But according to Wasserman, there needs to be
a change in the conversation between the commu-
nity and companies looking to set up shop in the
neighborhood. “It’s no longer about just inviting any-
body in that gives us a job and then we’re stuck with
this legacy issue when they leave,” she said. “What
does it mean to be a good neighbor? If you come in
and do your business here, we want to make sure
that when you leave, you’re not leaving behind all
of your garbage and contamination.”
There is a lot of creativity that can go into fund-
ing cleanups,” said Renas. Depending on the end
use, there are potential funds available from munic-
ipal, state and federal programs, beyond just brown-
field programs. “That’s why it will be important that
we cull down this large number of sites to a man-
ageable number, because there may be a specific
strategy for each site in terms of funding and rede-
Community Coalition
This isn’t the first major redevelopment project
that LVEJO has undertaken, nor is it even the first
mapping project. Little Village only has one signifi-
cant piece of open space, Piotrowski Park. A decade
ago, volunteers hoping to change that walked the
neighborhood and plotted out the best places to add
new parks. The result: the city broke ground last fall
at 28th & Sacramento for a large park that will be
completed later this year. The 23-acre site was for-
merly an asphalt roofing manufacturing facility
which the EPA had designated a superfund.
Over the last 20 years, we’ve fought some really
great fights,” said Wasserman. “We’ve won some of
those fights and we’ve lost some.” The biggest fight
arguably came in late 2012 with the closure of the
Crawford and Fisk coal power plants. Midwest Gen-
eration, the plants’ owner, shuttered Chicago’s two
largest sources of carbon dioxide emissions after a
prolonged grassroots campaign, spearheaded by
Wasserman and LVEJO.
For her leadership on the Crawford and Fisk
closings, Wasserman was awarded the Goldman En-
vironmental Prize last year. More importantly, the
residents will no longer suffer higher rates of asthma
and bronchitis.
The Crawford Plant, which sits at the corner of
Pulaski and the Chicago River, has an uncertain fu-
ture. The best case scenario for its redevelopment,
Eric Allix Rogers