Skip to contents
Pilsen, Little Village, Back of the Yards

Little Village Neighbors Blindsided Again By Demolition At Hilco Site — A Month After Dust Cloud Fiasco

Demolition work began Thursday, city officials said. Ald. Michael Rodriguez said he was notified the same day. “[I have] no reason to have faith in Hilco to get this done right.”

The old Crawford Coal Plant in Little Village on Sunday, one day after the century-old smokestack was demolished. 
Mauricio Peña/ Block Club Chicago
  • Credibility:

LITTLE VILLAGE — A month after a demolition gone wrong at the old Crawford coal plant covered Little Village in dust, and Mayor Lori Lightfoot ordered work halted, city officials quietly gave a contractor permission to demolish a turbine at the plant — with no notice to neighbors.

While two city officials said work to demolish the turbine began at the site Thursday — before neighbors were notified — Ald. Michael Rodriguez (22nd) said he was told work would begin Friday. It is not immediately known what time of day the work was planned or if neighbors in the immediate area will be impacted.

Reached Thursday, a Department of Buildings spokesperson refused to detail the demolition timeline at the site, which is owned by Hilco Redevelopment Partners. Hilco officials did not immediately comment.

City officials later confirmed in a statement that work began on the former Crawford Generating Station on Thursday to “address the imminent and dangerous concerns regarding the turbine structure.”

Officials said they called community leaders earlier in the day to inform them about the “immediate need” for the work, but insisted the turbine will not be imploded.

“The demolition will not take place by implosion, and there will be no more implosion in Chicago until a new, separate permitting process is established,” the statement read.

Rodriguez, who represents the area, was notified of the demolition Thursday afternoon — the same day the work began, according to city officials. He immediately told Department of Buildings Commissioner Judy Frydland he opposed the demolition. Allowing demolition work to continue in the middle of a pandemic — and after the developer botched a smokestack demolition — is incomprehensible, he said.

“Any risks to our community should outweigh any other issue,” he said. “[I have] no reason to have faith in Hilco to get this done right.”

Ald. George Cardenas (12th), who also represents Little Village, said the disastrous smokestack implosion April 11 “has put all exposed residents” in the “resilient, immigrant” and largely Latino neighborhood “at greater risk of poorer health.”

“A month later, history is teed up to repeat itself, said Cardenas, who serves as chair of the Committee on Health and Environmental Protection. “I implore that Mayor Lightfoot, Commissioner Arwady, and Commissioner Frydland understand the connection between existing health disparities in the Latino community and their susceptibility to suffering from COVID-19.”

Ald. Byron Sigcho-Lopez (25th), who represents neighboring Pilsen, joined activists in protest of the demolition outside of Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s home in Logan Square Thursday night.

Despite the outrage from aldermen, the city said the turbine structure at the old Crawford Coal Plant is unsound and needs to be removed immediately, a Department of Buildings spokesperson said in a statement.

“The contractor, Heneghan Wrecking, has submitted a dust mitigation plan for the removal work, which has undergone a thorough review by the IEPA and the Chicago Department of Public Health,” the statement read.

The majority of the work will be completed in the next several days and will be monitored by city inspectors that have been on site since last month, according to the city’s statement. 

“…The surrounding community will be provided with status updates on this portion of the demolition,” the buildings department spokesperson said.

Kim Wasserman, executive director of the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization, said Hilco and the city gave residents little to no notice before last month’s implosion gone wrong. This time, they got no notice.

“Once again, there was no communication, no plan of action, no precaution that we know of that people need to take,” Wasserman said. 

Wasserman called on city officials to release structural engineering report to prove the demolition is an emergency.

Alexandra Perez, a Little Village resident who lives near the site, said she hadn’t received any notice demolition work was happening at the site. She found out about the work from a Block Club reporter.

“They should have informed us. They are doing it again, like the last time when they didn’t tell us,” Perez said of the city. “I’m pissed.”

City officials have said validated test results show the April 11 dust cloud didn’t contain asbestos or toxic metals. But neighbors are still concerned about the air quality, said Esmeralda Hernandez, who also lives near the old Crawford plant.

“This is infuriating because… Little Village has this pandemic we are worrying about that has hit our community so hard, and now this?” Hernandez said. “The mayor is putting more value on the building than the lives of the community.”

Demolition dust disaster

On April 11, after receiving permits from the city, Hilco Redevelopment Partners and contractors MCM Management Corp and Controlled Demolition toppled the smokestack at the old coal plant site, covering streets nearby in a cloud of dust.

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

Activists had begged the city to block the demolition beforehand, predicting the explosion would lead to poor air quality in the middle of a respiratory pandemic. As of Wednesday morning, the 60623 ZIP code, which includes Little Village, has had 2,166 confirmed cases of COVID-19, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.

After the botched demolition, Mayor Lightfoot issued a stop work order and said no work would be conducted until further notice. The developer was hit with $68,000 in fines.

At the time, Lightfoot promised a “full investigation.”

In a statement, Hilco officials said they are cooperating with the city during its investigation of what went wrong.

“The City is issuing a stop work order and will conduct a full investigation of today’s incident, including exploration of potential regulatory changes to address operating procedures,” Lightoot said in a tweet. “Additionally, the City is working with Ald. [Michael] Rodriguez and community members to ensure that all residents are aware of the incident and are kept informed of our efforts to address it, and to prevent this from happening again in the future.”

On April 21, city officials said contractor Heneghan Wrecking would be allowed to clean up demolition debris at the site, but any other work was banned.

Lightfoot and Ald. Rodriguez blamed the dust disaster on “dishonest” developer Hilco. Hilco pointed the finger at MCM Management, Hilco’s now-fired contractor, and subcontractor Controlled Demolition Inc.

Lightfoot has said the contractor “utterly failed” to execute the dust mitigation plan.

Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul is now suing Hilco over the implosion, saying the company failed to protect the surrounding community from air pollution.

Hilco faces two other lawsuits from residents following the implosion, as well as a wrongful death suit after a worker plummeted to his death.

The Little Village Environmental Justice Organization and some neighbors have called on city officials to rescind a $19.7 million tax break for the project. They have also called for the Hilco to abandon its plans to build a one million-square warehouse at the former Crawford Coal Plant.

Block Club Chicago’s coronavirus coverage is free for all readers. Block Club is an independent, 501(c)(3), journalist-run newsroom.

Subscribe to Block Club Chicago. Every dime we make funds reporting from Chicago’s neighborhoods.

Already subscribe? Click here to support Block Club with a tax-deductible donation.


Little Village Neighbors To Talk Botched Demolition At Virtual Meeting Thursday

City Slaps Hilco With $2,500 Fine After Inspector Sees Water From Old Little Village Coal Plant Running Into Canal

Attorney General Sues Hilco After Botched Little Village Smokestack Explosion

Dust Cloud That Covered Little Village Didn’t Contain Asbestos, Toxic Metals, City Says

Developer In Little Village Demolition Gone Wrong Cited By State EPA With Violating Pollution Laws

Hilco Can Clean Debris At Old Little Village Coal Plant This Week, But Other Work Still Banned At The Site

‘They Utterly Failed’: City Slaps Hilco With $68,000 In Fines For Little Village Dust Cloud, Bans Implosions For 6 Months

Contractor In Little Village Smokestack Fiasco Was Cited In March For Blowing Dust — But City OK’d Demolition Anyway

Little Village Neighbors Sue Developer Hilco Over Demolition Dust Disaster

Little Village Demolition Dust Samples Don’t Contain Asbestos, City Says Initial Investigation Shows

Developer Fires Contractor, Apologizes For Little Village Dust Disaster, But Some Neighbors Want Them Gone

What Was In Dust Cloud That Covered Little Village? City Aims To Release Report This Week, Lightfoot Says

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

Mayor Shuts Down Crawford Coal Project After ‘Unacceptable’ Dust Cloud Descends On Little Village

Dust Cloud Envelops Little Village After Smokestack Demolition: ‘My Lungs Started Hurting’

After Old Crawford Coal Plant Smokestack Blown Up, Little Village Residents Worry About Dust During Global Pandemic

Old Crawford Coal Plant Smokestack Will Be Blown Up Saturday In Little Village

Environmental Groups Call On City To Regulate Polluters By Relaunching Little Village Modernization Plan

Mourners Honor Worker Who Died At Crawford Coal Demolition Site, Call For Better Work Conditions

After Worker’s Death, Hilco Resumes Work At Old Crawford Coal Plant Site In Little Village

Little Village Residents Search For Answers After Worker Dies At Old Crawford Coal Plant Site

Wife Of Worker Who Fell To His Death At Crawford Coal Plant Demolition Sues Developers

Demolition Of Crawford Coal Plant Suspended After Worker Falls To His Death

Worker Falls To His Death In ‘Tragic Accident’ At Crawford Coal Plant In Little Village

As Coal Plant Demolished, Little Village Neighbors Told New Warehouse Will Be ‘Environmentally Friendly’ — But They Aren’t Buying It

After Little Village Residents Told To Stay Inside During Coal Plant Demolition, City Says It Will Inspect The Crawford Site Every Week

City Tells Worried Little Village Residents To ‘Limit Outdoor Activities’ As Crews Demolish Old Coal Plant

Illinois EPA To Detail Clean-Up Efforts Of Old Little Village Coal Plant Site Tuesday

Despite Links To Muñoz, Alderman-elect Michael Rodriguez Says Real Change Is Coming To The 22nd Ward

Spanish Version Of Controversial Little Village Industrial Plan Is Out As City Takes Public Comments On Draft Proposal

Controversial Little Village Distribution Center Gets $19.7 Million Tax Break Approval From City Council

Aldermen Set To Consider Tax Break For Little Village Warehouse On Old Crawford Coal Plant Site Friday

Ald. Muñoz Back At City Hall Friday After 2-Month Hiatus Following Domestic Battery Charge, Stint In Rehab

Fire Breaks Out At Old Crawford Coal Plant Wednesday In Little Village, Officials Say

With Ald. Danny Solis And Ricardo Muñoz Missing In Action At City Hall, Little Village Industrial Plan Stalls

Old Fisk Generating Station Site In Pilsen Would Become Giant Data Center Under Developer’s Plan

As City Rolls Out Plan To ‘Modernize’ Little Village, Frustrated Residents Say They’re Tired Of Warehouses And Pollution

What’s Next For Industrial Land In Little Village? City To Lay Out Plans This Week

Developer Behind Controversial Little Village Warehouse Buys Fisk Generating Station In Pilsen, Alderman Says

Massive Little Village Warehouse On Old Crawford Coal Plant Site Approved By City Council

Huge Distribution Warehouse At Old Crawford Coal Plant Site In Little Village Gets Zoning Approval

Huge Distribution Hub Likely Replacing Crawford Coal Plant — Meaning More Dirty Air For Little Village, Critics Say

Little Village Neighbors Demand City Stop Crawford Redevelopment Plan

Semi-Trucks Are Taking Over Little Village, Neighbors Say — And Giant Warehouse Plan Will Make It Worse

Plans To Modernize Little Village’s Industrial Corridor Stir Concerns Among Residents

What’s Next For Shuttered Crawford Power Plant Site? Plans To Be Unveiled At Little Village Meetings

Weigh In On Future Of Little Village Industrial Corridor At Planning Meetings This Week