A two-year-long federal investigation found that the city of Chicago violated the civil rights of its residents in the proposed relocation of a scrap metal facility with a history of pollution complaints. It would move the business, General Iron, from a mostly white neighborhood in the North Side to a mostly Black and Latino neighborhood in the Southeast Side.
In a letter received by NBC News, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development said it discovered the city had a “broader policy of shifting polluting activities from White neighborhoods to Black and Hispanic neighborhoods, despite the latter already experiencing a disproportionate burden of environmental harms.”
The letter, which was also allegedly delivered to Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Tuesday, states that the city received $375 million in federal grant money that was distributed among 13 departments. Without some type of action, further funding could be prohibited.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is encouraging the city to voluntarily enter into an agreement and embrace an “enhanced fair housing planning process that includes planning for overcoming disparities in environmental impacts.” If it refuses, Chicago could lose hundreds of millions in federal housing funds and possible enforcement by the Department of Justice.
Lightfoot’s office denied the accusations in the letter. In an official statement, Lightfoot’s team shared:
“Unfortunately, HUD leaked their letter, as they have done in the past. We will respond given the opportunity but any allegations that we have done something to compromise the health and safety of our Black and Brown communities are absolutely absurd; we will demonstrate that and prove them wrong.”
General Iron had previously been cited at least 11 times for pollution and nuisance law violations from December 2019 and March 2020. The facility also saw two explosions in May 2020. The plan was for it to move from the mostly white North Side neighborhood of Lincoln Park to a mostly Black and Latino community about 20 miles away. General Iron also intended to rebrand as Southside Recycling.