All it took was about a quart of paint-solvent and about six-weeks of official hot-potato through three different agencies. But at long last, Forest Park officials finally took steps to remove the graffiti scrawled on the railroad viaduct on the west side of Desplaines Ave. near the Forest Park CTA terminal.
The eyesore graffiti was not visible from the street, painted on the viaduct pillar of the railroad embankment owned by the CSX Railroad. But pedestrians saw it as they walked past.
Village Commissioner Rory Hoskins was getting blowback from his neighbors that the graffiti was a problem.
“It’s something that my neighbors and my constituents have to walk by every day,” Hoskins said. “I walk by there. I hear it from my neighbors.”
The site is no stranger to graffiti.
“We used to write things there 50 years ago,” Forest Park native Fred Kuhrmeier posted on Facebook.
A masonic-style eye pyramid was spray-painted on the pillar wall, similar to the image on the back of a dollar bill. Also attached to the viaduct’s concrete wall was a card with a photo referring to Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel as “Raht,” a play on the word rat. A couple of weeks before there was also a card featuring a photo of Chicago Teachers Union leader Karen Lewis on the viaduct wall with the word “hero” below Lewis’s photo. But the Lewis card disappeared from the wall.
Hoskins got the ball rolling in June when he raised the issue at a budget workshop held at Village Hall. He brought it up again at the second budget workshop July 23.
Immediately after the July workshop, Mayor Anthony Calderone went over to the viaduct to check it out. Using his cellphone, Calderone snapped photos of the graffiti and promptly sent the photos to the Forest Park Police Department, the first step in having the graffiti removed.
Hoskins was pleased to hear of the mayor’s action.
“That’s positive,” Hoskins said in July. “I’m glad he’s being responsive to it. It’s encouraging to know the mayor did that.”
By Aug. 5, Police Chief James Ryan said that police Sgt. Peter Morrissette sent in a report about the graffiti on the viaduct to the Cook County Sherriff’s Graffiti Removal Unit.
“We’ve had a few incidents of graffiti around town,” Ryan said. “Obviously that’s one of them and they reported it to the Cook County Graffiti Removal program.”
John Doss of the Forest Park Public Works Dept. said he reports all graffiti to the police department, unless it’s something small.
“We’ll clean off signs or park benches. If it’s small, we have a can of spray to take it off,” Doss said. But Public Works will not remove significant graffiti.
Part of the problem was that the spray-painted scrawls were on private property. The viaduct is part of an unused railroad spur.
Village lobbyist Matt O’Shea has been applying for grants to get the upper portions (also tagged) repainted, a job that will require removing rust and old paint. For the railroad, the makeover is not a priority.
Finally the morning of Aug. 9, weeks after it had first been mentioned at a public meeting, a crew from the Sherriff’s Graffiti Removal Unit took action and cleaned the marks from the wall.
Until the next graffiti artist decides to decorate the space.
Jean Lotus contributed to this article