CHICAGO (CBS) — After residents in Little Village expressed outrage about plans to resume demolition at the shuttered Crawford Generating Station in Little Village, a month after a botched implosion of the smokestack sent a huge cloud of dust through the neighborhood, Mayor Lori Lightfoot is delaying plans to tear down another structure on the site.
Preliminary work had begun to demolish a turbine building at the site of the former coal-fired power plant, after inspectors deemed it to be in dangerous condition.
The city’s Buildings Department said officials discussed the planned demolition with “key community stakeholders to inform them of the immediate need for the site work and to address questions.”
However, the local aldermen — Michael Rodriguez (22nd) and George Cardenas (12th) — accused the Lightfoot administration of failing to inform them or the community until Thursday. They have said they oppose any further demolition work at this point, because of the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.
“I cannot stress this enough: we are fighting a respiratory pandemic. Our most vulnerable residents live in Little Village. It is apparent that officials from CDPH [Chicago Department of Public Health] and Buildings did not learn from the disastrous smokestack demolition last month. Leadership’s failure to listen to and engage with residents on matters that can affect their quality of life is repugnant. We are yet again left with more questions than answers. Why was the community not notified of this demolition in the entire month that has passed since the smokestack demo?” Cardenas wrote in a Facebook post.
Protesters, upset about the planned demolition work, took to the street in Little Village, and streamed their demonstration live on Facebook, holding signs accusing the mayor of lying about the demolition project. They eventually made their way to the mayor’s house in Logan Square, prompting extra security from Chicago police.
On April 11, workers hired by Hilco Redevelopment Partners conducted an implosion of the smokestack at the former Crawford Generating Station near 35th Street and Pulaski Road, causing a huge cloud of dust and debris to blanket the surrounding community.
Lightfoot has said the developer was supposed to use high-powered water cannons to spray down the smokestack to prevent dust from blowing onto nearby homes, but they apparently failed to do so. The mayor originally said the demolition would be put on hold for six months, but on Thursday the Buildings Department said the crumbling turbine building is dangerous and demolition must continue immediately. City officials also stressed no further demolition work would be done by implosion.
Hours later, after protests marched outside Lightfoot’s home in Logan Square, the mayor announced the demolition work would be delayed.
“The health and safety of Chicago’s residents remains the top priority of this Administration, and today I have heard the concerns of community members regarding the demolition of a small building on the former Crawford Generating Station site,” she said in a statement. “In order to allow additional time to continue discussions with the community about the structurally dangerous condition of that small building, the City has ordered that for now, the demolition will not move forward over the next several days. The City will continue its engagement with the local community.”
Hilco was fined approximately $68,000 for the botched demolition of the smokestack, and last week was hit with new fines of up to $2,500 for a problem that mistakenly sent runoff water into the Sanitary and Ship Canal.
Last month, the city said air and soil tests showed no harmful effects from the April implosion.