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Little Village Neighbors Sue Developer Hilco Over Demolition Dust Disaster

Hilco Redevelopment Partners faces two lawsuits from several neighbors, including one woman with asthma who is afraid to leave her home.

A drone video showed how the dust cloud spread from the Crawford demolition site and descended onto Little Village homes.
Alejandro Reyes/YouTube
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LITTLE VILLAGE — Little Village neighbors are suing the developer in charge of a site where a smokestack was demolished Saturday, which sent thick dust clouds descending onto homes.

Hilco Redevelopment Partners faces two lawsuits from several neighbors in the wake of the smokestack toppling at the century-old coal plant amid the coronavirus pandemic, which affects respiratory health.

In a federal class-action lawsuit filed Wednesday, Antonio Solis, Jose Solis, Juan Rangel,  and other residents allege Hilco and partners of “misconduct” by creating the dust cloud which has caused “distress, nuisance, and property damage” in the neighborhood.

Hilco Redevelopment, Heneghan Wrecking & Excavating Co., Controlled Demolitions and Marine Technology Solutions LLC, are among the defendants listed in the lawsuit. The firms are demolishing the old Crawford Coal Plant to make way for a massive distribution center at 3501 S. Pulaski Road.

The neighbors are seeking “monetary, declaratory and injunctive” relief as a result of Saturday’s implosion, according to the lawsuit filed by Loevy and Loevy.

RELATED: Planned Explosion Covered Little Village In Dust During Respiratory Pandemic — Why Did The City Let It Happen?

Residents are also asking the developer to clean up affected homes and businesses, and for alternative housing to be provided during the cleanup, the lawsuit states.

The neighbors also want to know what toxins were released into the air and for air to be monitored for pollution.

In a second case, Clifford Law Offices filed a lawsuit in Cook County Court Wednesday on behalf of Little Village Kathryn Ramirez-Mercado.

The suit alleges Hilco and contractors were negligent by failing to “properly manage, maintain and control the demolition of the concrete smokestack” which resulted in the dust cloud. Ramirez-Mercado, who suffered from asthma and lives near the former Crawford coal plant, has been afraid to leave home since the demolition, according to a press release.

Hilco “has a lot of questions to answer about the risks” Little Village residents were exposed to, said Sean P. Driscoll, Clifford Law Offices partner.

“Nothing was done to make sure that the smoke was contained on their property,” Ramirez-Mercado said in a statement. “Nothing was done to minimize the effect of this hazardous material to not flow to all of us surrounding this plant.”

In January, Hilco was sued after a worker on the Crawford site plummeted 50 feet to his death.

In that suit, Reynaldo Grimaldo’s wife, Cecilia, alleges Hilco and partners HRE Crawford and MCM Management Corp.’s “careless and negligent acts” resulted in her husband’s death.  

Block Club Could not immediately reach Hilco for comment.

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