On Saturday, April 11, Chicago’s Little Village community was covered in a toxic dust cloud after Hilco Redevelopment Partners proceeded in demolishing one of the old Crawford Coal plant’s smokestacks in the neighborhood. Despite push back from Little Village Environmental Justice Organization (LVEJO) and other community members, Hilco chose to move forward with a plan that added unnecessary health risks to the community during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Although Ald. Michael Rodriguez (22nd Ward) knew about the demolition in advance, he took few measures to alert his constituents. Most community members in the area did not receive any notice, and those who did received notice only hours before.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot called the implosion – “utterly unacceptable” and has since placed a stop-work order on the project as well as ordered Hilco to conduct a full neighborhood cleanup. Although these are necessary steps, more needs to be done in order to hold the city of Chicago and Hilco accountable, as well as ensure the current and future safety of Little Village residents.
“This isn’t a ‘bad apple’ problem. This is not about a botched plan or a permit problem. The Crawford implosion exposes that Chicago’s urban development system serves corporate interests at the expense of black and brown communities,” said Kim Wasserman, executive director of the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization (LVEJO).
LVEJO has done work in Little Village for decades. In 2012, LVEJO, PERRO, and other organizations that are part of the Clean Power Coalition, alongside community members, shut down the Crawford Coal Power Plant because it was a major source of pollution and health risk to the community. When Hilco came forward with plans to turn the old coal plant into a distribution facility in 2018, community members were concerned about the increased pollution that trucks would bring into the neighborhood. In carelessly moving forward with their development plans during a pandemic, Hilco has proven that they care more about their own profit than the health of the neighborhood. Now, community members are forced to protect their own community from the reckless actions of polluters.