PAVING THE WAY FOR AF­FORD­ABLE HOUS­ING IN MCKIN­LEY PARK?

Af­ter apart­ment plan re­jected, city ex­plores mov­ing as­phalt plant, but po­lit­i­cally con­nected owner says of­fi­cials haven’t dis­cussed re­lo­ca­tion

Chicago Sun-Times - - TOP NEWS - BY BRETT CHASE, STAFF RE­PORTER bchase@sun­times.com | @Bret­tChase

Chicago plan­ning of­fi­cials are ex­plor­ing whether a McKin­ley Park as­phalt plant owned by a po­lit­i­cally con­nected busi­ness­man can be moved to an­other lo­ca­tion fol­low­ing two years of nu­mer­ous com­plaints from neigh­bors.

In a let­ter to de­vel­op­ers of a pro­posed af­ford­able hous­ing project near MAT As­phalt on Per­sh­ing Road, Chicago Depart­ment of Hous­ing

Com­mis­sioner Marisa No­vara said that the city’s Depart­ment of Plan­ning and De­vel­op­ment “is in­ves­ti­gat­ing al­ter­na­tive lo­ca­tions” for the business “that are more ap­pro­pri­ately lo­cated” and away from schools, homes and the com­mu­nity’s name­sake park.

The let­ter was sent af­ter No­vara re­cently re­jected a re­quest to fund the hous­ing project that would cre­ate 120 af­ford­able apart­ments in one of the his­toric build­ings con­structed over a cen­tury ago for the Cen­tral Man­u­fac­tur­ing Dis­trict on Per­sh­ing Road. No­vara cited the planned apart­ments’ prox­im­ity to the as­phalt plant as a rea­son to re­ject fund­ing needed for the re­de­vel­op­ment.

In her let­ter, sent via email Fri­day, she said the as­phalt plant is close to two schools and the park, which is across Per­sh­ing Road from MAT.

“We are hope­ful that should an al­ter­na­tive lo­ca­tion be ar­ranged, we can re­visit the fund­ing de­ci­sion for what would un­doubt­edly be a ma­jor ben­e­fit to 120 low-in­come house­holds and the en­tire McKin­ley Park com­mu­nity,” No­vara said in her let­ter.

Michael Tadin Jr., MAT As­phalt’s owner, said he hasn’t had dis­cus­sions with the city about mov­ing and ques­tioned where his business would go.

“Where are you go­ing to find 13 acres?” Tadin asked, re­fer­ring to the size of his cur­rent op­er­a­tions.

Tadin, a city con­trac­tor, also owns a con­struc­tion com­pany. He’s the son of Michael Tadin Sr., a long­time sup­porter of for­mer Mayor Richard M. Da­ley and a ben­e­fi­ciary of Chicago’s Hired Truck pro­gram.

Ald. Ge­orge Car­de­nas, whose 12th Ward in­cludes McKin­ley Park, said he would sup­port the city re­lo­cat­ing the plant.

“If the city has the funds to re­lo­cate the plant, I’m in,” Car­de­nas said. “It’s a no brainer.”

The al­der­man said he strongly fa­vors the hous­ing de­vel­op­ment and is ex­plor­ing other ways to pro­vide city fund­ing, po­ten­tially through tax in­cre­ment fi­nanc­ing.

In her let­ter to the af­ford­able hous­ing de­vel­op­ers Tom Brantley and Hipolito “Paul” Roldan, No­vara noted odors from the plant and said there have been more than 50 in­spec­tions by city of­fi­cials re­lated to the smells from MAT. Three vi­o­la­tion no­tices were is­sued, she said. Truck traf­fic from the as­phalt op­er­a­tion added diesel emis­sions, she added.

No­vara, who was un­avail­able for com­ment, also ref­er­enced a 2018 en­vi­ron­men­tal report “that il­lus­trated the dis­pro­por­tion­ate im­pact of air pol­lu­tion and health haz­ards in Chicago neigh­bor­hoods like McKin­ley Park, a largely work­ing-class Lat­inx com­mu­nity.”

The let­ter also pointed to a com­mu­nity group’s crit­i­cism of the Illi­nois En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency that said the agency should have done a more thor­ough re­view be­fore the plant opened to an­a­lyze the im­pact it would have on an “en­vi­ron­men­tal jus­tice” com­mu­nity al­ready bur­dened with pol­lu­tion is­sues.

“En­vi­ron­men­tally, lo­cat­ing af­ford­able hous­ing next to an as­phalt plant would be a ter­ri­ble de­ci­sion,” said Mary Lu Seidel, direc­tor of com­mu­nity en­gage­ment for Preser­va­tion Chicago and a pro­po­nent of the restora­tion of the his­toric build­ings.

The de­vel­op­ers say they were sur­prised in re­cent weeks when city of­fi­cials be­gan ex­press­ing con­cern about new hous­ing next to an as­phalt plant. Talks about the project have been on­go­ing for two years, they said, and the area is in need of new af­ford­able hous­ing.

“While I’m sure any at­tempt to re­lo­cate the as­phalt plant would be much ap­pre­ci­ated by those con­cerned, it does noth­ing to solve the un­ac­cept­able lack of af­ford­able hous­ing in McKin­ley Park and in other pre­dom­i­nantly His­panic com­mu­ni­ties,” Brantley said.

One com­mu­nity group said the city’s ap­proval of the as­phalt plant is part of a big­ger prob­lem of con­cen­trat­ing pol­lut­ing in­dus­tries in Latino and Black neigh­bor­hoods.

“MAT As­phalt should never have been built here,” said An­thony Moser, a mem­ber of Neigh­bors for En­vi­ron­men­tal Jus­tice. Brett Chase’s re­port­ing on the en­vi­ron­ment and public health is made pos­si­ble by a grant from The Chicago Com­mu­nity Trust.

Mem­bers of St. Sabina Church gath­ered on 75th Street over the Dan Ryan Ex­press­way dur­ing rush hour Fri­day, hold­ing signs with a sim­ple re­quest: “Stop Killing Us.”

“Sixty-five years ago, Em­mett Till was mur­dered to­day and 65 years later we are still hav­ing Black men shot and killed,” said Rev. Michael Pfleger, St. Sabina’s pas­tor. “The mur­der­ers of Em­mett Till weren’t ever charged and the same thing is go­ing on around this coun­try to­day.”

More than two dozen church mem­bers walked each side of the over­pass car­ry­ing signs. Pfleger and other mem­bers held a 6-foot-wide sign on the metal fence over the high­way as cars whizzed by, some driv­ers honk­ing in sup­port. Two peo­ple walked the me­dian along 75th Street with the sign over their tor­sos, fists raised.

Mem­bers of the church also wore shirts with print­ing on the front and back. On the front, “Stop Killing Us.” On the back, seven bul­let holes — the num­ber of times a Kenosha po­lice of­fi­cer shot Blake in the back as he tried to en­ter his car.

In ad­di­tion to hon­or­ing the mem­ory of Em­mett Till, Pfleger said he also wanted to de­mand the ar­rest of the of­fi­cer who shot Ja­cob Blake in Kenosha, Wis. Pfleger also wants Kenosha County Sher­iff David Beth to re­sign for fail­ing to stop a mili­tia group from re­cruit­ing armed men to pro­tect prop­erty in that city.

“Not only do we have the tale of the two cities in Chicago, but we also have the tale of the two jus­tice sys­tems in Amer­ica,” Pfleger said. “It is time the fed­eral gov­ern­ment im­ple­ment po­lice re­form across this coun­try — it’s got to be done now.”

Lisa Ram­sey said she was ter­ri­fied by the use of ex­ces­sive force by po­lice and felt it was im­por­tant for her to be out there march­ing with her fel­low church­go­ers.

“We want to make a state­ment that we are tired of the sense­less killing that is go­ing on by po­lice of­fi­cers as well those in that are hap­pen­ing in the com­mu­nity and we just want it to stop,” Ram­sey said. “We are tired of it and we have to work to­gether be­cause the killing has to stop.”

Re­cent videos show­ing po­lice bru­tal­ity have the whole coun­try on edge, Ram­sey said. The videos, along with the pan­demic and high un­em­ploy­ment, Ram­sey said, have been the cat­a­lyst for mass protest and some ri­ots.

See­ing the con­trast be­tween how Kenosha po­lice of­fi­cers han­dled Blake, while al­low­ing the ac­cused shooter, 17-year-old Kyle Rit­ten­house, to leave the scene, was telling, she said.

“[Rit­ten­house] walked past tons of po­lice of­fi­cers and noth­ing hap­pened to him un­til the next day and that is caus­ing more anger,” Ram­sey said. “Peo­ple are an­gry be­cause that looks like they are say­ing, ‘As long as you’re white we’re not go­ing to bother you, but if you’re Black, then you’re a dan­ger to us.’”

TYLER LARIVIERE/SUN-TIMES

MAT As­phalt opened in McKin­ley Park in 2018.

TYLER LARIVIERE/SUN-TIMES

Mem­bers of St. Sabina protest on a Dan Ryan Ex­press­way over­pass at 76th Street on Fri­day.

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