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Archive for the ‘East Chicago’ Category

[ BP’s Citizen Advisor ]

December 30th, 2010 No comments

East Chicago Portrait Series: National Black Musical Parade & Festival

June 28th, 2010 No comments

This is why I love East Chicago (cell phone photos).

Click on image to begin slideshow.

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{ BP } Live / Work Conditions

May 20th, 2010 2 comments

25-years-ago BP abandoned its professional training facilities in Robertsdale, donating the facilities to Calumet College, and moved to a 200-acre LEED certified campus in Naperville. They did so because they could no longer attract professionals to this location due to Quality of Life issues. Quality of Life issues they had a major hand in creating.

Today BP’s professional staff enjoy the healthy work environment of a green campus with ample buffering between office buildings and roadways, while residents adjacent to the BP’s refinery are not so fortunate. Today BP is constructing a whole new facility at their East Chicago / Whiting Refinery to refine the “No Good, Very Bad, Dirty” heavy sour crude from the Alberta Tars Sands and to do so they are constructing 6 cokers directly across the street from the Marktown Historic District where more than 120 children under the age of 18 live, play and sleep.

BP likes to refer to the project as a modernization or retooling project. This is an important distinction to them because to call it what is, a “new facility” or “new construction,” would trigger all sorts of regulatory reviews and permitting, including a new-source review requiring an environmental and health risk assessment. I am not certain if there has ever been a risk assessment done on the impacts the BP refinery has the neighboring communities. I don’t know if that is because they have been grandfathered in or what. I just know that new construction ought to trigger a new source review and that is not happening.

For labor purposes BP calls the project a “maintenance project.” Thus they bypass all sorts of labor rules in terms of pay, scheduling, and work conditions as would be the case for new construction. Let’s make this simple, if I tore down my house to construct a brand new home, I could not go to City Hall seeking a maintenance permit for the new construction. I would be required to seek the proper permits and follow requirements for new construction. This is just one way in which BP has been cutting corners here to save themselves costs. I can’t say what other cost cutting measures BP is making, but I do know they did not do this without the aid of regional leadership. I wonder what our regional leadership is thinking now as we learn more about the costs of BP practices to the gulf region.

This is a good environmental justice example of how benefits-without-risks are created and separated from risks-without-benefits in a free-market economy. Free-market corporations and present day land use policies have a very intentional consequent of accumulating wealth and benefits in one location while clustering risks and blight in another. All too often the geography of separation is as clear as the “Northshore” and “Southshore” designations.

It makes me wonder if anyone working in office complexes similar to the BP complex in Naperville feel any sense of culpability for the lives negatively impacted on the other side of their company’s production line. What about Kraft Foods? what about Grainger? what about Cargill? and U.S. Steel? and ArcelorMittal? Boeing? GATX? or Ryerson?

[ Wikipedia list of Corp HQ in the Chicago Met area ]

Compounding problems, BP extracted an additional $165 million in tax abatements from the mostly poor people of Marktown and East Chicago. They did this behind closed doors, and without a single public hearing, all while lecturing the region on “Good Government.” Despite efforts, residents, who pay the highest property taxes in the state at 7.4%, still do not know that they gave up $165 million to BP. BP accomplished this feat by spreading the wealth to voting districts outside the plume of negative externalities while taking advantage of their partnerships with corrupt local political enterprises under the plume. BP is well known for this form of philanthropic activity and I could go on about “to whom” and “how much” was given, but that will have to be for another post. Let these two examples suffice for now.

Three years ago a $25-million donation from BP capped Phase 1 of a three-part expansion and renovation campaign. Since 2002, BP had agreed to more than $125 million in state and regional legal settlements over pollution problems.

Art museums are often the beneficiaries of largess from corporations wishing to polish their sometimes less-than-gleaming image. (Cigarette, anyone?) Oops.

via [ LA Times ] BP Grand Entrance at LACMA looking not-quite-so-grand

In 2009 BP gave to Napperville for $1 an extremely expensive Hydrogen fueling station with multipliers of positive effects.

Local Politics: Tilting Power In My Precinct

April 22nd, 2010 1 comment

THE MONEY IS FLOWING AGAIN IN E.C. POLITICS

Yesterday, I produced some campaign literature for our precinct committeewoman.

Hopefully, I’ve been successful in communicating how contentious politics can get here. This year’s off-cycle election is especially interesting. Besides a few important county wide offices, this election will be remembered for the East Chicago committee person races. Everyone is expecting our Mayor, the Honorable George Pabey, to be found guilty sometime this summer, which would mean that the precinct committee people will appoint the next Mayor. So everyone is either getting into a race or trying to stack the races. Pabey is trying to stack the precincts with people loyal to him as is Hammond Mayor John McDermott and Mayoral hopefuls John Aguilera and Anthony Copeland.

<Interesting fact>

The Federal Prosecutors Office has had a central roll in initiating the last three changes in power here in East Chicago. Why such intense interest at the Federal level? Could the largest inland oil refinery and steel mills in the country have anything to do with that?

I wonder if this is how Oil and Steel get to vote in local politics?

– Just Asking

</Interesting fact>

Categories: East Chicago, Local

In My Studio: Four Charrettes – Frameworks

March 3rd, 2010 2 comments

I will be participating in Paul Sargent’s “Precious Cargo” show in Buffalo this month.

Precious Cargo
March 18 – May 15, 2010
University at Buffalo Art Gallery
Opening Reception: March 18, 5 – 7pm
Screening Event: May 14, 2010
Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center

Precious Cargo is an exhibition of contemporary art and design projects addressing the flow of goods and services in an interdependent post-global world.  Organized by multidisciplinary artist Paul Lloyd Sargent, works in this exhibition critique and complicate such binary oppositions as: inter/national vs. regional/local transport, [interdependent] global trade vs. [self-sufficient] local trade, supply chain vs. disposal chain, resource exhaustion vs. sustainable culture, consumption vs. reuse, resource vs. commodity, and more.  This is the second exhibition in an annual Artist in Residence program in which artists are invited to transform the gallery space over the duration of the exhibition run, providing audiences an opportunity to engage the artist-at-work and witness the transformation of the gallery over time.  Sargent will be working in the gallery on March 20, 30 & 31 and April 1, 6, 7 & 8 constructing “Not To Scale,” a working relief map of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway made entirely from found objects illustrating the lock system, canals, and waterways necessary for travel from the Atlantic Ocean to ports along each of the Great Lakes.

Contributing works in the UB Art Gallery will be:
The Center for Land Use Interpretation(CLUI)
The Center for Urban Pedagogy(CUP)
Compass Group working in the MRCC
Thomas Frank
Chris Jordan
Stella Marrs
Mary Mattingly
Lize Mogel
Stephanie Rothenberg
Sam Sebren
The Waterpod®
Alex Young
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View of Lake Michigan {Regional Rats}: Increased Industrial Demand

January 29th, 2010 1 comment

During these difficult economic times there are many losers, including our land, water, air, biology and the local population. This is especially amplified by the more than 40-years since the Industry’s fortunes where coupled with those of the community’s. The results of this decoupling can be horribly seen in the our cultural landscape of existing conditions,

This is what I see when I look at existing conditions and opportunities along the southern shores of Lake Michigan here in East Chicago. Below you will find someone else’s vision which is limited to reindustrialize our lakefront.

Existing Conditions:

  • A Gated Industrial Community
  • Arguably the most polluted waters in the country – the Indiana Harbor Shipping Canal (IHSC)
    • Joerse Beach: most contaminated beach in the Great Lakes and third most in the country.
  • Arguably the most polluted air-shed in the country – Lake county indiana ranking as the 9th most polluted air-shed in the country with the sources of pollution concentrated on East Chicago’s lakefront
  • >80% of East Chicago’s land-use is dedicated to heavy industry – ~50 of these industrial lands are out of productive use and considered contaminated, e.g., brownfields
    • 14% of East Chicago’s land-use is dedicated Residential – ~17% of these residential properties are apart of a superfund site.
Opportunities:
  • Immediate access to the world’s greatest freshwater resource
  • Adjacent to Chicago
  • Diversified land-use and therefore a diversified water-use, air-shed use resulting in a diversified regional economy
And a Plan to address the impairments of existing conditions and realize the opportunities – The Marquette Plan.

In contrast this is what Bill Nagel of the NWI Times, the Forum, Nirpc, and to a real degree many of our environmental groups, such as Save the Dunes, Lee Botts founder of the Lake Michigan Federation, are promoting.

< How dare I include prominent environmentalist as obstacles to environmental, and economic progress>

via [ NWI Times ]

“Blast furnace restart could jump-start 750 jobs – MARKET DEMAND PROMPTS MITTAL TO FIRE UP INDIANA HARBOR WORKS NO. 4 FURNACE” by

Read more…

The Air I Breath {Regional Rats}: 2008 TRI Data (9th of 3140 counties)

December 9th, 2009 No comments

The economic downturn has some benefits for fence-line industrial communities.

View Outside My Window

It is becoming clear that Gitte Laasby is one of the most important journalist in Northwest Indiana. Here again she writes on a subject I am acutely sensitive towards.

via [ Post-Tribune ] “Lake County pollution bad despite reduction” By Gitte Laasby

New toxic release data from EPA shows Lake County industries released the ninth-most pollution in the nation in 2008 — more than 31.5 million pounds.

The high ranking, released Monday, comes despite a 31.1 percent reduction in releases from Lake County industrial plants compared to 2007.

The data, self-reported by the industries to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Toxics Release Inventory, also shows that two Lake County steel mills are among the nation’s 50 biggest polluters.

U.S. Steel Gary Works is No. 37 with about 12.6 million pounds. ArcelorMittal in East Chicago is No. 46 despite cutting its releases by more than half, from about 25.8 million pounds in 2007 to 11 million pounds in 2008.

By comparison, BP Whiting increased its releases 33.8 percent from nearly 529,000 pounds in 2007 to nearly 708,000 pounds in 2008.

Among the 650 chemicals included in the data are carcinogens and other toxic material that cause adverse health effects and potential environmental harm.

Not all toxic releases are harmful or bad. The numbers include toxic material emitted into the air, discharged into water and disposed of in underground injection wells, but also materials that are landfilled or recycled.

A Post-Tribune analysis of preliminary TRI data published in September concluded that Northwest Indiana industries had reduced their overall pollution by about 30 percent. The most significant reductions were at area steel mills.

At the time, Branch Chief of the Indiana Department of Environmental Management’s Office of Pollution Prevention Jennifer Schick said the reductions were likely a result of production cuts rather than regulatory requirements or voluntary reductions.

On Tuesday, IDEM spokeswoman Amy Hartsock stopped short of drawing such a conclusion.

“Because an analysis has not been done for the 2008 data for Northwest Indiana, in particular, it would be speculation on our part to attribute reductions to the economic downturn,” Hartsock said. “What we do know based on information available to us for the state is that industry is doing a better job reducing pollutants than what the decrease in economic activity would account for.”

Lake County polluters reduced their releases by 31.1 percent compared to 2007, Porter County polluters by 5.8 percent. Lake and Porter counties released 36.9 million pounds of toxics — 17.6 percent of the total 209.3 million pounds released by Indiana facilities.

Four of the 20 counties in the nation that released the most toxic material were in Indiana, according to EPA.

The Land I Use {Regional Rats}: Lead Contamination in My Community

December 8th, 2009 5 comments

~17% of my neighbors live on contaminated land. ~17 East Chicago’s residential properties are part of a Superfund Site. After more than 20-years of knowledge of the real potential for contamination, and clearing the legal slate of PRPs (prior responsible parties) the site was placed on the National Priority List (NPL) in March 2009.

via [ Post-Tribune ] “EPA Testing Soil for Lead Contamination” By Gitte Laasby

EAST CHICAGO — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is collecting soil samples in East Chicago to find out whether residential yards are contaminated with lead.

The residences are located between East Chicago Avenue and 151st Street and between Aster and Parrish avenues near one of the most contaminated sites in the nation, the former U.S. Smelter and Lead Refinery Inc. site at 5300 Kennedy Ave.

The EPA began collecting samples from front and back yards Monday and will continue for about two weeks. The soil samples are free to residents and all work is done outside the homes.

The EPA held an informational session to explain the testing process and answer questions about the site Monday and will hold another one today.

EPA will also hold a meeting on Dec. 17, to update the community about sampling and clean-up plans. Representatives from EPA and the Indiana Department of Environmental Management will be available to answer questions.

The U.S. Smelter site was added to the EPA’s Superfund list in early September. The list contains the most toxic sites in the nation that pose a risk to health and the environment.

The site and residential properties north of it are contaminated with lead. The lead was most likely dispersed from long-removed smokestacks while the business operated between 1920 and 1985. The company recovered lead from car batteries.

In July 2008, EPA removed lead-contaminated soil from 15 homes near the site. Exposure to high levels of lead can cause developmental problems and lower intelligence in young children. Lead exposure can also increase blood pressure in middle-aged men, according to IDEM.

Asking Locally to Someone Speaking Globally

November 24th, 2009 No comments

A few moments ago I asked Al Gore, who was speaking on Chicago Public Radio’s Eight Forty-Eight program the following question.

(My question comes at 36:30)

I would like to thank the Vice President for all his work in global warming.

My question has to do with what we can do to support and redevelop our industrial fence-line communities where the negative impacts of industries have created the most severely unsustainable conditions?

I am speaking directly about what has been allowed to occur on the Southern Shores of Lake Michigan (the world’s greatest fresh water resource), in Northwest Indiana. Where BP, the second largest oil refinery in the country is located, along with ArcelorMittal the largest integrated steel mill and U.S. Steel.

The results of this kind of concentration of industry has created such a threatening environment, effecting the land we use, the air we breath and the water we drink and recreate in. Consequently, this is the location of the:

<Water>

  • Indiana Harbor Shipping Canal, arguably the most polluted waterway in the country (the only waterway to fail every beneficial use).
  • Joerse Beach, the most polluted beach in the Great Lakes and the third in the country

<Air>

  • Lake County Indiana’s air-shed – ranking as the 7th most polluted county (of 3,100 counties) based on TRI.

<Land>

  • ~17% of East Chicago’s residential properties are apart of a superfund site, having been build upon an old lead refinery.
  • ~40% of the lands are considered to be brownfields, e.g., out of productive use and perceived to be contaminated.

Al Gore’s disappointing response highlights a serious perceptual divide.

Now that the environmental debate has been made a middle-class issue. Let’s desegregate Gore’s solution and begin to focus on the source of pollution and the mostly poor minority communities that carry the greatest burden of industrial productivity and receive the heaviest concentration of negative effects from these activities. Middle-class America is so worried in how industry has effected their quality of life, that they haven’t hesitated to acknowledge the devastating effects industry continues to have in the communities in which the industry resides.

150-years ago American’s recognized that it wasn’t a good thing to drink from the same waters in which you shit. So in 1856 Chicago broke ground on America’s first sewage system. Today the challenge is to separate industrial waste and pollutants from the the waters we drink.

Here’s a simple solution – Solve the environmental problems for fence-line industrial communities and you solve the problem for middle-class America and the causes of global warming.

The Air I Breath: The Significance of EPA’s Challenge to BP’s Air Permit

November 2nd, 2009 No comments

As you can see I have been a skeptic of the EPA”s recent challenge to BP’s air permit.

<fb comment> a small victory. The EPA has order Indiana to rewrite the permit, essentially discrediting Indiana’s ability to manage their environmental resources. All I see this doing is fortifying a poorly written permit against future disputes. In the end BP is the beneficiary of the action</fb comment>

Noah Hall, author of the Great Lakes Law blog is beginning to clear me of my skepticism.

via [ Great Lakes Law ]

Tar sands oil gives coal some competition for the title of dirtiest fuel.  From mining to refining to burning, tar sands oil is an environmental disaster.  The Great Lakes is becoming a center for refining imported tar sands oil, which comes from western Canada.  As a result, refinery pollution is threatening our water and our communities.  BP’s Whiting Refinery on the shores of Lake Michigan in Indiana has become a focal point in the legal fight to stop tar sands pollution in the region.  Environmental groups scored a victory earlier this month when the EPA objected to an Indiana permit for air pollution from the refinery.  Meleah Geertsma, an attorney and public health expert with the Environmental Law and Policy Center in Chicago, was involved in the fight against the air pollution from the tar sands refinery, and wrote this guest post on the victory and what it means in the fight against tar sands pollution in the Great Lakes.

On October 16, in a move that could significantly improve air quality for the Great Lakes region, the U.S. EPA sent a clear message to the oil industry that the federal agency is serious about air pollution from refining – especially the processing of dirty Canadian tar sands crude. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson on that day issued an order objecting to a permit granted by Indiana to BP’s Whiting Refinery, located on the shores of Lake Michigan. At the heart of Administrator Jackson’s order is a concern that numerous potential sources of air pollution are going uncounted and uncontrolled. And that the industry is ignoring or downplaying the air pollution impacts of processing the much heavier, dirtier Canadian tar sands crude, a crude that contains high levels of sulfur and toxic metals.

The BP operating permit was issued to enable a significant increase in the processing of heavy tar sands crude at BP’s Whiting, Indiana facility. However, the permit allowed BP to expand without installing so-called “best available control technology,” on the premise that increases in air pollution from the expansion would be balanced by decreases in pollution from the existing refinery. Such a trade-off of increases and decreases is referred to in air permitting as “netting.”

In response, several environmental groups and individual citizens filed a petition with U.S. EPA, asking the agency to object due to BP’s and the agency’s failure to count numerous potential sources of increased air pollution. Among these sources are increased operations of certain equipment needed to process larger amounts of Canadian crude, as well as greater levels of sulfur and toxics in the crude itself.

Great Lakes Law: Environmental groups and EPA step up the fight against tar sands oil refinery pollution in the Great Lakes.

The Waters I Drink: Environmental report gives NWI {Regional Rats} another bad mark

October 23rd, 2009 No comments

Report [ Wasting Our Waterways: Toxic Industrial Pollution and the Unfulfilled Promise of the Clear Water Act ]

Indiana industries discharge 33% more toxins into its waterways than any other state. This is more than the following 26 states combined (Idaho, Delaware, West Virginia, Oregon, Tennessee, South Dakota, Minnesota, Maryland, Missouri, Washington, Florida, Kansas, Michigan, Hawaii, Connecticut, Vermont, Montana, Utah, North Dakota, Alaska, New Mexico, New Hampshire, Dist. Of Columbia, Massachusetts, Wyoming, Rhode Island, Arizona, Nevada). Together these states have a population of 100.1 million people compared to Indiana’s 6.4 million people. That is 15-times the population of Indiana.

Indiana also discharges more toxins than Colorado, Maine, Iowa, Oklahoma, South Carolina, California, and Wisconsin Combined. Together these states have a population of 59.8 million people compared to Indiana’s 6.4 million people. That is 10-times the population of Indiana.

However we chunk-out this data (lbs./state GDP, lbs./medium income, lbs./capita) it does not bode well for the residents of Indiana.

Environmental report gives NWI another bad mark :: Local News :: Post-Tribune.

The Air I Breath: EPA Orders IDEM’s {Regional Rats} to Rewrite BP Air Permit

October 20th, 2009 No comments

I wonder to what extent the EPA’s recent order that “IDEM rewrite BP’s air permit” can be said to challenge IDEM’s ability to properly discharge its responsibility and manage the state’s environmental resources?

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is forcing the Indiana Department of Environmental Management to rewrite part of the air permit for BPs Whiting refinery. EPA said BP?and IDEM left out several sources of air pollution that need to be counted when determining what kind of air pollution control equipment is necessary

EPA: BP permit must be rewritten :: Post-Tribune.

What I’m Looking at: Carl Jordan

October 13th, 2009 1 comment

The Heat

September 30th, 2009 No comments
Oh Lord, I know I’ve been forever changed by the conflict between these two lives. Being immersed in the mill, I’ve become like the steel I work: cold, hard, sharp, heavy, dirty, bent, flawed, and rusting, Yet through other’s eyes, I am useful, durable, and to an extent even valuable.

– By Greg Gvotny “Going to the Mill,” the Heat

Categories: East Chicago, Misc

East Chicago Portrait Series: Mexican Independence Parade

September 21st, 2009 No comments

@ [ Thomasfrank.org ]

2009 Mexican Independence Parade: Slideshow (260 images, 13 min.)

You may have noticed I’ve been testing out different tools for displaying large amounts of images. This is one approach I think I may look to develop further. Unfortunately, there is limited functionality, as I could not post it to this blog.

This is the first edition of a new project called the “East Chicago Portrait Series.” I hope this piece shows the strength and energy of the Latino Culture here in the E.C. You can see from the photos how much the Latino Culture is thoroughly apart of the East Chicago identity, and the complexity of that identity. East Chicago breaks from many stereotypes. There is a back-story to many of the images. I know several of the people in the slideshow. Many are my neighbors.

I think this format offers an important framework that often goes missing in planning documents. It begins to give character to both the people and their public spaces, giving some insight into the development, the population, and the uses of this particular public space. Although many in the Parade are East Chicagoan’s, some of the traditional and more iconic costuming of Hispanic culture are hired entertainers.

Comprehensive Planning

September 12th, 2009 No comments

In a previous post To Grandma’s House We Go I tried to show in a simple real life example the importance of community focused planning, and how incompatible the present land use patterns in East Chicago are for the activities of children. I also did a post on Portages catalytic project – a subarea plan of the Marquette Plan. In this post I tried to show how Portage benefits from implementing their catalytic project, with a strategy very similar to East Chicago – little exposure to the lake but utilizing their riverfront to realize greater opportunities. With the Comprehensive Plan, East Chicago threw away the Marquette Plan’s catalytic project.

There is no greater canvas than what is writ on the land. There is no better way to understand who we are than how we allocate resources and provide for ourselves – that is what comprehensive planning is about.

<Background>
In 2006, as president of Redevelopment, I was asked to participate in the Mayor’s weekly economic development meetings. This was something I had been requesting. These meetings included representatives from the major industries in the City, including BP, ArcelorMittal, Kemira, NIPSCO (Northern Indiana Public Service Company, electric utility),  and the Northwest Indiana Forum (a regional economic development corp), and a few department heads. I was tapped to work on a sub committee to inventory and characterize underutilized parcels and prepare market them. The committee was headed up by Eric Pritcher (a NIPSCO representative), and included John Artist (E.C. Director of Redevelopment), Jimmy Ventura (E.C. Director of Economic Development), Kay Nelson (Environmental Director at the Forum), and Diane Thalmann (Director of Economic Development NIPSCO). When I walked into my first meeting Kay Nelson was going through the inventory of properties and discussing land use. I asked one question “who is determining land use?” Kay responded “they were.” I then asked if this ought to go through a comprehensive planning process.

Well I continued to advocate for a comprehensive plan, suggesting that the kinds of initiatives the city had planned would require the authority of a comprehensive plan. The city tried it their way until they realized they were required to bring their plans to the residents.

Eventually the Mayor appointed me to chair a staring committee to conduct a comprehensive plan for the city. In this role I managed a process of consensus building in defining goals and objectives, determine how to finance the process, authoring an RFQ (request for qualifications) for a planning entity, manage the interview process, and final selection. However, once the actual planning process began I was relieved of my duties and the City engaged the planners (in this case the Lakota group) themselves, and I became just another homeowner with a private interest in the community.
</Background>

The following are the comments I submitted in response to the city’s proposed concepts. I’ve included three maps of existing land use, proposed land use, and my comments on land use adjacent to our waterways. I could have submitted many more comments, but I felt it most important to focus on a Catalytic framework for the community. In essence – a first order of business for properties that are held in common – our waterfronts.

East Chicago 2007 Comprehensive Plan

My Comments

Comments to Proposed Scenarios:

My comments focus on the beneficial potential of our waterway and Lakefront to meet the demographic and economic needs of the coming generations. I strongly believe that development must occur in an environmentally responsible and sustainable manner. This does not discount industry. It is a part of our foreseeable future, but after 30 years of an industrial depression industry cannot be our ONLY future. Re-industrialization alone, will continue our present state of depression. We must provide the quality of life our educated children demand when they choose a community to live and raise their children.

1) Lakefront Development: I support plans that would reposition these lands as public lands with public access, not private condos and a yacht club.

2) Trail System: Create a trail system throughout our waterways, connecting our neighborhoods from the south to the north and to the Lakefront. This is an opportunity to use a natural trail system to bridge gaps with in the community and re-connect our isolated neighborhoods. Unfortunately, each concept presented proposes to add additional industrial uses between the community and natural areas, continuing to repeat bad practices of cutting neighborhoods off from each other and community focused assets – nature.

3) Mittal Property: This is possibly the most significant piece of property in East Chicago. How we determine its future use will determine the possibilities for the next generations to come. This land is presently a decommissioned Mittal property that is adjacent to future consolidated plans of the plant. It has water access on the canal and is adjacent to the core of North Harbor. This property is also in walking distance to the Lakefront.

Besides Concept C of the “Dickey Road Industrial Area” there is no other community focus redevelopment of these industrial lands that can serve as a buffer between such absolutely incompatible uses (Heavy Industry / Residential). This is one reuse scenario vs. two reindustrialization scenarios. Concept C will need to be flexible if it is to be seriously considered, and I believe strongly that this concept ought to serve as the foundation for land reuse discussions and not an outlier in those discussions. If this recreation scenario is not acceptable then we ought to consider other less intense uses, such as passive green space. We can also consider a land trusts. Openlands has a very good relationship with Mittal and would be interested in aiding these discussions.

4) Mittal’s Electric Furnace: I suspect Mittal has requested that we leave this parcel out of any discussions. I understand Mittal has been planning to decommission its present use in the near future. However, it will be important to any future discussions on this side of the canal

5) Turning Basin: It is important not to accept a short-sided plan that only re-industrializes the underutilized land. This parcel is well positioned to serve as a waterway focus development that is more compatible with nearby neighborhoods and perhaps serve as an access point for the community. It could easily serve as an anchor and catalytic project for future development along the waterways. I can imagine a dry dock area. I have talked to the land owner and he is open to the idea.

6) Property along North sea-wall of the Indiana Harbor Shipping Canal: This is a great opportunity to assemble these near-shore properties for natural areas and trails. Industry can continue to operate as they have. U.S. Gypsum has already developed plans, in partnership with Daniel Goldfarb of the Wildlife Habitat Council, to do natural plantings and trails. Daniel has also worked with Conoco Phillips and Citgo to develop similar plans on their properties in East Chicago.

7) CDF: We need to work quickly with the U.S.A.C.E. to develop greenery along the southern and eastern edges of the property. The south because it is across the canal from proposed recreation, and the east because it sits at a major gateway to the city.

8) Natural Area: This is a natural wetland that has never been developed. While there are no remaining natural assets with public access within the city, Industrializing this land today does not make any sense. There is an opportunity to open this land to a trail system and extend the green space north to Columbus drive.

9) Area bordered by the Canal to its east, Railroad avenue to the west, Columbus Drive to the North, and the CSX Line to the south: Plans are underway to clean the southern branch of the Grand Calumet River. This opens opportunities to create community focus development along its banks and extend the neighborhood to the east side of Railroad avenue. There is enough acreage for about 400 homes and green space. This kind of development would justify cost associated with preparing these lands for new uses. I suggest developing a program to relocate businesses to the planned industrial park north of the canal.

10) TOD: This is a great opportunity to leverage a strategy for the airport for the benefit of East Chicago. By extending the South Shore to the Airport down the CSX line, just north of Chicago Avenue, the airport gets much needed access to the Chicago business travel market, and East Chicago gets a TOD opportunity near its downtown (Indianapolis and Chicago ave). The CSX traffic could be rerouted south to the 9th expansion bridge. This would bolster East Chicago’s retail district and link our municipal functions more directly with the Chicago market. It would also give the housing starts identified in #9 a strong reason for attracting young professionals and create a walkable community once again around our downtown district.

11) Green Space along southern Fork in the Canal: 90% of the proposed green space in this Plan is DNR property along the Grand Calumet River. Each Alternate Scenario in this Comprehensive Plan proposes to re-industrialize the land between our neighborhoods and these natural areas. These once again repeat bad past practice by cutting off neighborhoods from each and community focused assets. If anything we ought to use natural areas to buffer neighborhoods for industry. Not the inverse which is what is proposed. To be consistent with the DNR natural areas I suggest creating a strategy to extend these areas to our neighborhoods starting with this parcel.

12) Industrial Property along Cline: This property is within a half mile of the East Calumet neighborhood. It is inappropriate for heavy industrial use. Let’s again stop repeating past mistakes. I suggest light industrial uses servicing the airport. We also need to provide significant buffers between the neighborhood and its industrial neighbors.

13) Alternate Flight Pattern from the Gary Airport: I have a petition with more than 200 signatures asking for the flight pattern to be diverted away from Guadeloupe Circle, Prairie Park and Washington Park neighborhoods. These neighborhoods represent the only sustaining middle class neighborhoods in East Chicago. These neighborhoods include two elementary schools, a middle school and a hospital. The noise pollution in these neighborhoods due to the present flight pattern consistently rises above 90 decibels. Absolutely unacceptable.

14) Brownfield Strategy: Lastly this plan lacks any brownfield redevelopment framework necessary to diversify landuses and our local economy. With 40% of our industrial land out of productive use East Chicago is in serious need of a brownfield redevelopment framework. Without it East Chicago can not avail themselves of Federal Brownfield redevelopment funds to inventory, characterize, remediate these properties so as to put them into new uses. All of which the USEPA has already promised to fund for this City. To neglect it is criminal.

General Thoughts

Existing Conditions:

1) ~80% of E.C. is zoned Heavy Industry, with about 40% of our industrial lands are out-of-use. With advances in technology and the U.S. economy shifting to a service oriented economy, we have endured 30 years of a industrial depression. Re-industrialization is what E.C. has always done. Today, East Chicago is no longer the center for Jobs it ones was. In fact, the city is now the largest single employer of East Chicagoans, employing 1,300 people (these are considered service jobs). This does not including School City, the Library and the other taxing districts. The Comprehensive Plan does nothing to reposition the use of these most impaired lands to meet the needs of a contemporary American community / economy.

2) Incompatible uses: During the settlement of East Chicago, housing and industry went hand in hand. It was during this era that Sunnyside, Washington Park and Marktown were developed. Each was developed with generous natural buffers between them and industry. A 100 years of industrialization has brought continued encroachment of industry on these neighborhoods, cutting them off from there surroundings, and essentially creating the condition for blight. This has resulted in homeowners losing the wealth creation potential necessary for a sustainable community and supporting retail businesses in the downtown district. Today this is unacceptable and this plan does nothing to mitigate against these impacts, but does quite the contrary and creates the conditions for more stress on homeowners. Our community is a pattern of heavy industry adjacent to neighborhoods (such as North Harbor and Mittal, East Calumet and Citgo). In some cases industry surrounds the neighborhood (such as Marktown, and New Addition). The Comprehensive Plan does nothing to reconnect isolated neighborhoods, buffer them better from industry, or reclaim any of the abandoned industrial properties as a community focused asset.

3) Question: How many communities in America have Oil Refineries (the size of BP – the Largest inland refinery) and Steel Mills (Mittal)? And how many of them are in small densely populated urban communities? I will go out on a limb to suggest that there are none besides East Chicago. Lake County ranks as the seventh most toxic county in the nation (out of 3140 counties), with 50.3 million pounds of chemicals released in 2005 (based on TRI data), or 20 percent of the state’s total output. These discharges are attributed to three industries located in or around East Chicago (BP, Mittal, and U.S. Steel). For the sake of the residents don’t you think there is too much industry, and pollution concentrated in such a small area? This plan ought to propose a strategy to address the negative impact industry has on the Quality of life of the residents and establish a compatible land use strategy so that both Industry and resident’s can prosper?

With out improving the Quality of Life, East Chicago will not attract young professionals to live here, not even our children, who have gone off to receive an education. The Marquette Plan addressed these issues by repositioning the region economically and environmentally and focusing on our strongest asset – our lake and waterways (the place where our older industries occupied).

Comprehensive Plan Concepts vs. The Marquette Plan

In light of the fact that the land use scenarios proposed by the Comprehensive Plan are in direct opposition to the Marquette Plan, I believe it is important to draw out the comparisons.

The Comprehensive Plan focuses exclusively on a single dimension of the Marquette Plan, the reaffirmation of its lost industrial base. Hence, the RE-INDUSTRIALIZATION OF EAST CHICAGO. There is little attempt in the Comprehensive Plan to diversify land use, clean-up our most contaminated properties, and improve the quality of life for residents. There is no formal Brownfield framework for addressing these issues. How can East Chicago reposition our economy to meet the needs of a contemporary American community if we do not address the impairments at the base of our economy?

a. The Marquette Plan focused on our most environmentally impaired and out-of-use lands along the canal and where the market has not been able to function.

b. The Marquette Plan repositions the land adjacent to North Harbor towards community focus development. Besides Concept C of the “Dickey Road Industrial Area” there is no community focus redevelopment on these adjacent lands in the Comprehensive Plan. This is one reuse scenario vs. two reindustrialization scenarios. Concept C will need to be flexible if it is to be seriously considered, and I believe strongly that this concept ought to serve as a beginning for land reuse discussions and not an outlier in those discussions.

c. The Marquette Plan takes in to account that heavy industry is consolidating and encourages it to move up the peninsula and north of the canal away from neighborhoods. This again is contrary to the Comprehensive Plan, which has no apparent concern for these incompatible adjacent uses.

d. The Marquette Plan creates buffers between heavy industry and our neighborhoods in North Harbor, Marktown and New Addition. This begins to address the depressed housing market and blight we see in these neighborhoods by pulling industry away from where people live. A major characteristic of the Comprehensive Plan is the lack of buffering between such incompatible uses (Heavy Industry and Residential).

e. The Marquette Plan proposes to pull down Cline Avenue and reroute traffic along the rail line and directly into the steel plant, giving the community access to these newly available lands along the canal. The Comprehensive Plan maintains Cline avenue as a formidable barrier to community focus development.

f. The Marquette Plan adds much needed public access and green space to East Chicago along our waterways and Lake. The Comprehensive Plan pretends to add public access and green spaces. It proposes private development in all scenarios on our lakefront (Condos and a Yacht club). Re-industrialization is also a commitment to private development along our waterways. The green space along the Grand Calumet River is in fact in DNR control and for the protection of these lands. The Comprehensive Plan proposes to sever access between our neighborhoods and these much needed natural areas with industry.

g. The Marquette Plan creates an opportunity for a trail system throughout our waterways, connecting our neighborhoods from the south to the north and to the Lakefront. The Comprehensive Plan add no additional trails to the DNR plans and does not leverage the open area along the canal, but again proposes to re-industrialize these lands.

NOTE: Within the next 10 years an environmental cleanup of the Grand Calumet River will be complete, opening adjacent lands to new use. To place industry back on these lands make as much sense as allowing U.S. Steel to pollute into the Grand Calumet River after a $20 million clean up job.

East Chicago's Marquette Plan

East Chicago’s replacement of the Marquette plan focuses on private condo development on the lake front and pushes community open space to the other side of Cline Avenue (a state highway). To do this they have propose to move the water filtration facility to make room for the private development. To implement this plan they have seeked and received RDA funds, and stimulus funds. What could have been an increase in public access amenities has turned into a private affair for the Mayor’s funders, <RED FLAG>yacht club included</RED FLAG>. It must be noted that east Chicago has 7.3 miles of lakefront exposure and only 100 yards of public access. This proposal does not increase public access. Thusly it ought not to qualify for public dollars.

In absent of a solid well thought out proposal for redevelopment along our waterways and Lakefront I propose that the Comprehensive Plan adopt the Marquette Plan as its waterway and Lakefront component.

Pullman to Marktown Bike Tour

September 11th, 2009 3 comments

On labor day I participated in the 5th annual Labor Day Pullman to Marktown tour sponsored by the Pullman Labor Ride. We had a wonderful time. I took several hundred photos of the event and got the chance to speak a little on the contrasts between the Illinois and Indiana sides of the Calumet Region.

Link to full set of photos [ Pullman to Marktown Bike Ride ]

Kevin Murphy’s Labor Day Presentation to bike tour participants at the Zone

Alberta Tar Sands

September 9th, 2009 No comments

via [ h2oil ] :: previous post [ Alberta Tar Sands ]

To Grandma’s House We Go

September 8th, 2009 No comments

East Chicago Indiana, August 30, 2009

On August 30, 2009 our family took a bike ride (white dotted line in above map) from our house in Indiana Harbor to Grandma’s house on the East Chicago side of town. The ride is ~2.2 miles through a variety of landscapes including heavy Industrial. There are only two ways to get from the Harbor side to the East Chicago side. You either take Columbus Drive or Chicago Avenue. Neither are very friendly toward bikers or walkers, not to mention children. Besides the occasional metal scraper lugging overly large qualities of metal on bikes it is very rare to see anyone walking or riding through these corridors. We tend to ride our bikes within the neighborhood or load the bikes in the bed of the truck and ride elsewhere. But on this day it was gorgeous we took a tour down Columbus Drive.

Google map tour of our bike ride with photos from the above slideshow.

Background / Strengths / Weaknesses

Regardless of what officials say, East Chicago is not community or child focused. There is no access to nature within the community, nor are there any friendly corridors for children to travel on to get through the community. In fact the community is so fragmented by industrial interests that I have begun to compare it to the land fragmentation in Palestine. Granted the comparison is limited. A sure sign of public corruption is the lack of community focused planning and development.

Local environmentalists, particularly Mark Reskin of IUN, often argue that industry was the first to settle East Chicago and housing encroached on the industry, as if that would be an argument for the kind of environmental devastation that has occurred under his tenure. The fact is the earliest settlers were not industry, but pioneers and hunters. Later in the 1800’s  wealthy Chicagoan’s built large vacation homes on the East Chicago shores, and highlands. I realize it is difficult for many to recognize any of the regions natural features, but this was once a region of ancient dunes and swales and natural marshlands.

When industry first came to these shores, they brought with them worker villages, such as Sunnyside and Marktown, to attract a stable workforce. They also demolished or moved the large homes. During this period housing and industry went hand in hand, as they looked to build a workable community. Industrial and community leaders went to great efforts to hire some of the countries best landscape designers and architects, and built a world-class library system and recreation facilities.

It is often thought that industry constructed these villages adjacent to their factories in a hap-hazard manner, so that workers could walk to work. When you review these early settlement patterns you can see how natural buffers and distance had been used to separate housing from industry. In fact Marktown’s original designs were based on Ebenezer Howard’s Garden City concept. Thus Buffering between these two incompatible adjacent uses goes back over 150 years and was written into East Chicago’s early city plans. I’m not suggesting that these buffers, with our present understanding of environmental hazard, were adequate, but it does reveal how the original intent of the designs and concepts acknowledged the need for them.

<slight tangent>
I find it remarkable to see the development of suburban corporate headquarters around Chicago (down the I-80 corridor, I-90, and the northshore), provide generous buffering between their office complexes and the surrounding community. In recent years many of these developments have become LEED certified. Yet in East Chicago some of these same corporations provide no buffering between their industrial complexes and the surround community. I don’t have to mention that none of the facilities are LEED certified. An interesting case is the BP campus in Naperville, which used to be located in Whiting until they could no longer attract professionals to the area do to the lack of quality of life, and yes BP’s campus is LEED certified.
</slight tangent>

What actually occurred here over the last hundred years was the continual encroachment of industry interests on residential quality of life, and the taking of community and private residential wealth. Each new industry involved not only a taking of public and private property, but a taking of community values and visions. Every successive period involved a massive taking of community wealth in the service of industrial benefit. It must be noted that this taking of the public and the personal wealth of the residents could not be done by industry alone. It required the participation of local, regional and state governments, and later included environmentalist.

This encroachment continues today as BP expands its facilities, by placing six cokers just across the street from one of our neighborhoods. Local tif districts had to rewrite their schedules to take into account the future increased assessed value that would be lost due to the BP project – a clear demonstration of the taking of private homeowner wealth for industry interests. In the 1980’s a whole neighborhood was demolished to make way for Pollution Control Industries (PCI). Praxair sits on what was once public property with plans developed for a central park uniting the East Chicago and Harbor sides.

Today’s challenges:

  • High concentration of heavy industry
    • More than 80% of East Chicago is zoned heavy industrial with ~14% zoned residential.
    • 40% of industrial properties are out of production and considered to be a brownfield
    • About 15% of residential properties are apart of the USEPA Superfund site – Calumet neighborhood.
  • Fourteen fairly isolated neighborhoods with little to no linkage between them, cut off by industry. Several neighborhoods suffer from incompatible adjacent uses, such as chemical, oil, or manufacturing plants. The result is that many neighborhoods have their own identity and community center.
  • Little or no access to natural areas
    • East Chicago has 7.3 miles of lakefront Exposure with only 100 yards accessible to the public – Joerse beach.
    • Yet Jeorse Beach is such an impaired asset that it ranks 3rd in the country, and 1st on the great lakes, for beach closings due to hight bacteria level.
    • Dupont prairies, with ancient dune and swales is highly contaminated and not accessible to the the public.
    • No bike trails
  • Lake County ranks as the 7th most polluted county in the country (out of 3141 counties). The pollution is mainly attributed to three major industries which reside in or within a half mile of East Chicago: BP (largest oil refinery in the midwest, second largest in the country), ArcelorMittal (largest integrated steel mill in the country), and US Steel. These industries represent tens-of-billions-of-dollars of interests in East Chicago. I suggest Lake county aim at being just average – ranked 1570 out of 3141 counties.
  • Location of 2 (Kemira, Dover Chemical) of the top 101 most dangerous chemical facilities [ Link to report ]
  • The Indiana Harbor Shipping Canal is also considered to be the most polluted waterway in the country.
  • Depressed downtown with many vacancies, making most residents auto dependent for shopping.
  • Blighted neighborhoods and housing stock. The medium home value in several of our neighborhoods is less than $25,000
  • No sustained cultural institutions.
  • High Crime
  • Poor Educational system – ranks last in the state of Indiana on ISTEP test
  • Political/industrial/environmental corruption

East Chicago is a clear and obvious point source to our shared environmental challenges. I truly believe the extreme nature of East Chicago’s environmental impairments qualify it to be ground-zero in the environmental and sustainability debate. Repairing the land use practices that are allowed to occur here would go a long way in repairing what ails the world.

The Good (Strengths):

  • There are still remnants of East Chicago’s heyday. I live in one such place, across from Washington Park, which was originally designed by Jens Jensen, with a greenhouse.
  • Good recreation facilities including an old minor league baseball stadium
  • There are still remnants of great talent and people of good intention. We have families whose tenure goes back to the 1920’s, but they are becoming fewer.
  • Faith Based Organizations. As a port of entry community East Chicago has always been known for its churches. Today most of the remaining talent are associated with faith based organization.
  • Lakefront: although it is highly impaired, it is a repairable asset
  • Riverfront: although, again, highly impaired the riverfront could become the cities strongest natural asset and provide a way to knit the neighborhoods together with bike paths. Includes access to the dupont prairies and another parcel (~200 acres) of untouched land right in the middle of east chicago (with Praxair to the east, the canal to the west, the CSX rail line to the south and a tank farm to the north).
  • Industry continues to play an important role in this community. We just need to raise their environmental performance to a minimum level that is compatible with a sustainable community. Industry is also a link to our past history.
  • Historic Landmarks: including industrial housing communities such as Marktown and Sunnyside, and an array of other buildings. We just have to stop the Mayor from demolitioning them.
  • Proximity to Chicago. Despite our proximity, if East Chicago does not have fluid access to Chicago, it might as well be hundreds of miles away.
  • Opportunities for a downtown commuter rail system, with direct access to Chicago.

In my mind no project ought to move forward in this community if it doesn’t address the challenges we clearly face and/or build the capacity of our strengths. This is the position I took when the BP project was first considered and I hold to it today. So how is it that East Chicago can be the recipient of a $3.8 billion investment by BP and NOT receive any of the benefits to address our obvious impairments (while spreading the wage and economic development benefits to middle-class communities in the southern part of the county)? Under this scenario why would a poor blighted community like East Chicago provide BP with a $165 million dollar tax abatement?

UPDATE:

Added video tour.

Categories: Case Studies, East Chicago

View of Lake Michigan: wbew Chicago Public Radio

August 27th, 2009 No comments

Below is a short Interview I did with wbew Chicago Public Radio out of Chesterton Indiana about the Marquette Plan and the challenges we face envisioning diverse uses on our lakefront.