Down the Calumet River from a former petcoke storage site, several acres of early growth trees rustle gently in the breeze. It’s one of a few areas with sustained natural growth on the northern part of the river, which snakes through the Southeast Side’s industrial corridor. Tom Shepherd, an environmental activist and longtime Southeast Side resident—and, on a recent overcast morning, the guide of a boat tour down the river—singles that parcel out as we pass by. “It’s really amazing on that property to see how nature makes its comeback,” he says.
Late in March, the Committee on Zoning, Landmarks, and Building Standards heard testimony on a piece of new legislation from 10th Ward Alderwoman Susan Sadlowski Garza. Garza’s ordinance, which passed both the committee and, the following day, City Council, regulates manganese-bearing companies in Chicago by prohibiting new facilities from being built and preventing existing ones from expanding. It also requires that companies that handle bulk materials with manganese have a 150-foot setback from areas that are zoned residential, and that manganese-bearing facilities submit quarterly reports to the Department of Planning and Development detailing the amount of manganese passing through or stored in their facility.
“The city’s done a good job on playing down [lead contamination] as not being a problem, while at the same time they recognize it is a problem and are doing things to mitigate it.” Troy Hernandez
“…boundaries get pushed over and over again. We see that mimicked by [birds].”
On December 14, Mayor Rahm Emanuel spent the day in Little Village. He was the center of a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the newly completed Park 553, dubbed “La Villita” by residents and journalists, where he touted the twenty-two-acre site as one of several new green spaces opened during his time in office and a major victory for the park-starved neighborhood.
Spring finally came to Chicago about a month ago, turning the lake from gray to blue and exposing endless lawns of dead grass. Continue reading