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Lincoln Park, Old Town

Lightfoot Won’t Commit To Keeping General Iron Closed Through Pandemic

General Iron is shut down indefinitely after an explosion in May, the mayor said. But she did not say if she would require the scrapper to remain closed once an investigation is finished.

Vehicles with metal arrive at General Iron Industries, unaware that the facility was closed after the explosions on May 18, 2020.
Colin Boyle / Block Club Chicago
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LINCOLN PARK — As General Iron is making serious progress toward moving to East Side, Mayor Lori Lightfoot won’t say whether she’ll meet community demands to keep the scrapyard closed in Lincoln Park during the coronavirus pandemic.

Asked Wednesday if she would issue an executive order to close the controversial recycler until coronavirus restrictions are lifted, Lightfoot failed to directly answer the question. She said General Iron’s Lincoln Park facility is shut down indefinitely after on-site explosions in May.

Environmental activist group Clean the North Branch introduced a citizen’s resolution this spring to demand the executive order that would close General Iron until the city’s coronavirus reopening plan is complete.

General Iron cannot reopen until it repairs the pollution-mitigating equipment in which the explosions occurred, Ald. Michele Smith (43rd) said in May.

But Lightfoot did not say whether she would require the company to remain closed once an ongoing investigation into the explosions is completed. Her office also did not respond to requests for comment about the resolution.

The company touted its plans to move the recently installed equipment to the East Side neighborhood before the explosions.

“We’re still in the midst of doing our investigation,” Lightfoot said at a Wednesday press conference. “Once that investigation is complete, we will issue a report that will be public, and then we’ll go from there.”

The citizen’s resolution was introduced in May and is supported by Ald. Brian Hopkins (2nd), whose ward includes General Iron. The resolution awaits action in City Council’s rules committee, where legislation notoriously tends to “disappear,” Hopkins said.

The group recently wrote to Lightfoot, urging her to keep General Iron closed and block the company’s planned move to the East Side, which cleared state regulatory hurdles last week.

“In your campaign, you promised to bring a new day to Chicago and ‘to uplift the quality of life for everyone,'” Clean the North Branch organizers said in a statement. “Stopping General Iron from hurting another neighborhood, one that has suffered greatly already, is a concrete way to do just that.”

It would be “unconscionable” for General Iron to reopen in Lincoln Park during the pandemic, Hopkins said. He praised the “grassroots” effort to keep the recycler closed, saying he co-sponsored the resolution at Clean the North Branch’s request.

Citizen-drafted resolutions are “not something you see very often,” Hopkins said. “It’s a creative tactic and a little-used tactic, but I salute them for thinking outside the box.”

The Lincoln Park alderman has been a vocal critic of General Iron, which promised to leave his ward last year following a 2015 fire, a 2016 city-ordered shutdown, a 2017 harassment lawsuit and a 2018 citation for excessive air emissions.

Hopkins deferred to East Side Ald. Susan Sadlowski Garza (10th) on the company’s planned move. He noted the Burley Avenue property is already zoned for industry and hosts an existing recycling facility, limiting Sadlowski Garza’s options if she attempted to block the project.

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