Chicago - Don't Move Here if You Like Nature and A - 1/9/2016
After living in Chicago for 11 years, in a variety of neighborhoods—Gold Coast, Roscoe Village, Lincoln Park, South Loop, and the Loop—I can definitely say I have a pretty good grasp on the city. I'm a thirtysomething business owner.
Speaking for myself, I find Chicago a very difficult place to be happy in, so hard, in fact, that it's had a negative impact on my health and actually triggered real depression!
This message is mainly for sensitive people who might be affected by climate and the lack of access to nature. I find that there aren't too many of "us" in Chicago, that those who are here moan about it but they're just the type who aren't "affected" by these things as much. I get that.
For the rest of us, consider the fact that there are whole months where the sun sets before 4:30 p.m. Speaking for myself personally, as soon as daylight savings time kicks in, something goes haywire in the brain and my sleep starts getting affected. Ordinarily I could fight this with going outside and "resetting" myself with some greenery and bright sunlight but that's not an option here when it gets cold and cloudy. So you are really in a bind. For me it's meant being absolutely miserable from November until March - or later.
You'll find a lot of people who work out here, but there's really not a "healthy" lifestyle to speak of. You kind of have to patchwork it with trips to Whole Foods, an occasional 5k, etc., if you can be bothered. If you don't drink (I don't), you'll find yourself an outcast at like 95% of things.
Nature—pretty much nonexistent, except for the parks by the lake and Northerly Island. (All of which are far less accessible in winter). Yes, there are folks who go hiking in nearby forest preserves, and love it, but do you really want to go through all the trouble of driving at least an hour through ugly areas and possibly traffic? And what if you don't have a car? And yes, you can bike in the winter, but are you kidding?
If you're really creative the train can take you to some nice places - the Dunes, Hyde Park, Geneva - but that's a hassle and again, summer activities.
Overall, I find the city to be just ugly—the buildings, the streets. Nothing charming about it, except maybe places like Old Town. The skyline is pretty from afar but get up close and I find the buildings don't really "mix" well.
If you're reasonably friendly, and join organizations, it's easy to meet people, but like anywhere, true friends are trickier to find. In the business world there's an overt "I'll scratch your back and you scratch mine" mentality.
If you must live here, I would urge you to try to live near Grant Park in a building with a view of the park and the lake—I've been much happier when I've lived in places with this view (and will make this sort of place the last place I live here). I realize that's expensive, but it's the only way I've found to make living here tolerable. Try to avoid living in and around "concrete canyons," for reasons of mental health. Also beware that living downtown means lots of NOISE so try living on a floor above 15. Live near within walking distance of a grocery store. I had good luck with a building called 1130 S. Michigan.
Crime—I've been lucky to not be a victim all these years, but I had a friend get his head bashed in leaving a Streeterville gym at 7:00 p.m.
Chicago is a good place for business activities, cultural options (rich theater scene, etc.), and can be paradise for those from Midwest schools looking to drink and socialize. And socializing in general. The lakefront trail, particularly the southern portion, is a delight in the summer. But that's just not enough to keep me here.
Oh - a couple more things. The isolation - Chicago is 700 miles away from anything interesting (The Smokies, etc.) and to get there you'll likely have to go through dreaded O'Hare, possibly the most depressing airport on earth. Flying south during the winter is a good idea, but the last time I did it, I was delayed 3 days in South Carolina because of snow in Chicago. So "getting out" during winter can REALLY be a hassle.
The el is functional but crumbling. You'll have to cope with an hour+ ride to O'Hare from the Loop; is this acceptable for a world-class city?
I'm presently looking to relocate to either Charleston, SC or San Luis Obispo, CA. I know every place has issues but there's got to be somewhere that's better to live than here.
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world class city & costs, for the 1% only, expect - 3/23/2014
I've lived in/around Chicago my entire life. At 46, I think I've signed my last lease in this area and I'm looking to leave. The cost of living here is always rising, but wages have not, jobs are scarcer, and the middle class is shrinking because the city is becoming increasingly the realm of the 1% -- us other 99% are screwed. Politics in Chicago has always been corrupt, graft is inherent and ingrained, not just here but the entire state. The Democratic machine has less clout than ever, but don't be fooled -- the so-called "progressives"/"liberals" have a horrible NIMBY attitude which results in every unfavorable plan or idea being pushed on the working class people and neighborhoods, and the Republicans that are around are just as "connected" and just as much part of the machine as the corrupt Dems. (They wouldn't be elected otherwise.)
You can't be in politics here and NOT be corrupt -- it's how things are done, in Chicago and in Illinois. You, the working taxpayer, will be nickeled and dimed out of your hard earned cash to fund everything, and you won't have enough money left over to avail yourself of all that Chicago has to offer. This is why many people come from Wisconsin, Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, live here for a few years, and then leave to go back where they came from, or move out to the far suburbs. Chicago has many of the great things a world class city can offer. It also has all of the bad things you'd expect from an old, long urbanized, big city.
Pros: It's a beautiful city with beautiful architecture, fantastic skyline, largest public waterfront in the US with fantastic bike/walking path, logical city plan (once you know the grid system, you can find your way any where), a beautiful parks system (probably half of which are unfortunately in ghetto areas), lots of culture (from rock, blues, jazz, symphony, opera; museums; art galleries/museums; aquarium, planetarium, etc.), very culturally diverse, ethnic cuisines from all over the world (and very authentic), and people from all walks of life, also now a 'gay mecca.' Lots of great hole in the wall joints for ethnic food, music, art, spoken word, etc. and decent clubbing. If you live anywhere in the upper midwest/Great Lakes states, and you can't afford to/don't want to go to NY or LA, Chicago is the big smoke for you (especially if you're gay) -- this is where you come.
Cons: The rich get richer, the poor get poorer, the public schools are horrible, overcrowded and underfunded (and will continue to get worse as Emanuel pushes for charter schools and closed many schools) and continue to graduate kids who can't read, write or do math -- they're basically unemployable, which is why they turn to crime, because there aren't any jobs anyway, and even if there were, they wouldn't be hired for them.
The cops are less corrupt when I was young, but now many of them aren't even from Chicago now. (This is both good and bad -- good in that it makes them less corruptible because they didn't grow up with/go to school with the criminal element in their neighborhoods; bad because they don't know their ass from a hole in the ground and they do everything by the book, whereas CPD used to have some wisdom and street smarts along with the corrupt FOP good ol' boys). It's a kinder, gentler and much gayer CPD than ever before -- and yet still ineffectual, and only quick to respond in affluent, white areas with vocal complainers. If you live in a transitional or poor neighborhood, don't expect them to respond quickly or at all, not just because they're ineffectual but because they are overwhelmed by criminal activity and stupid/drunken/drugged behavior on a constant and ongoing basis.
The city is increasingly aimed at tourism and transplants to the detriment of the life long city dwellers -- and yet even the tourists and transplants are not safe from flash robs in tourist areas like the Gold Coast and lakefront.
Rental market is very, very tight due to all the foreclosures of not only single family dwellings (homes, condos) but also multi-unit buildings. It is a landlord's market and you will pay very high rents for tiny, crappy apartments. Of course, you can find cheaper apartments, in crappier neighborhoods with higher crime and worse transportation options (whether by car or public transit).
Yes, we have great museums and cultural events -- but who can afford them, besides tourists, transplants who won't be staying, and the 1%?? I haven't gone to Taste of Chicago in years because it's over-crowded, insanely expensive, parking costs an arm and a leg, and gang bangers show up in droves. Don't forget the luxury taxes added by City of Chicago for everything from concert tickets to movie tickets. A movie will cost you $10-12 standard 7-7:30pm start time, and you're paying $10-12 to have ghetto/barrio residents talk and use their cell phones during the movie or dealing with their uncontrolled, unsupervised, thug-in-the-making brats.
The CTA public transit system is f-ed up with the new Ventra cards, the cost to pay is outrageous, and services are always being cut with fewer buses trains or stations closed from midnight to 5am. Traffic is horrible if you drive; ten years ago they were saying we were in the top 3 worst commutes in the US, and it's only gotten worse. Gas prices here are among the highest (often THE highest) in the USA (!), thanks to the extra taxes levied by the City of Chicago and the State of IL.
Sure we've got beautiful public lakefront and lots of it, but beware the muggers and flash robbers who look for joggers/cyclists. Anywhere you want to go, parking will be exorbitant thanks to the horrible deal ex-mayer Daley made with the privatized company that took over all the parking meters, and that contract is good for the next decade, you think the prices will ever go *down*? Hell no.
Yeah, world class sports teams... which you'll watch on your TV or in a sports bar because most tickets are unaffordable to the average guy on the street. A far cry from how it was when I was a kid and my dad could take all 5 of us to a ball game on his paltry teacher's salary.
The crime here is actually better than it was when I was a kid -- the murder rate is half what it was, even though the population is higher, and the property crimes and other violent crimes have decreased. But the crime is more vicious now, and it has spread beyond the bad neighborhoods where it used to be isolated.
True, the majority of shootings (fatal or otherwise) and gang activity are generally in ghetto (and barrio) neighborhoods on the West and South Sides (hello, Englewood). But the crime now travels to you via CTA, and is often committed by multiple assailants or groups (yes, groups of 8-15 kids) instead of a "lone" criminal. The criminals now are often teens because they know they will not be charged as adults.
The other problem is that the gangs are not as consolidated as they were in the 80s. The major leadership has been jailed or killed, resulting in many much smaller gang factions constantly fighting over turf and "distribution rights" for the drug traffic, and the constant spill-over of their wars into areas where kids and families are trying to scrape out a living.
Also -- shooting is not the only type of violent crime that happens here. We have had the dubious national and international notoriety of having an Irish native clubbed into permanent brain damage in a 'nice neighborhood' on the north side by Hispanic drug addicts, the youngest accused murderers ever charged in the US (wow, fantastic police work, CPD!), and flash robs in both retail and outdoor public places that start when the weather gets warm and continue until it gets cold. Basically the minute it starts to get warm, the shootings and homicides rise at a rapid rate.
Expect to sit in horrible traffic between 7am-9:30am and 2:30pm-6pm. Commutes are horrible, the CTA is expensive and overcrowded and poorly policed except in 'nice' areas.
The weather -- yeah, it's harsh. It's been unseasonably cold and we've had near record breaking amounts of snow this winter (2013-2014 winter). That being said... it USED TO BE LIKE THIS when I was a kid, so the amount of complaining is from people who are (a) not originally from here and got used to the mild winters we've had the last 15-20 years, and (b) from here but who got used to the mild winters and consider it the 'new normal.'
Chicago was ALWAYS bitter cold in the winter when I was a kid, and with lots of snow. I've lived through 3 of the 4 snowiest winters and Chicago is back up and running in less than a day, or a day or two at the most. Summers are often hot and humid thanks to Lake Michigan, but it is always cooler at the lake in summer, and warmer at the lakefront in winter. Spring is short. Probably the best months are September to November. Indian summers here are beautiful.
The Chicago public parks were conceived in the 19th century and there were supposed to be more... but let's just be thankful for what we've got, because they're pretty big and nice for the most part. And, other than the lakefront, the public parks are all the nature you're going to get. The population density here is about 12,000 people per square mile, so when you're trying to get away from people at a public park, there's a ton of people around you trying to do the same thing. Same thing at the lakefront. Be aware parks are overloaded with families and groups barbecuing and drinking and having large, loud gatherings in the summer. The amount of trash and filth is incredible in the evenings, and feeds a huge and growing population of rats (endemic since the 1800s), raccoons, and coyotes. People often don't clean up after their dogs (yuppies as well as ghetto clowns), and many just open their doors and let them run around with no leash.
Yeah, we've got universities, all with tuition that has gone up 400% more than earnings, so good luck paying for your education these days. Jobs are scarcer, and many businesses have left the state due to increased costs (also labor costs due to unions). Many that are still here employee barely literate overwhelmingly minority civil servants (um, the County buildings, many city buildings, many public institutions, schools, etc.) who are rude, entitled, lazy and incompetent. If you aren't a racist when you come here, you will become one by the time you leave.
It's weird to be nostalgic about the old Chicago, when it was more dangerous, crime-ridden and dicier. And yet everything that was great about it, was better then, and was more affordable to the average Joe, from the free days at the museums and zoo/aquarium/planetarium, to the affordability of the ball games.
What's great about Chicago now has been priced out of affordability for the average person, and that (especially) includes the hard working, blue collar, working class people/minorities who increasingly struggle to get by. They know better than anyone else that Chicago has become a city only for rich white people. If you're white, you may be fooled into thinking you can make it here, when you get here. But unless you're the 1% white, you'll know by the time you leave Chicago that all it has to offer isn't intended for you. At all.
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