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Closed CTA station leaves residents anxious

Story by Mandy Treccia

March 31, 2009 – When the CTA started remodeling work last March on the Brown Line Paulina station, Roscoe Village resident Nicole Cieslak did not think twice about it.

“I take the Brown Line on a daily basis because I work at the [Chicago] Merchandise Mart,” said Ciselak, 27. “I just started getting off at the Southport stop and walking from there. It only took an extra 15 minutes and exercise never hurt anyone.”

But recent crimes in the nearby Logan Square and Uptown neighborhoods have left Cieslak and other Roscoe Village residents unsettled about having to get off the el train further from their homes.

On Feb. 19, a woman leaving the Western Avenue Blue Line stop in Logan Square was grabbed by a man with a knife and sexually assaulted. Police believe the same man to be responsible for two other sexual assaults in the area and are urging women to be alert, according to statements issued to the media after the attack. The Chicago Police Department did not return phone calls seeking comment for this story.

“After hearing about those attacks I didn’t want to walk home by myself at night,” Cieslak said. “There’s not a bus that I can take either without having to walk several blocks down Roscoe Street.”

Cieslak asked one of her co-workers to start driving her home after work. She said it is inconvenient, but she does not see any other solution.

“Until they reopen the Paulina station, I’m not taking any chances,” she said.

A CTA spokesman, who declined to give his name, did not have any firm date for the reopening of the Paulina station at 3411 N. Paulina St. Instead, he suggested residents continue to use the nearby Southport or Addison stops and take the bus from Ashland, Damen or Belmont to Roscoe Village.

Jennifer Deidel, 24, also lives in Roscoe Village and works in the Loop as a dance instructor. She said she does not take the Brown Line often, but when she has to, she makes sure she’s not alone.

“The attacks made everyone nervous,” Deidel said. “There has also been an increase in muggings in the news and I don’t feel safe having to walk the extra mile because the station is closed.”

Deidel attended the CAPS meeting at the Cotter Boys and Girls Club in Roscoe Village on March 3 to voice her concerns to fellow neighborhood residents and police officers. She has also made several calls to the community CTA representative, which she said have gotten her nowhere.

“The CTA basically tells me the new station is going to be great,” Deidel said. “That doesn’t really ease my mind when I have to walk home from Southport at night.”

Deidel said she knows the station reopening will not completely solve the problem.

“The police need to focus their efforts on catching the person who is doing this,” Deidel said. “I hope they’re making it a priority.”

Rob Schreck, 42, also attended the CAPS meeting to find out what was being done to increase security in the area. He said he was concerned about his wife and daughter taking the Brown Line because of the increase in crime along the CTA.

“The Paulina station is two blocks from our house,” Schreck said. “I let my 13-year-old walk to the station all the time. But I don’t want her walking to Southport or Addison.”

Schreck said crime has never been a major issue in Roscoe Village, other than the occasional thefts.

“This is a safe neighborhood and I want it to stay that way,” Schreck said. “I’ll feel better when the station is open again.”

When it opens, the renovated Paulina station will have longer platforms to accommodate longer trains, which will allow more riders to board the trains. It will also have accessibility for disabled riders and wider stairways to ease congestion and additional entrances and exits, according to the CTA website.

“It sounds like it’s going to be great,” Cieslak said. “But that doesn’t help me feel safe at the moment.”

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