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SUSTAINABLE CHICAGO Spring 2014
according to Wasserman, would be an industrial/re-
tail mixed-use. “That’s the first thing that people see
when they come in the neighborhood,” Wasserman
said. “And I think for us—to see something that
makes the community proud, that really gives you
a feeling for what you’re coming into—that is some-
thing ideally that all of us would like to see.”
Not all of these battles are so black and white.
Back when the city still had a Department of Envi-
ronment, they sent out an inspector to check up on
complaints related to a garbage sorting facility. Res-
idents were complaining of an increase in the rat
population as well as foul odors coming from the
company, to the point where they kept “smell logs”
noting how often and how intensely
they noticed odors. “This woman
comes out, gets out of her car, and le-
gitimately throws up from the smell
of garbage,” said Wasserman. “We
were like, ‘We won!’”
But it wasn’t that simple. They
were able to negotiate with the
garbage sorting facility to install ret-
rogrades and abate some of the
smells, but the company was operat-
ing 24 hours a day, even on week-
ends. A petition called for a reduction
in work shifts from three to two; how-
ever, this would result in about 25
people—all Little Village residents—
losing their jobs.
LVEJO put up voting stations
around the neighborhood, seeking
input as to whether they should push
for a reduction in shifts or fight for
better infrastructure changes at the
facility. The community voted to elim-
inate the third shift. “But the fasci-
nating part was once those people
were let go, the community came to-
gether to help re-employ those 25
people,” said Wasserman. “It was a
very hard conversation to have, but it
was very well worth it because peo-
ple were able to understand the real-
ity of the economy behind it. It’s not
just a question of demanding that
somebody shut something down, It’s
a question of putting a face to those
people who are going to lose their
jobs.”
The garbage sorting operation is
still open, and still working with two
shifts. Residents have noticed de-
creases in the smell, especially at
night and on weekends, as well as in
the rat population. “When the envi-
Coal burning operations were halted in 2012 at the Fisk Generating
Station (above), as well as the Crawford facility, in part because of
the actions of environmental activists (below).
Continued on page 28
Matt Leonard/350.org
David Wilson