Groups File Complaint against Chicago citing housing segregation, environmental racism

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[Chicago Southeast Side Community]
For Chicagoans residing near industry, decades of exposure to environmental contaminants put residents at risk every time they go to the park, to school, or even attempt to enjoy family time in their backyard.
Photo: YouTube

Environmental Justice Groups and Community leaders say the City of Chicago and Mayor Lightfoot Have Deepened Segregation and Discrimination, Call on Feds to Investigate.

Today, Chicago Southeast Side community leaders and environmental justice organizations are announcing the filing of a civil rights complaint that points to actions by the Lightfoot administration and Chicago City Council members as deepening housing segregation and discrimination.

The complaint points to the City’s long history of discriminatory industrial land-use policies, including rezoning to enable a luxury development in the wealthy, predominantly white Lincoln Park neighborhood while pushing heavy industry to low-income Black and Brown communities.

Residents say that actions by City officials are continuing to facilitate the move of heavy industry from predominantly white, gentrified neighborhoods to low-income Black and Latino communities already overburdened with dirty industry. The complaint, filed with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) under the Fair Housing Act, says that Chicagoans living near industrial corridors have been subjected to discriminatory treatment and increased segregation as a direct result of land use and zoning decisions made by the City of Chicago.

Mayor Lightfoot’s support for the relocation of an industrial recycling facility that nearby residents have complained about for decades from the posh Lincoln Park neighborhood to the majority working class, Latino and Black neighborhood in the city’s Southeast Side sparked the civil rights complaint. Activists are joining a growing national movement for racial equity and justice by elevating environmental and health issues that are too often ignored.

Among those supporting the civil rights complaint are:

  • Peggy Salazar - Director of the Southeast Environmental Task Force
  • Marcelina Pedraza - Southeast Side resident
  • Lauren Bianchi - Area school teacher and member of Southeast Side Coalition to Ban Petcoke
  • Nancy Loeb - Northwestern’s Law’s Environmental Advocacy Clinic
  • Pastor Matthew Zemanick - Local minister
  • Keith Harley - Chicago Legal Clinic
  • Daryl Grable - Chicago Legal Clinic

Background:

For Chicagoans residing near industry, decades of exposure to environmental contaminants put residents at risk every time they go to the park, to school, or even attempt to enjoy family time in their backyard. Across the country, heavy industries continue to do business as usual—or worse—and threaten people’s health while they shelter in place.

While the upscale Chicago Lincoln Park neighborhood had a robust planning process to help cleaner and diverse developments like Lincoln Yards take the place of dangerous industry, Chicago’s neighborhoods of color are only being dumped with more heavy industry, including those moving directly to the working-class neighborhood of Southeast Side from the gentrified Lincoln Park.

The City has supported the relocation despite decades of community complaints, multiple environmental liability findings and a slew of recent notices of violation over noxious fumes, explosions, and other environmental issues at the current Lincoln Park facility, as well as the City’s recognition of the disparate environmental burden borne by Southeast Side residents.

Additionally, recent Trump EPA rollbacks on reporting and monitoring for polluters across the country, are worsening the situation for environmental justice communities across the country.

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