Chicago Family Battles Neighbors, City for Access to Garage

Charles Brown of Chicago served in the Navy during some of the country’s biggest battles of World War II, including the Invasion of Sicily and the Battle of Tarawa. But now he is facing a challenge from his city and his neighbors.

Brown, 94, moved in to his two-story house on the city’s Southwest Side in 1945. He and his wife raised five children there and for decades he says he had easy access to his alley garage.

Several years ago, however, the city installed 4-foot tall posts in the alley adjacent to his property. The posts prevent cars from turning from one alley to the other.

Because there is not enough room behind his garage to turn around, Brown must enter his alley from a block away and drive in reverse to access his garage.

“Makes it very hard for me to get in,” Brown said.

Brown and his family have requested the city remove the posts. But convincing the neighbors and their alderman is proving difficult.

Ald. George Cardenas (12th Ward) said neighbors had complained about other vehicles in the alley causing damage to their property.

“They kept getting their fences knocked down,” Cardenas said.

Neighbors told NBC 5 they don’t want to see the posts removed.

“It prevents the fence from being dented, the gate from being dented, prevents garbage cans from being knocked over,” said neighbor Bill Osterman.

Cardenas said the city accommodated Brown with a handicapped parking space in front of his house.

“He’s not handicapped, but we provide a handicapped parking for him because of the circumstances,” Cardenas said.

Brown, however, said he is concerned about vehicle break-ins.

“You can’t just leave your car on the street,” Brown said.

Cardenas said he is looking at options that would satisfy both Brown and his neighbors. According to Cardenas, the city could possibly remove the posts and install a gate for Brown to use when he needs to access his garage and then close it when he’s done leaving. 

Still, Cardenas acknowledges the difficulty of the situation.

“You want to protect everybody’s property because everybody has the right to live safe,” Cardenas said.

The Brown family told NBC 5 they are skeptical of a gate. They want to know who would be responsible for maintaining it. Brown’s daughter suggested the removal of the posts and the addition of an inexpensive guardrail along the neighbors’ fence line.

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