the hosts know that block parties are to be open to the public and not private. That event will also not continue or be supported in that way going forward.”
Robinson said she thought she had followed the rules when she secured a permit for Saturday’s event. “I spoke to Tunney’s office about what I wanted to do,” she said.
According to Robinson, the instructions she received from Dan Manoli, a member of Tunney’s staff, were to secure the proper permits, alert residents of her building, speak to the manager in the building across the street, and contact the resident across the alleyway that would be blocked off during the party.
Jessup told CBS 2 that constituents must submit a petition with a minimum of 25 supporters for block parties. He said in this case, signatures of support were never returned to his office.
Robinson said Tunney’s staff did not alert her to the petition requirement, despite it being listed on his office’s website. A page on the site reads, in part: “If this is your first time applying for a Block Party or you have not held one in the past two years, I ask that you circulate a petition among your neighbors demonstrating support for the event.”
Ald. Tunney’s office issued a statement about Robinson’s block party, saying, in part, “This permit was issued in error and once we were notified on Saturday, we moved quickly to cancel the permit with the Police and the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT), which issues block party permits.”
“This was not me being sneaky. This was all spoken about. People were welcome. I just feel that this has gotten blown out of proportion,” Robinson told CBS 2. Asked about inviting other members of the community, she said, “I wasn’t told I needed to do that.”
One private message that Robinson received said, “You[‘re] so so incredibly inconsiderate and deceiving. Telling people it’s a block party but in reality it is a private birthday party for your kid?” The message follows with a pornographic reference to sexual favors and concludes by saying, “I’m thinking of a late night all boys dance party! Sorry your invite got lost in the mail.”
Robinson said she has offered to meet with community members to discuss what went wrong. So far no one has taken her up on her offer.