Hyde Park snark

Yes, it was my idea. But I was still a little freaked out about meeting “Chicago Pop,” a.k.a. David Hoyt, AB’91, the man behind the notorious (his adjective) local blog Hyde Park Progress. Although I graduated in 1991 too and we have at least one friend in common, somehow we never crossed paths.

The blog’s name is pretty bland, and the content could be, given Hoyt’s narrow focus on neighborhood development, his background in urban planning, and his tendency toward wonkishness. But rather than a spoonful of sugar to make the medicine go down, Hoyt prefers oil of vitriol. He has a particular genius for writing offensive, occasionally obscene headlines and photo captions, and his analysis is bitingly funny—as long he’s writing about somebody else. If you live in Hyde Park, that somebody else could be the guy who sells you bagels or who rents you a space in the community garden or who edits the weekly paper.

Because of conflicting work/parenting schedules, Hoyt and I agreed to meet at a local playlot. He arrived with a golden retriever, Ella; his two-year-old son, Isaac; and a shopping cart that Isaac likes to push around.

QandA_QDrop.jpg After college you earned PhD in European history at UCLA. When did you move back to Hyde Park?
QandA_ADrop.jpg In early 2006. I graduated in 1991, and when I came back to Chicago a decade later, the only thing that had changed about Hyde Park was that it had a Starbucks.
QandA_QDrop.jpgIf you had a magic wand, what are the five things you would change about Hyde Park? Put another way, what are the five lamest things?
QandA_ADrop.jpgWow, what a Facebook-y question. I don’t know.
QandA_QDrop.jpgWant to e-mail me later?

[Later, by e-mail.]

  1. We need to get used to the idea of more density. That means more taller and bigger buildings, and more people.
  2. We need to recognize that Hyde Park is not an island, but is part of the South Side and shares many of its challenges, problems, and opportunities.
  3. We need to recognize that the University is not an Evil Empire. Related to #2, the University should be encouraged to develop outside its historic "boundaries" in Hyde Park. Concretely this means Woodlawn and Washington Park.
  4. It should be recognized that the goals of economic development in Hyde Park are inseparable from those of the surrounding, poorer, and primarily African American neighborhoods (which is why #3 is important).
  5. The University needs to be smarter about its opposition, and less solicitous of the opposition when their intentions are obstructionist.
QandA_QDrop.jpgHow do you respond to the charge that you make ad hominem attacks?
QandA_ADrop.jpgYou think they’re ad hominem attacks?
QandA_QDrop.jpgThey’ve been described that way.
QandA_ADrop.jpgI define what I do as satire. If people think it’s too mean and nasty, sorry.
QandA_QDrop.jpgIs it fair to write under a pseudonym, when you criticize other Hyde Parkers by name?
QandA_ADrop.jpgYeah, it’s fair. There’s a long tradition of writing under a pseudonym for critical purposes. My identity is known. I write for the Huffington Post under my own name, and Hyde Park Progress is linked to that.

[Isaac, wanting to play in a different area, says, "Train. Train." Hoyt responds, "In a minute Isaac."]

QandA_QDrop.jpgWhy do you do it?
QandA_ADrop.jpgI see the blog as community service. I don’t get paid. I don’t get anything out of it. I’d like to stay in Hyde Park, but if I’m going to stay here, it’s got to change.
QandA_QDrop.jpgWhat about your contributors, Elizabeth A. Fama, AB'85, MBA'91, PhD'96; Peter Rossi, MBA'80, PhD'84; and Richard Gill?
QandA_ADrop.jpgI don’t think it’s any coincidence that three out of four of us have PhDs. In graduate school you don’t think it’s impolite to point out that someone is full of it.
QandA_QDrop.jpgAnything else you wanted to say?
QandA_ADrop.jpgNot really. I hope I didn’t offend you.

Carrie Golus, AB'91, AM'93

May 8, 2009