For Mayor Rahm Emanuel, the Cubs’ request for around-the-clock or late-night construction at Wrigley Field was the political equivalent of a big fat fastball down the middle of the plate.
Emanuel hit it out of the park by siding with Wrigleyville residents who want to get a decent night’s sleep and can’t get it if jackhammers are allowed to go all night or even late into the night.
On Wednesday, local Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) did the same.
“I agree with the mayor that the Cubs request is a ‘nonstarter,’ Tunney said in a statement released by his aldermanic office. “I already know what the neighbors think about extending the construction times as we have fielded many complaints about the construction and related noise.”
Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) opposes granting the Cubs an exception to a city ordinance setting firm limits on the hours construction work is allowed at Wrigley Field. | Sun-Times
Tunney avoided a runoff by capturing 67 percent of the Feb. 24 vote.
The statement also quotes Tunney as saying: “As the Mayor notes, ordinances are in place covering the times that construction may take place. These were enacted and are enforced to ensure a good quality of life in all our neighborhoods. Every Chicagoan is entitled to a good night’s sleep.”
Earlier this week, the Cubs struck out twice in their quest to speed up a bleacher reconstruction project delayed by Chicago’s frigid winter temperatures.
Emanuel rejected two requests from the Cubs — one for non-stop construction seven days a week to speed up a bleacher reconstruction project delayed by frigid temperatures, and a revised request to build from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
The mayor said there would be no exceptions to the ordinance limiting work at construction jobs sites across Chicago to the hours of 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
If that means the right-field bleachers won’t be ready until early June and the bleachers in left and center field don’t open until May 11, so be it.
“We want to see the opportunity for both a healthy Wrigley Field and a healthy Wrigleyville. But the ordinance . . . is pretty clear. It’s not pretty clear. It’s absolutely clear [when] it comes to 24-hour construction,” Emanuel said.
City Hall sources said exceptions to the city’s restrictions on construction hours are confined to emergencies and certain public-improvement projects like roads and other infrastructure projects in the public way. Wrigley Field does not fit those criteria and could be exempted only by the City Council.
“City ordinance is clear. The request made by the Cubs for any type of expanded hours is not allowed under city code,” Buildings Department spokesperson Mimi Simon wrote in an email.
Cubs spokesman Julian Green was quick to throw in the towel.
“We will live with this decision, move on and get as much done as we can in the coming weeks,” Green wrote in an email.
Wrigleyville residents have already accused Emanuel of going too far by giving the Cubs the go-ahead to put up two video scoreboards, four other outfield signs, extend the Wrigley footprint onto public streets and sidewalks without compensating Chicago taxpayers and play more night games.
At Emanuel’s behest, the City Council also approved the Cubs’ ambitious plan to develop the land around Wrigley Field with a hotel, an office building and open-air plaza.
Now that he’s fighting for his political life in the April 7 runoff, Emanuel is not about to further infuriate Wrigleyville residents by giving the Cubs carte blanche to use jackhammers all night long, or even well into the night.
Ald. Pat O’Connor (40th), the mayor’s City Council floor leader, tried and failed to avert a lawsuit by hammering out a compromise between the Cubs and owners of rooftop clubs with a birds-eye view of Wrigley.
O’Connor doesn’t blame the Cubs for asking for extended construction hours to avoid losing millions for every day that the rebuilt bleachers are delayed.
But O’Connor said the Cubs’ request was politically untenable and poorly timed.
“In making the ask, they had to realize there wasn’t much chance that was gonna happen. You can’t expect people to totally abandon their ability to enjoy their community 24 hours a day for the Cubs,” O’Connor said.
“With the winter we’ve had, I’m sure they’re behind. But that’s not something the neighborhood should bear the brunt of. There’s a huge bottom line. Every home game they don’t have costs them money. But we can’t have 24-hour construction. When you live next to Wrigley, you expect activity. You expect it to be an entertainment district. But you don’t expect it 24 hours a day.”
Ald. Tom Tunney (far left) and Mayor Rahm Emanuel (third from left) helped with the symbolic start of the Wrigley Field renovations, but they aren’t about to help the Cubs continue that construction work around-the-clock. | Sun-Times