Chicago Sun-Times


- BY BRETT CHASE, STAFF REPORTER | @brettchase Brett Chase’s reporting on the environmen­t and public health is made possible by a grant from The Chicago Community Trust.

Little Village community members called on Ald. Michael Rodriguez on Thursday to hold city officials accountabl­e for the 2020 implosion debacle at the former Crawford coal power plant that left nearby homes covered in dust.

The demands from Fuera Hilco Coalition follow the Sun-Times’ story last week about city officials’ reportedly flawed oversight of the implosion of an almost 400-foot smokestack that came crashing down and created a giant dust cloud that smothered the community.

According to a previously secret watchdog report, city officials were guilty of “negligence and incompeten­ce” as they failed to protect the community from a calamity that could have been avoided.

“You are responsibl­e for representi­ng our community’s best interests at City Hall and being accountabl­e to your ward in return,” said the group’s letter — hand-delivered to Rodriguez’s 22nd Ward office.

The report followed the demolition of the former Crawford coal plant, which was being removed to make way for a 1 million-square-foot warehouse built by Hilco Redevelopm­ent Partners. The warehouse is leased to Target, which with Hilco wants to expand to a nearby piece of land for additional truck parking.

The group, which includes Little Village Environmen­tal Justice Organizati­on, also wants measures to avoid another environmen­tal fiasco like the one on Easter weekend almost three years ago.

The coalition wants Rodriguez to translate the 94-page report into Spanish for the Latino-majority neighborho­od.

“Some Little Village residents have yet to read the document, due to lack of translatio­n,” the letter said.

The groups are urging a pause on a planned Hilco expansion near the Target center, something Rodriguez said he would support.

Fuera Hilco Coalition also wants a community meeting between city health, buildings and fire department officials.

The group wants environmen­tal soil sampling too.

Rodriguez said in an interview that he supports the demands and wants to work with the community.

“I agree 100%,” he said. “Everything they’re working on, I’m working on too.”

Rodriguez said he can’t pause constructi­on activity for a related Hilco project, but he added, “I can join the community in making that ask” of City Hall.

A Hilco official didn’t respond to a request for comment.

City Hall officials blamed the botched implosion on Hilco and have added new rules.

Little Village Environmen­tal Justice Organizati­on also joined other environmen­tal justice organizati­ons on Thursday in calling on City Hall to step up enforcemen­t of pollution violations.

“We hear and understand community concerns regarding industrial burdens and what improvemen­ts and accountabi­lity can look like in the future,” City Hall officials said in a statement, adding that they are performing an assessment of cumulative pollution burdens. “This assessment will be instrument­al in informing land use, permitting and other decisions.”

 ?? TYLER PASCIAK LARIVIERE/SUN-TIMES ?? Activists rally outside Ald. Michael Rodriguez’s office on Thursday.
TYLER PASCIAK LARIVIERE/SUN-TIMES Activists rally outside Ald. Michael Rodriguez’s office on Thursday.

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