Community Advocate Groups, The Southeast Side Coalition to Ban Petcoke, the Southeast Environmental Task Force, and the People for Community Recovery group have filed a civil rights complaint against the city of Chicago. The community advocate groups accuse Chicago of environmental racism, due to the municipality pushing substantial industrialized facilities into Black and Hispanic communities while encouraging luxury developments within wealthy parts of the city.
The complaint filed with the Federal Housing and Urban Development stems from Chicago’s City Council and Mayor Lightfoot’s recent approval of relocating General Iron recycling plant from the wealthy predominantly white Lincoln Park area to less wealthy section of Chicago’s southeast side.
The complaint filed by the Community Advocate Groups, alleges that the city of Chicago has “unlawfully discriminated” against protected minority classes. The complaint also says the city has an extensive history of relocating industrial facilities to low-income communities and highlighting an agreement between General Iron and the city of Chicago that took place in September of 2019. The agreement lays out a business plan to move the facility to the east side of the town to make room for the $6 billion Lincoln Yards residential and commercial development in Lincoln Park.
According to the community advocate groups, General Iron has been the source of toxious fumes, explosions, and a substance called auto shredder fluff created by the shredding of junked cars. In May, there were two reported explosions at the recycling plant, with one blast knocking out pollution control equipment installed by EPA. During a news conference, Peggy Salazar, the director of the Southeast Environmental Task Force, accuses city officials of listening to the residents of Lincoln Park’s concerns over the pollution but ignoring the Black and Hispanic communities voicing the same interests.
“We’re demanding an end to policies that entrench environmental racism,” Salazar tells reporters. “Those actions are clearly discriminatory and demonstrate environmental racism when the receiving community is already overburdened by industry and protests the relocation.”
Jordan Troy, the spokesperson for Mayor Lightfoot, wrote in an email that Mayor Lightfoot is taking the claim “seriously.” Noting that the mayor’s office has launched an “Air Quality Reform Agenda” to identify regulatory gaps and create new ordinances. Cheryl Johnson, the executive director of People for Community Recovery, says that her South Side community is considered “the toxic doughnut.”
“We always are talking about the City of Chicago just using our community as a dumping ground for so many years,” she said. “Why do we always have to get polluting industry in our area?”
Ali is a freelance writer within the Black and Hip-Hop culture with featured articles in multiple publications. Follow his Instagram @Choose_Wisey2.