Southeast Side metal shredder seeks judge’s order to open for business

Owner that bought General Iron says city should be forced to issue an operating permit.

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David J. Ramirez, 6, holds a sign that reads, “Let me breathe” during a rally at City Hall in June. The Southeast Side boy was among dozens who gathered to protest a scrap metal operation.

David J. Ramirez, 6, holds a sign that reads, “Let me breathe” during a rally at City Hall in June. The Southeast Side boy was among dozens who gathered to protest a scrap metal operation.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times file photo

The owner of an idled Southeast Side car-shredding operation is asking a judge to force the city to allow it to open.

After multiple rounds of arguments in various courtrooms over the last two years, the owner of the business once known as General Iron, says in a Cook County circuit court filing this month that the city should be forced to give it an operating permit.

The city has cited concerns about residents’ health from added pollution. The fully constructed operation would begin shredding junked cars, appliances and other large metal objects that can be sold for reuse.

A city administrative hearings judge ruled in June that former Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s administration didn’t follow its own rules last year when it denied a permit for the operation, now rebranded Southside Recycling.

Lawyers for the business argued that Lightfoot was bowing to community pressure after outrage over the relocation of a polluting nuisance in white, affluent Lincoln Park to a community of color at East 116th Street along the Calumet River.

“The city needs to follow the law and the standards it has set,” lawyers for Southside Recycling stated in a court filing July 18.

Health and environmental advocates protested the planned move, which became the focus of a federal civil rights investigation that found that the city’s planning and land-use practices are discriminatory.

The city is now in a binding agreement with the federal government that states it will reform its practices. One stipulation of the agreement bars the city from giving Southside Recycling an operating permit.

On June 30, Mayor Brandon Johnson challenged the ruling of the administrative hearings judge in a new case in circuit court, saying that the city had every right to deny the permit.

Earlier this month, Southside Recycling’s owner filed a motion arguing that the administrative hearings judge’s ruling should be viewed as an order to issue the permit. The city has said that’s not the case.

Representatives of the city and Southside Recycling declined to comment.

Brett Chase’s reporting on the environment and public health is made possible by a grant from The Chicago Community Trust.

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