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Developer apologizes to Little Village residents for ‘anxiety and fear’ caused by demolition

Despite the mea culpa, Ald. Mike Rodriguez (22nd) is not in a forgiving mood. “That company gave us guarantees that no dust would leave the site,” he said. “We don’t forgive them. They screwed up.”

Little Village resident Ballar Sanchez lives only a few blocks away from the Crawford power plant, where the smokestack was demolished. He’s holding the notice distributed to residents about the implosion.
Little Village resident Ballar Sanchez lives only a few blocks away from the Crawford power plant, where the smokestack was demolished. He’s holding the notice distributed to residents about the implosion.
Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

The CEO of Hilco Redevelopment Partners apologized to Little Village residents Tuesday for the “anxiety and fear” caused by the implosion of a 95-year-old smokestack and outlined an “action plan” to mitigate the damage.

One day after Mayor Lori Lightfoot said of Hilco that “They own this,” CEO Roberto Perez did just that.

“We acknowledge and apologize for the anxiety and fear caused this past weekend as the concrete stack at the shuttered Crawford Power Station in Little Village was demolished. These concerns were further elevated given the implosion took place during the extraordinary circumstances created by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Perez was quoted as saying.

The CEO noted Hilco’s “primary demolition contractor” hired “one of the most recognized implosion experts in the country.”

Hilco expected experts to “follow the plan submitted to and the permit issued by the City of Chicago, including, but not limited to the dust mitigation plan and protocol, which included on-site water to be used before, during and after the implosion.”

“Despite the assurances we received from our implosion expert, the measures that were to be implemented were not sufficient to contain the dust that migrated off site. … This unintended result is not acceptable,” Perez was quoted as saying.

“We understand, apologize to and sympathize with the Little Village community. The health, safety and welfare of the local community is of paramount concern to Hilco Redevelopment Partners as we work toward completing this project and driving economic viability to the community.”

Perez said Hilco is “cooperating with the city of Chicago and all appropriate agencies” conducting a full review of the April 11 demolition while forging ahead with its own “corrective action plan.”

The plan includes: changing demolition contractors; sending its employees to knock on the doors of Little Village residents to discuss their clean-up needs; offering to bankroll “remedial services,” including the washing of windows and vehicles; distributing 10,000 masks to area residents; reimbursing the city for street-sweeping costs; mobilizing its own private street sweepers in the area, which is between 31st and 33rd Streets, from Pulaski Road east to Lawndale Avenue.

Many of the mitigation measures had been demanded Monday by a livid Lightfoot.

“I want cars cleaned. I want streets swept. I want houses to be cleaned of the dust that’s settled. That is the charge I’ve given to my team and Hilco is gonna have to own responsibility for that. ... They own this,” the mayor said then.

Despite Tuesday’s mea culpa, Local Ald. Mike Rodriguez (22nd) is not in a forgiving mood.

“I’m a life-long Little Village resident. I live five blocks from where this happened. I feel what all of my residents are feeling: Utter frustration at the lack of accountability of Hilco. That company gave us guarantees that no dust would leave the site,” Rodriguez said.

“There’s an old expression: Ask for forgiveness — not permission. We don’t forgive them. They screwed up.”