Residents protest playground move

By Sheri Forsell and Paul Wagner

A playground at Robert’s Elementary School, which now is owned by NIU’s nursing school, is planned to be moved despite protests from area residents.

Seven residents and their children arrived Tuesday at the nursing school, located on the corner of Normal Road and Ridge Drive, with a petition signed by 44 residents of Normal Road. Residents said they came to talk with NIU representatives about the university’s decision to remove the playground equipment.

Kenneth Beasley, assistant to the president of NIU, said to the residents, “I understand your concern, but the fact of the matter is that this is an academic building. The decision has been made that it’s both destructive … and inappropriate to have a playground near the academic building.”

NIU President John LaTourette said it already has been decided to remove the equipment. He said the decision was made when NIU decided to purchase the school.

Other buildings on campus do not have playgrounds, except Gabel Hall, which serves as a training ground for students studying to be elementary teachers, Beasley said. “It’s not the university’s responsibility to provide playgrounds for the citizens of DeKalb,” he said.

Sam Scheiner, 1102 Normal Road, criticized Beasley for not explaining why the playground is destructive. “Simply saying the park is inappropriate without explaining what that means exactly, clearly indicates that all they (NIU) want is to get rid of the equipment with no concern for the neighborhood,” he said.

“I cannot give you specifics, and if I could, I would not,” Beasley said. “I’m not here to answer why desisions have been made, I’m here to tell you they have been made,” he said.

The DeKalb Park District offered to lease the playground from NIU. David Emanuelson, director of the park district, said the district wrote to NIU asking to lease the property in October. He said NIU told the district it was not interested in a leasing arrangement.

Emanuelson said the park district originally owned the playground but donated it to Robert’s Elementary School. The playground became NIU’s property when the school was sold to NIU, he said.

The residents criticized NIU for not notifying them of the decision to remove the playground. “I think it’s poor public relations on the part of the school to take our resource,” said Judy Scheiner. There are no other parks in the area, she said.

obert’s Elementary School was purchased from the DeKalb School System by NIU this summer through a lease-purchase agreement totaling $1,175,000.