EAST SIDE — Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s and former Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administrations encouraged General Iron to move to Chicago’s Southeast Side — a change that became mired in controversy — company officials testified this week, according to the Sun-Times.
The company did try to move — and was eventually blocked by the city as neighbors protested the move and accused the city of environmental racism in trying to move the scrapper from wealthier, mostly white Lincoln Park to the mostly Black and Latino Southeast Side.
Southside Recycling, owned by Reserve Management Group, was denied a permit in February to move troubled scrapper General Iron’s assets and employees to 11600 S. Burley Ave. in East Side.
The city’s health department denied the permit due to the “unacceptable risk” of air pollution, the Southeast Side’s “health vulnerabilities” and General Iron’s history of environmental violations, officials said.
The denial came despite the company’s 2019 agreement with Lightfoot’s administration, in which the city pledged to cooperate with General Iron’s planned move from Lincoln Park to East Side.
Company officials testified to a city judge Monday that the agreement — combined with pressure from Emanuel’s administration to leave General Iron’s North Side site, which neighbors the $6 billion Lincoln Yards megadevelopment — reflected the city’s support for the company’s plans, the Sun-Times reported.
“We never would have closed on the General Iron assets without this agreement,” Joseph said, according to the Sun-Times.
The testimony came as part of Reserve Management Group’s appeal of the permit denial through the city’s administrative hearings process. City attorneys Monday accused company lawyers of using “red herrings” in the appeal, the Sun-Times reported.
Law Department spokesperson Kristen Cabanban declined to comment, citing ongoing litigation.
Southeast Siders have resisted plans for the facility since General Iron’s plans to leave Lincoln Park were finalized in 2019.
They filed federal civil rights complaints, sued city officials and held numerous rallies and protests in an effort to block Southside Recycling’s operation. Several residents held a month-long hunger strike against the facility in 2021.
Company officials have blasted the denial as a political play in the face of residents’ severe pushback, saying city health leaders ignored the results of their own health analysis and the state’s prior approval of the scrapper.
“Chicago has loudly stated that politics — not signed agreements, its own laws and regulations, nor actual protection of human health and the environment – is the ultimate consideration in all matters,” company spokesperson Randall Samborn said upon the permit’s denial.
The next hearing on Southside Recycling’s appeal is set for Wednesday, Cabanban said.
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