Amazon has removed two of its Hub lockers from parks in Chicago after public outcry over blocked sidewalks, Book Club Chicago writes. While they offer a convenient place to pick up packages and drop off returns, a locker making a public park less accessible might not be the kind of tradeoff even a devoted Amazon customer is comfortable with.
Photos shared by the 33rd Ward Alderwoman Rossana Rodriguez make it pretty clear how egregious the placement was, at least in Brands Park. Technically, you could still roll by the locker and get to the rest of the park, but that possibility goes away as soon as someone stands in front to get something out.
I’ve spent a good part of my morning handling the placement of an Amazon box at a park in my ward. On this instance apparently it was installed in the wrong spot & will be moved. But the fact that Amazon gets to use our public parks for this because of austerity is enraging. pic.twitter.com/5Rbabgcwt7
— Alderwoman Rossana Rodriguez ✊ (@RossanaFor33) August 13, 2021
The natural response was outrage, including comments that the locker placement looked too absurd to be real. An online petition followed, and ultimately both the Brands Park locker and another locker at the Forest Glen Playlot were removed. Amazon also confirmed to The Verge that it plans to review future locations to prevent other problems. According to Amazon:
We value the community’s feedback and took immediate action to respond to these concerns, working with the Chicago Park District to remove the Amazon Locker. We are also reviewing our other Locker installations in partnership with Chicago Park District to ensure they are all located in appropriate areas that serve both customers and the community.
What’s not entirely clear is how something like this happened. The Chicago Parks District tells The Verge that it reviewed all of Amazon’s location choices beforehand “to ensure they met park needs,” but maybe sidewalk accessibility wasn’t a top priority? There’s also the larger question of why the city is cutting deals to put the private property of trillion-dollar companies in public parks in the first place. Rodriguez suggested to Book Club Chicago that lockers popping up in parks is a result of underfunding:
When you have public institutions that are not well-funded, and can’t function with the budget they’re provided by the government, they need to look for other sources of revenue. This is how we get a company like Amazon to have a presence in our public parks. It’s disheartening.
Whatever the reason, the slow creep of the private and paid into public goods like parks always feels icky. It seems like the Chicago Parks District still plans to move forward with its Amazon deal, but hopefully, future placements are more thoughtful.