May 25, 2022

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Long term news

Don’t Issue General Iron Permit Until Civil Rights Investigation Is Completed

EAST SIDE — The federal government has asked the city to withhold the final permit General Iron’s corporate owner needs to move the scrapper’s operation to East Side until housing officials complete an investigation into the city’s zoning policies.

Lon Meltesen, director of the Midwest Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, requests the city “refrain from issuing” a recycling facility permit to RMG in a Nov. 10 letter. The city was asked to respond by today whether it would comply.

The letter was sent to deputy corporation counsel John Hendricks with the city’s Law Department. Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady is copied on the letter.

The fair housing office is part of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which is investigating a complaint filed in August by Southeast Side residents. The complaint alleges the city deepened housing segregation by allowing polluting industry to cluster on the Southeast Side over decades.

Federal officials have found the complaint — which argues RMG’s Southside Recycling operation would cause “serious and irreparable injury” to residents of surrounding neighborhoods — to be “persuasive,” Meltesen wrote.

The letter notes that an air pollution control permit, quietly issued in September despite health officials’ promises of transparency, was issued “in the time between HUD’s receipt of this complaint and your notification on Oct. 2 that [the fair housing office] was opening an investigation into the matter.”

It also notes any further actions to facilitate General Iron’s exit from Lincoln Park “could frustrate efforts to settle” the civil rights complaint.

On Thursday, two days after HUD’s requested deadline, Law Department spokesperson Kathleen Fieweger confirmed to Block Club the city would respond “in due time.”

City officials did not answer why they quietly issued RMG’s first permit one month after neighbors filed a civil rights complaint, as the city has “no comment on the ongoing litigation.”

Ald. Susan Sadlowski Garza (10th) confirmed she also received the letter, but said she “can’t comment on anything General Iron because of the pending litigation.”

Sadlowski Garza and Ald. Brian Hopkins (2nd), whose ward includes General Iron’s site in Lincoln Park, are named as respondents in the civil rights complaint along with Mayor Lori Lightfoot, City Council and the city of Chicago.

Sadlowski Garza is not named as a party to the separate lawsuit filed in federal court against the city Oct. 21 seeking the permit’s blockage, but is repeatedly referenced in the suit’s documents.

The lawsuit alleges years of campaign contributions to City Council committee chairs from General Iron and the Labkon family, the scrapper’s former owner which retains a minority stake in the planned East Side operation, have “cleared the way” for the city to approve RMG’s plans.

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