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Fast Eddie Takes a Dive

By Kevin Robinson in News on May 11, 2007 3:10PM

2007_5_vrdolyak.jpgChicagoist got a blast from the past yesterday when our man in Dirksen, Patrick Fitzgerald, announced the indictment of former 10th Ward Alderman Fast Eddie Vrdolyak on charges of federal fraud and bribery in connection with an alleged scheme to collect kickbacks in exchange for the sale of choice Gold Coast property. The charges allege that Vrdolyak conspired with businessman Stuart Levine to defraud the Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science of the full value of land it owned at Dearborn and Oak streets. As part of the scheme, Fast Eddie allegedly served as a middleman in the between Levine, who then served on the school’s board and headed its real estate committee, and developer Smithfield Properties Vrdolyak and Levine then sought to split $1.5 million in kickbacks, with Smithfield initially offering millions of dollars less for the property than it eventually sold for.

Fitzgerald has managed to finally pin something on old Fast Eddie, the high-flying lowlife from the far south side, quick to play the tough guy, keeping other aldermen in line when it looked like their number was up. So bad was this bad ass, that when the climate changed and the City by the Lake got an extreme makeover, he took his ball and went and played in the sandbox with the real tough guys, running other machines and other schemes in Cicero and Rosemont. Any alderman with a little clout can manipulate a little independent union and run the neigborhood; it takes real swagger to fight to the death with a powerful Chicago mayor, then switch parties after screwing your own guys, and step in behind the scenes to run mobbed-up elections on the west side. Like a madman digging furiously in a graveyard at midnight, Fitzgerald runs the risk of finding out where the bones really are buried. Certainly he's coming close to stirring the spirits of the old ghosts that haunt this town. John Kass recalls Harold Washington describing Fast Eddie: "He'll use race, hell, he'll use anything. He'll use his own grandmother to get what he wants. But that doesn't make him a bad guy in my book. Amoral, yes, racist, uh-uh."

Take a drive down Avenue J sometime, between 114th and 115th. At the end of the block, on the south end of the street, you'll find a large, palatial home occupying three lots. Decked out with a tennis court, a large satellite dish, and a yard that would be the envy of the neighborhood. Well out of place in a working-class community of low-slung brick houses, it stands as a monument to the man who was once king of the Tenth Ward. Like the neighborhood around it, those days are gone. Vrdolyak has always understood the game, what the stakes are, and what's in it for him. What remains to be seen now is if he's willing to cut the deal, and start rolling on everyone else like Levine has. For us, that's hard to imagine.

Image via Chicago Public Library.