View Full Version : Opinions and experience on living in Rogers Park [ANSWERED BY CECIL - furher discussion?]
05-03-2009, 10:42 PM
After weeks of weighing options in the search for an ideal apartment that has the space to accommodate my expanding needs, I've come to the conclusion that the best place would be Rogers Park. Yes, I'm having a hard time hearing myself say it ... it's not exactly the conclusion I'd been expecting to come to. Ironically enough, it's where I was born, and it seems as though I'm destined to return home to spawn. Or something.
My search has taken me further and further north, starting off in the South Loop and traversing through the New East Side, River North, Streeterville, Lakeview, and Lincoln Park. My impression of Lakeview is horrifically stereotyped: a haven for college-types, recent grads, and ra-ra Cubs fans, most of whom that I've actually met appear to live on peanuts, welfare, and/or unemployment checks because they don't own cars, work strange jobs, and have to share washers and dryers at communal laundromats. Sorry if this comes off as snobbish and unfair, but I said it was stereotyped, and that neighborhood was just really never my thing. Sure, there are places in Lakeview that have parking and washers and dryers, but you sure do pay the price. Lincoln Park is similar, perhaps a bit nicer overall, but the idea of street parking in any of these neighborhoods (even in more sercure permit parking areas) doesn't exactly thrill me as the owner a brand new car. No doubt, if I'd have known that I needed to move to the city when I bought the car last year, I'd have never bought the damn thing in the first place, but the last concern I need now is whether or not the driver of the rusty old beater on either side of me gives a damn about trading paint with my bumper when I'm not around.
So, after all this, I've come to find a few recent condominium developments further north in the Ravenswood/Rogers Park area that have room to spare, garages to park in, and the means to actually do laundry in my own place. And with gated, secured entry at reasonable rent rates that don't make my eyeballs pop from my head. I could still hop the Rogers Park Metra to get into the Loop within a half-hour too, so that's nice. Everything seems fine about it ... everything except the reputation of the neighborhood. Now I know that there's always the difference between the perceived value of something versus its actual reality, and that there are differing views on the neighborhood depending on who you ask, but has anyone had any firsthand experience in Rogers Park? Is it still as bad as it used to be? Even further east near the lake? Some people say they've never had any problems even after living there for many years. Still others post blogs glorifying virtually every piece of bad news about the neighborhood ... gangs, crime, shootings, etc. You'd think it was the slums of Detroit or L.A. the way some describe it. Anyone who's spent more than a minute learning about the burroughs of Chicago has heard about Rogers Park, but how true is it all? Is it really the hellhole it's worked up to be?
Tim R. Mortiss
05-04-2009, 02:23 AM
Western Rogers Park seems pretty nice; eastern not so much. I live in Lincoln Park and love it, but if I had to move I'd probably check out Lincoln Square, which seems to be gentrifying rapidly.....TRM
05-04-2009, 02:41 AM
I lived 15 years in East Rogers Park (Touhy and Sheridan). When I first moved in it was nice enough, but the last couple years were horrible. The day after we moved out the guy next door to where we had been living went out to the local corner store for a bag of chips and a drink and was shot in dead in the middle of the afternoon. That was after various acts of arson in the neighborhood, the whore down the alley triple-booking clients and a resulting fight-fest, the drug dealing, gang activity....
That said, West Rogers Park was always a nicer place, and up north right on the water were some condos behind fences that were still reasonable.
So... parts of Rogers Park deserve the reputation they have, other parts are nicer. Can't say which one you're in. And I moved out over 10 years ago so yes, things may have changed, but the area earned its unsavory reputation back when I living there and moving out.
05-04-2009, 03:07 PM
I'd say the problematic part of Rogers Park is between Sheridan and Clark. How problematic is hard to say. I know some people who live near Jarvis and Ashland; the area around the Jarvis "L" stop used to be really seedy but has improved. (The stop itself is still a pit.) Morse stop also shaky at one time; not sure now. I've been hearing people say Rogers Park is going to the dogs since the Ashkenaz deli on Morse closed in the 70s, so you need to do some filtering. Possibly I can interest the Master in doing a column about this.
05-04-2009, 06:06 PM
I concur - I moved out when the Morse El area when in the toilet. Among other things, Kamar's was torched when they refused to pay protection money to the gangs, that sticks in my mind as a significant turning point. Entre Amigos taco place used to get robbed all the time, too, felt sorry for the lady who owned it.
Honestly, not sure how it is these days, it's been a decade after all.
05-04-2009, 06:30 PM
It's old lore like this stuff that I was originally referring to ... stories from years (or decades) past that reinforce the sort of negative stereotype which exists today. I'm not trying to take a side either way, of course; I'm remaining impartial, but am understandably more concerned with recent developments. I appreciate all firsthand testimony, but the current state of affairs in the neighborhood from the perspective of one who's living there now - or more recently - is of most value. Ed's mention of turning it into a topic for a column would be cool ... wow, to think that I actually inspired a question for Cecil? Never in a million years did I think I'd do that. :)
05-11-2009, 11:44 AM
Yeah- I thought that Roger's Park was improving too... and then I came across this blog:
No way I would live there.
I was feeling nostalgic about the Heartland cafe the other day and was thinking that I should get back there this summer. After reading about all the violence -even in broad daylight- I'm rethinking that notion.
05-11-2009, 09:07 PM
While I appreciate your sharing the link, it's not like I haven't googled "rogers park blog" and not seen it. I acknowledged the existence of blogs like this in my OP.
Some people say they've never had any problems even after living there for many years. Still others post blogs glorifying virtually every piece of bad news about the neighborhood ... gangs, crime, shootings, etc. You'd think it was the slums of Detroit or L.A. the way some describe it.Blogs by their nature have an agenda, and I've always felt that the truth often lies between two extremes. This blog is the negative extreme. I realize that Rogers Park does still have its problems, but you could conceivably make a blog like this for any town ... so long as every story you post is something you heard over a police scanner, it conveys the sense that everything about the subject is bad, because the blog never mentions anything that isn't bad. Sorry, but my inquiry was primarily made to hear personal experiences others may have had recently, not blog posts which exist only to continue painting the subject matter in the worst possible light by cherry-picking the police blotter and police scanners for its community updates.
05-22-2009, 12:57 AM
I moved into the Howard/Ridge area a year ago. There have been two gang murders in the immediate vicinity since I moved here. (I didn't do it, I swear.)
Other than that...it's not bad. Depends on where you're coming from. I moved from a fairly sedate, mostly yuppie neighborhood. Here, life is somewhat rowdier. People make more noise. If you're like me it will take some getting used to. But it's a cultural thing, not a dangerous thing.
I don't get hassled on the street. People are generally cordial. There are some bums and panhandlers, but that's true everywhere. However I do tend to stay in after dark.
I have family in West Ridge who like it there. If I could have found what I needed, I would have moved there myself. If you choose condo rental, I recommend finding one offered by an owner in a fully-sold building (as opposed to renting from a developer). I saw some big, beautiful vintage rehabs in the Indian Boundary and Warren Park areas, with all the bells and whistles you're looking for. Longer commute but lovely urbs-in-horto living.
All in all, I'm satisfied here. I have more room than I could afford closer in, with convenient shopping and transportation. Bloggers who post doom and gloom about this area are attention seekers, and that's the nicest thing I can say about them. In the course of 35 years I have lived all up and down the North Side; just like with a job, it's not just the culture of a place but how you fit within it that determines how happy you'll be. If you haven't found a place already, good luck with your move!
05-22-2009, 01:11 AM
Adding just one more thing: everyblock.com is a great way to check out new neighborhoods and keep tabs on the one you're in now. Enter an address, choose a report radius of one block up to eight blocks, and they display crime, business and real estate reports culled from the CPD and the Web.
C K Dexter Haven
05-23-2009, 07:51 AM
Ed has indeed convinced the Master to take this one one: http://chicago.straightdope.com/sdc20090521.php
We're going to try to bring so order to the chaos: I've marked the thread title, and moved the thread into this forum (leaving a re-direct in the prior location) since it's now the launch question into a column.
05-24-2009, 12:47 PM
I'm pretty amazed that this inquiry got selected for such special treatment. Never thought I'd pose a question on here that would elicit a response from Cecil himself! Thanks for this, guys.
On a side note, I ended up moving to the South Loop in the end, primarily to be within spitting distance of my office, but this writeup is unique in the sense that it is impartial and fact-based, without an agenda, and is of great value.
05-24-2009, 01:33 PM
I have been living in east Roger's Park for the last 7 years. This post references a square bordered by Sheridan and Clark (east to west) and Devon to Touhy (north to south). The neighborhood has improved greatly. My first apartment was located at Estes and Sheridan. When I moved in (2002), the area was pretty scary. Prostitutes walked the streets on Estes, Glenwood and Morse. Crack cocaine was sold openly on Estes at all hours. Gang members traveled in groups of 6 or more and often harassed people on the street. There was also a large transient population of crackheads and homeless people who were relatively aggressive.
However, the surge of condo conversions helped stabilize the area. On many blocks, over half of the brownstone apartment buildings were converted. This displaced a lot of the troublemakers and brought a higher income bracket to the neighborhood. Police became much more active in the area, and the addition of cameras on Morse cleared up a lot of the gang activity. Yes, they do sell drugs around here, but not nearly to the extent they used to.
Unfortunately, Howard has not improved. The side streets to the north are very dicey. The intersection of Pratt and Ashland is also seedy to this day (the gangs sell drugs out of an apartment building on the north east corner).
I don't understand why everyone is so apprehensive about living in the area. The hate and fear displayed by the conservative blogs of Roger's Park disturbs me greatly. They only serve to scare people and draw attention to a shrinking group in the community. Most of the murders now are gang related. Morse, once an area for drug sales, now has new businesses and a constant community presence. When the closed the clubs a few years ago, the "gangsters" stopped hanging around.
Another factor to be considered is how you carry yourself on the street. If you act like a victim you become one. Criminals are like dogs, they pick up on fear and exploit it to the fullest. In all my years living here I have never been robbed, beaten or threatened with a weapon. Neither has my wife.
In closing, I remain a staunch advocate for the improving Roger's Park. I admit I have not included any facts or figures supporting these views. Please reference the original article for statistics. Regardless, numbers can be skewed and manipulated to reflect any opinion. Therefore, my personal testimonial is applicable in conveying a feel for the general area. Have a great day!
05-24-2009, 06:14 PM
Well, I'm glad you and yours have been fine.
One of the factors in my moving out was the number of times my husband was mugged. Of course, being disabled he is physically incapable of running and thus makes a handy target for muggers. Unfortunately for the muggers, my husband normally carried a weapon and wasn't afraid to use it but that routine gets old real quick.
If you are comfortable, fine - I live in Gary, Indiana now which has considerable bad reputation of its own so I understand something of how you feel - but I wasn't, I was afraid for my family, so I moved. If Rogers Park has improved since I moved out that's excellent - I had many happy years there before it went down the toilet - but I'm not moving back.
05-24-2009, 10:42 PM
Have lived in east RP since 1991 and have not been mugged or harassed, and I walk everywhere (though typically not in the wee hours of the night which I wouldn't do anywhere, anyway). The whole "RP isn't safe" mantra is a big myth born mostly, I think, out of racism (color and class). RP is a truly mixed neighborhood. Most white people like the IDEA of diversity but not the reality of it so much, particularly if that diversity includes peoples of other classes (leaving aside racial diversity). Most groups of young black boys and girls are just that -- teens being teens -- but are often taken for gangbangers because they are black and/or lower class. There are drunks all over this city and every other large city but they are harmless (though can be smelly). My house was broken into here once in the mid-1990s (we left a window open thus inviting trouble) but so too was my home in Washington DC. Yes, I've come across idiot drunks in RP but I've also come across idiot drunks around Wriggley. I'd rather live next to my neighbors the hooker and her addict boyfriend than the uptight creeps my friend in Andersonville lives next to who complain and call the cops every time they let their dog run in the alley (where was nosy neighbor when their other neighbor was suffering a break-in that led to the murder of her husband and mother?).
For all that people talk about the goodness of diversity, here we have a neighborhood that has it all -- racial, ethnic, economic -- and the city and every good liberal ought to be holding it out as an excellent example of progressiveness. Instead we get the "it's not safe" propaganda. As Cecil points out, it's pretty much no more or less safe than most other communities. I hate to say it but I've come to realize that most progressives aren't so progressive about their own lives, preferring to live in communities that limit diversity to the people behind the check out counter at the corner CVS.
05-24-2009, 11:27 PM
Cecil, can you provide the teeming millions with the spreadsheet you created that generated the community area crime histograms?
05-25-2009, 07:38 AM
Have lived in east RP since 1991 and have not been mugged or harassed, and I walk everywhere (though typically not in the wee hours of the night which I wouldn't do anywhere, anyway). The whole "RP isn't safe" mantra is a big myth born mostly, I think, out of racism (color and class).
Frankly, I find that rather insulting - I lived in Rogers Park 15 years, and all of those years it was, indeed, a rich and diverse neighborhood. I left because my husband was being attacked on a regular basis, there was arson occuring (Kamar's restaurant), thefts occuring (Entre Amigos Tacqueria, as well as numerous neighbors and our car several time), and murders occuring on my block (my neighbor, the day after we moved out). The notion that all of us who left because of crime were somehow delusional or racist is, frankly, bullshit. There certainly WAS a crime problem in the late 1990's in Rogers Park, at least in some parts of it. I didn't feel a need to stay, watch my husband be mugged again, my car broken into again, more buildings burn, etc. in order to somehow "prove" I wasn't racist or panicking. If your area of Rogers Park stayed relatively safe during those years that's fantastic but mine didn't.
In fact, the part of Rogers Park I was living in is exactly that part featured in the "oh how terrible this place is!" blogs. Yes, those blogs overemphasize the problem, but the murders are real, the thefts are real, and real people get hurt. It's all very well to say "don't walk down the street looking like a victim" but I'm married to someone who can't walk normally, can't run away, and thus is going to be a target of human predators.
I truly miss the good things in Rogers Park, and I have gone back to visit those good things, but the building I was in and the block I was on really was unsafe at the time we moved out. Saying that those people who fled during the bad years were delusional bigots is just as distorted a view as those who currently wallow in every bad thing that happens.
It's like people who freak out when they hear I live in Gary, Indiana (not noted for being lily-white, either) - there are good parts of Gary, and really bad parts of Gary. I live in one of the better parts - but I don't deny that there are problems. Likewise, there are good parts and bad parts of Rogers Park. Don't deny either part of the neighborhood.
05-25-2009, 04:18 PM
I am sorry that living in Roger's Park was a bad experience for you (Broomstick). It is also unfortunate what happened to your husband, disabled people are considered easier targets by criminals. However, this discussion is about Roger's Park present day (May 2009). These social and economic changes have become apparent in the last two years.
I don't think pearlygirl was referencing you or anyone else who moved out of the area in her comment about racism. I believe is was more intended to show that people are not as accepting and amicable as they may claim.
If I may ask, what was your address (or nearest intersection) when you lived in Roger's Park?
05-25-2009, 04:45 PM
Touhy between Sheridan and the El tracks
I don't think pearlygirl was referencing you or anyone else who moved out of the area in her comment about racism.
I disagree - I read it as a statement that those who moved out due to a crime problem were either imaging it or engaging in white flight. Which I find insulting. If it was either of the above in our case we sure as heck would not have moved to Gary!
05-25-2009, 10:01 PM
I lived here when the diner was torched, when the Guardian Angels descended upon the 'hood (now that was funny), and when businesses were fleeing Morse faster than you could say, well, "Morse" back in the early and mid-1990s. It was not a great moment for this neighborhood. But throughout, I never had problems but that may be about being street smart (I am not a big person). I also live just down the street from Broomstick's former residence. The challenge with RP is that pockets of bad news (in the form of a block or even just a building) flair up from time to time which has been a function of the CPD's ongoing battles with the captains of illicit activities and their "employees" and said "corporate" turf battles. RP is not "pretty" in the way Lincoln Park is all buff and it's not shiny hip like Wicker Park. It's a bit scruffy though increasingly getting less so. Personally, I like a little scruffy and not entirely prettified.
I make no attack on any one person fleeing RP then or now but I will say that I hear more white people complain about crime than blacks but it's the black community (and hispanic) that suffers the crime. Who is more at risk in RP - the middle aged white woman or the teen black boy? It's the latter. The gangs want nothing to do with anyone that will bring heat on them; sadly, beating up, harassing, or even killing a black teen boy doesn't seem to bring as much heat as mugging a white person. This is probably about class more than color but it still sucks for those who are REALLY at risk all over the city.
Those who cry most about the crime in RP are largely white, and that's a fact. The last community forum on crime I attended last Nov. was attended almost entirely by whites most of whom had never been real victims of any crime. Meanwhile, the only crime I've witnessed in my time here has been black boys (and a few girls) beating up other black boys. I am concerned about crime in RP -- but not for my own safety. I'm concerned about lower income children of color who, through no fault of their own, suffer a world of gangs and violence. As for our local blogs - they serve a purpose but they do tend to overstate the case, usually to attack the local political leadership (would the blogs be so hysterical if Joe Moore were not the alderman? one does wonder).
RP has a lot to offer it, mostly that the community is fairly tight knit and people seem to get involved and care about each other. Perhaps it's bonding born of a seige mentality since the 'hood feels like an ugly step-child, constantly being called a "problem." Part of me likes this state of affairs just fine. Please keep the yuppies and uptight folks out. Meanwhile, to those who live here, I think the challenge we face is helping the children escapes or at least sidestep the violence that seems to swirl around them. CPD is doing their best but they can only stop the crime. Whether RP or 30 other neighborhoods, lower income children of color often have a tougher go of things than children should have.
05-26-2009, 07:29 AM
I make no attack on any one person fleeing RP then or now but I will say that I hear more white people complain about crime than blacks but it's the black community (and hispanic) that suffers the crime.
So, what are you saying? That white people don't experience crime in RP? That my car wasn't broken into multiple times? That my husband wasn't mugged multiple times? That one of our friends coming to visit wasn't robbed at gunpoint?
No, I wasn't mugged or raped or held up -- but my husband was. That was a major reason we moved out. Crimes were being committed against us, directly.
I'm happy you yourself have never been a victim. However, your assertion that the white community is somehow immune while being fearful is untrue.
And it's hardly like my husband was some oblivious suburbanite - he grew up in Bridgeport, which is hardly some pristine suburb. For that matter, I grew up in Detroit which was hardly a peaceful haven back in the 1970's. We're both street smart, but in the mid-90's we could no longer tolerate living in the spot we were. We did consider moving west of Western to the much safer and more sedate west RP, but then we found our current place for 1/3 of the monthly rent AND twice the space. It's not paradise, but my car, person, and property are intact and my husband can go outside without being victimized. Well, except for that one would-be truck thief, but we dealt with him.
Again, I'm happy to hear that RP has apparently changed for the better. But it's reputation was not entirely undeserved.
05-26-2009, 06:55 PM
Thanks so much for doing this, Cecil.
The hatebloggers you mention (Tom Mannis doesn't even live here anymore) relentlessly try to make RP look like, well, a hellhole. It isn't.
These guys and a few others just hate the alderman, and this is their way to strike at his administration. The thing is they offer no solutions, and never have.
Urban centers have poverty, and that causes problems. Thanks for making the (honest) case that our problems aren't anything like the cataclysm these fellas claim.
05-30-2009, 10:28 AM
Yes, Rogers Park has its problems; but so do other urban environments. I have lived in the area since 1993 and I have to say that Rogers Park (despite its problems) is relatively safe. Most of the gang and other criminal activities seem to be concentrated closer to the lake and the Howard EL station and bus terminal. But one relies on their 'street smarts' to minimize their chances of being crime victims, not just here, but in any city.
On the positive side, Rogers Park has a lot to offer. Especially West Rogers Park where, just a few steps from where I live, I can travel the world without the requirement of a passport. On West Devon, alone, I can visit 'Rosenblum's, a Jewish gift and book store. Nearby, there is a Georgian bakery and an Israeli eatery. And one cannot talk about Devon without mentioning the myriad Indo-Pak restaurants and grocers. South of me, I can enjoy injera bread at 'Blue Nile', an Ethiopian restaurant, and naan at 'Bismillah' which offers Pakistani fare.
I consider myself fortunate to be part of this diverse community, despite its many blemishes.
08-19-2009, 11:37 AM
I live near Farwell and Clark. I agree with one of the previous posters - it is noisy a lot, but not dangerous. I at least agree with pearlygirlie in that I have been personally affected by crime in the area.
Last night, however, I did hear gunshots - about 8 - around 3:30 am. They actually woke me. That this kind of thing occurs here, along with all the other stories you hear of violence in this neighborhood, frankly amazes me with a police station being about 1/2 a mile south on Clark.
Be that as it may, I love this neighborhood. It is truly diverse. It never ceases to amaze me how many different languages I hear (usually around 3-4 different languages) on the short walk from my apartment to Morse Market. I wish Morse Market had better quality produce, but what can you expect for those prices?? This neighborhood is really comfortable and there are a lot of cool things here - restaurants, the beach, the movie theater, Armadillo's Pillow, the accessibility to the Metra and the El.
I feel relatively safe here, even after things like hearing those gunshots happen. I agree with the other poster that the people who vilify the 'hood are probably just attention hounds, or are probably overreacting. Regarding the woman's husband who was consistently a victim, I'm really sorry that he had to experience that; that must have been hell.
01-26-2010, 02:33 PM
I live north as well on the north end of lakeview. I sort of agree with the first post. I ve lived here since 2005. Ive considered living a little further north to which most of this discussion has talked about. Last summer however, I looked at a few apartments in Rogers park and was a little freaked out by the people walking around and overall it just didnt give me a good sense of comfort being there so I opted to stay in my neighborhood.
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