St. Anthony Hospital sues to block Riot Fest from nearby park

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A scene from Riot Fest last year | Sun-Times file photo

Saint Anthony Hospital on Friday sued to stop Riot Fest from holding this year’s concert in a park across the street from it.

The faith-based, nonprofit community hospital at 2875 W. 19th St. in Little Village is seeking a judge to issue temporary restraining order against the three-day punk rock, heavy metal, hip-hop, and rock music festival and carnival scheduled to be held Sept. 11 to 13 in Douglas Park.

“Imagine a patient healing from surgery, giving birth to a child or suffering from an accident trying to sleep when Anthrax is playing right outside the hospital for three days and for 11 hours a day,” argued the hospital’s attorneys in a filing.

“This is a case about profits over the health and safety of St. Anthony’s patients and whether the voices of the underserved in the Douglas Park area get heard,” the hospital argues in the filing.

Riot Fest organizers on Saturday released a statement saying they “appreciate and respect” the importance of the hospital and the services they provide. It said organizers met with hospital officials on June 16 to address concerns. Since then, Riot Fest organizers have had several meetings with the hospital.

Hospital officials, hospital lawyers and sound engineers walked the festival site, the statement said, and requested certain modifications including moving the entrances of the festival, changing the stage locations and ensuring adequate traffic and pedestrian flow “all of which was agreed to by Riot Fest without hesitation.”

“It is unfortunate that St. Anthony officials are taking a festival that should be seen as a vibrant and positive addition to the community and are trying to use it for ulterior motives,” the statement said. “Mt Sinai, another neighboring hospital located directly across the street has had no issues with Riot Fest and the hospital in the neighborhood in which Riot Fest took place the last three years, Norwegian Hospital, did not either.”

The hospital alleges that the 45,000 people coming to the festival every day will severely hurt the patients and operations at the 110-year-old, 151-bed hospital. Of particular concern is impact on physician and staff parking, ambulances and on-call physicians needing quick access to the hospital in emergencies, the hospital states.

The filing notes Riot Fest was run out of Humboldt Park earlier this year.

“In 2014, Riot Fest and its patrons caused substantial damage to Humboldt Park. Riot Fest was forced to spend more than $150,000 restoring Humboldt Park and was working with the Chicago Park District as late as May 2015 to pick up garbage and debris left over from the 2014 festival,” the filing states.

“As a result of that extensive damage, there was significant community backlash.”

The hospital says it tried to work with Riot Fest after its May 20 announcement that the festival was coming to Douglas Park, meeting with Fest officials on July 29.

Riot Fest agreed to provide its proposed layout prior to releasing it to the public, the hospital states. Afterward, however, follow-up communications by St. Anthony to Riot Fest went unanswered, and the hospital heard nothing else until Riot Fest publicly released the layout on Aug. 13, the hospital alleges.

After Saint Anthony’s counsel lodged a formal complaint with Riot Fest, Riot Fest made some changes, but they didn’t resolve Saint Anthony’s concerns.

Reached late Friday, Saint Anthony’s spokeswoman Kathryn M. Grosso said, “Saint Anthony Hospital felt filing a TRO was not only a necessary action at this time, but a life-saving one.”

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