Obama victory brings about changes for neighbors

Now that Barack Obama is President-elect, beefed up security measures around his South Side home have changed the lives of neighbors. “I use to could park in front of my house when I got off work at 11 p.m. but now before I can even begin to search

Now that Barack Obama is President-elect, beefed up security measures around his South Side home have changed the lives of neighbors.

“I used to could park in front of my house when I got off work at 11 p.m. but now before I can even begin to search for a parking space, my car has to be searched by the U.S. Secret Service,” said Jean Woods, 58, who occasionally stays with her mother who lives on the 5100 block South of Greenwood Avenue. “I remember when Mr. Obama and his wife would casually walk down the block with their children and mingle with neighbors. That has all changed, and while I do understand the need for increased security, it should not serve as an inconvenience to those of us who happen to live on the same block.”

Prior to Obama becoming the country’s first Black president, Chicago police and U.S. Secret Service had put up concrete barricades around his home, but pedestrians were still able to drive past along Hyde Park Boulevard and see his house at 50th Street and Greenwood Avenue. But since Nov. 5, the barricades have been extended to a five-block radius, making it difficult for some neighbors like Woods and others to get home or have visitors.

Maxine Parker, 45, has lived in her one-bedroom apartment at 51st and Ellis Avenue for eight years and routinely gets up at 5 a.m. to go jogging down Hyde Park Boulevard before heading to work.

“I can no longer jog east down Hyde Park Boulevard to go to the lake,” she said. “The Obamas are nice people and very community oriented, but I pay my rent like anyone else and should be able to enjoy all the amenities the Hyde Park community has to offer like the lake. When my lease expires next year, I am considering moving away from Hyde Park.”

Besides the inconvenience of coming and going from their homes, neighbors also complain about their privacy.

“I have always kept to myself but now that Barack Obama is president, I see a lot more tourists coming around and that just adds to the congestion already here in Hyde Park,” said Nelson Barrington, 50, who lives in the 4900 block South of Greenwood Avenue.

“If you live in Hyde Park, you are used to parking restrictions but not used to having your visitors screened prior to being allowed entrance into the neighborhood. I don’t know too many women who will want to come visit me if they have to have their purse inspected upon arrival.”

Barrington added that perhaps the Obamas should consider moving to the suburbs where homes are spaced out and not piled up on each other like in Hyde Park.

“Hey, he’s the man now so it wouldn’t be a bad idea to move his family to a safer environment. I’m sure that would make the Secret Service happy. I can only imagine how difficult it is to protect him in such an urban community where everything is built so close to each other,” Barrington said of Obama.

The Chicago Transit Authority has had to reroute buses that normally run down Hyde Park Boulevard, past President-elect Obama’s home. The No. 15 Jeffery Local and the No. 2 Hyde Park Express buses were affected by the reroute.

Mary Johnson, who lives at 918 E. 51st St., said she does not mind all the extra security but does mind that she has to now walk a block to get to the bus when previously she could catch it right in front of her home.

“I am too old to be doing all this walking, especially now that it’s cold,” she said. “I just wish the bus could still run down here so I wouldn’t have to do so much walking. Other than that, I do not mind all the other stuff being done to protect Mr. Obama and his family.”

Other area residents do not mind the tightened security at all.

“It’s all about safety for the President of the United States,” said Lynette Redmond, 28, who lives in the 5300 block South of Maryland Avenue. “I’ll bet President Bush’s neighbors in Texas are not complaining about the security around his home there, so why the big fuss over Obama?”

A manager at Ingleside Foods, 5117 S. Ingleside Ave., who asked not to be identified, said while he voted for Obama, he wishes security would be loosened a bit for businesses.

“I like the guy, don’t get me wrong, but all this tight security has hurt business here,” he said. “It’s hard to get my deliveries now and foot traffic has also slowed down because now only people who live in the immediate area of the store has access. The store has been here for about 60 years, and I have been working here with my uncle for the last eight years, so I don’t feel longtime businesses should have to suffer because the president lives near us.”

Copyright 2008 Chicago Defender. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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