LITTLE VILLAGE GROUPS WANT ANSWERS AFTER HILCO REPORT
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.”