Posts tagged with "Environmental Justice":

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Demolition of historic coal plant reveals tension between Chicago’s preservationists and environmentalists

Demolition prep work has begun on a long-controversial coal generating plant in Chicago’s Little Village. The Crawford Generating Station (CGS) began operation in 1924, one of five such stations in the city providing power via the burning of fossil fuel at a large, continuous scale. After decades of pollution, including the settling of coal dust on nearby houses and school grounds, as well as high rates of respiratory illnesses in Little Village and neighboring South Lawndale, the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization began pushing for a clean power ordinance in Chicago. Faced with community opposition as well as the threat of expensive federal requirements to update pollution controls, Midwest Generation, the owner of the Crawford Generating Station and the neighboring Fisk electrical plant, both closed in 2012. Hilco Partners purchased the station in 2016 and filed a demolition permit for the buildings on March 26 of this year. Hilco Partners plans to remediate the site, a process expected to take a year or more, with the end goal the delivery of a “new economy” site, such as a logistics center or technology hub. But with the demolition of the shuttered coal generating plant comes multiple community and procedural concerns for both Hilco Partners and the City of Chicago. The CGS, designed by Graham, Anderson, Probst & White, is “orange-rated” on the Chicago Historic Resources Survey, a designation of architectural significance that makes the property subject to a hold of up to 90 days from the issuance of a permit so the City of Chicago Department of Planning and Development can explore alternate options to demolition. In the case of the Crawford Generating Station, according to the Demolition Delay Hold List, the permit was released the day after it was filed. “What has just happened with the Crawford Generating Station is baffling,” said Eric Rogers, a South Side historic preservation advocate. “Following the letter of the law halfway, the city added it to the Demolition Delay list. But then, inexplicably, the mandatory delay was waived, and the demolition permit was released. Sometimes this is done when unsafe conditions necessitate an emergency demolition, but there is no indication of that being the case with Crawford.” While Little Village cheered the closing of the Crawford Generating Station as a polluter, the long-term perspective of success is jeopardized by the battle over a new use for the site. The Little Village Environmental Justice Organization is pushing for a conversion of the coal plant site into an economic development asset that will directly impact the neighborhood, as well as develop guidelines for the sites that could include public green space, needed in the dense communities of South Lawndale and Little Village. Rogers, who also manages Open House Chicago for the Chicago Architecture Foundation, continued, “Crawford is an enormous and durable structure, and could be adapted to provide space for local industries—perhaps urban agriculture, food production, or green technology—to operate and grow and create jobs.”
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UT Austin hires experts on border communities and environmental justice

The University of Texas at Austin School of Architecture (UTSoA) has announced two new teaching hires as part of the school's ongoing Race and Gender in the Built Environment Initiative. Edna Ledesma has joined as a teaching fellow for the next academic year and Miriam Solis will begin a tenure-track position in the Fall of 2018. This announcement comes on the heels of the university naming Michelle Addington as dean of the school earlier this year, though the initiative pre-dates her tenure at the school. UTSoA is a leader among architecture schools when it comes to diversity, having originated several internal commissions and programs as far back as 2008 to address the growing calls for equitable representation in academia. The school in recent years has announced new academic tracks in Latin American Architecture and expanded the offerings of its Community and Regional Planning program, one of the most robust programs of its kind. In many cases, it is not simply a matter of who the school is hiring, but also what research those scholars bring into the fold and how they contribute to a heterogenous learning environment. Ledesma, who holds a PhD in Urban and Regional Science from Texas A&M University and has two previous graduate degrees in design, focuses on issues related to border communities and the cultural landscape of immigrant populations in Texas. Ledesma’s research formally began in 2013 when she organized a series of design engagements called “dialogos” in the South Texas city of Brownsville. Her work seeks to bridge the gap between communities and city governments to help define the design agency of traditionally under-represented groups. Ledesma noted that she was drawn to this fellowship because of UTSoA’s distinct interdisciplinary approach to design and research, which often allows for cross-pollination among the school's academic programs. Solis will enter her professorship next year with a PhD in City and Regional Planning from UC Berkeley after completing a Switzer Fellowship for her work in environmental planning. Her research focuses on social and environmental justice related to the development of urban infrastructures, an area of research that she has contributed to through her years of experience in California. One of Solis’ ongoing projects concerns the equitable redevelopment of San Francisco’s wastewater system which has historically negatively impacted African American communities.
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Long Beach to Remove Freeway, Build Much Needed Parkland

“On face value, in Southern California, getting rid of a freeway is sacrilegious,” said Brian Ulaszewski, executive director of nonprofit urban design studio, CityFabrick. Yet that’s just what officials in Long Beach are preparing to do, joining a growing number of international cities looking at highway removal. Using funds from the California Department of Transportation’s Environmental Justice Grant Program, the city, along with CityFabrick, will convert a one-mile stretch of the Terminal Island Freeway into a local road surrounded by more than 20 acres of parkland. Terminal Island Freeway is ripe for removal for two reasons, according to groups behind the removal. First, it’s redundant. Part of the 1950s master plan for freeways in Southern California, the road was originally designed to extend from the Port of Long Beach past downtown Los Angeles. But only 3.5 miles of the freeway were actually built, and today it dead-ends in a rail yard in Long Beach’s Westside neighborhood. Second, the Terminal Island Freeway doesn’t carry very much traffic. About 14,000 vehicles per day travel on the road, less than the amount of traffic rerouted by other freeway-removal projects, including the Harbor Drive Freeway in Portland and the Gardiner Expressway in Toronto. Instead, Ulaszewski said, the traffic volume along the Terminal Island Freeway is comparable to what Long Beach’s “Retro Row”—4th Street—carries. Retro Row isn’t an expressway. It’s a surface street with one lane in either direction, plus a center turning lane. The Terminal Island Freeway removal project evolved from a comprehensive redevelopment proposal by CityFabrick. In addition to the freeway removal, the proposal, called The Yards (PDF), contemplates the relocation of Long Beach’s intermodal container transfer facility (ICTF); the creation of open space along Southern California Edison’s electricity right-of-way corridor; the realignment of the San Pedro Branch Railroad to bypass West Long Beach; and the conversion of existing school recreation areas to joint use. If enacted in its entirety, The Yards would add up to 350 acres of green space to the Westside. Ulaszewski explained in an email that the fate of the other elements of the proposal has yet to be determined. The Environmental Impact Report on the ICTF relocation is due within months, and the other projects may find a place in the pending update of the Land Use Element of the Long Beach General Plan. Ulaszewski emphasized that what sets the Terminal Island Freeway removal project apart from similar programs is the motivation behind it. While other expressways, such as the Embarcadero Freeway in San Francisco, were removed to foster economic development, the Long Beach program is framed in terms of environmental justice. The city’s Westside is park-poor, with only one acre of open space per 1,000 residents (compared to the national standard of one acre per 100 residents). Researchers have documented unusually high rates of respiratory illness in the neighborhood, where children live, study, and play in clouds of truck exhaust. The removal “could be a tremendous game-changer for [the Westside]” Ulaszewski said. “We can clear out some of the bad land-use decisions made there over the years, and start healing that community.”
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A Hub-bub in the Bronx

Of all five boroughs, the Bronx arguably fell the furthest during New York City's 1970s collapse (the decade that saw the infamous burning) while it has not seen nearly the revival of Brooklyn or Queens in recent years. There's the new Yankees Stadium, and the Grand Concourse remains resurgent, but there is still much to be done. The city's Economic Development Corporation is hoping to nudge things along just a bit east at the Hub, an architecturally and historically rich area centered around the intersection of 149th Street, Third Avenue, and Melrose Avenue. On two lots covering 112,000 square feet where the 2/5 Trains shoot out of the ground, the city is hoping to create a new mixed-use retail center that can anchor the area's continued redevelopment. An RFP for the project released last week is rather vague, though it notes the appeal of the location and the 200,000 daily pedestrians. Among the desired uses are a school, shopping, and a grocery store, as the project is located within the FRESH program boundaries. The RFP also urges for LEED Silver, an admirable cause as sustainability is often a second thought around these parts, as is public space, which is why the city is also mandating a plaza at the corner of 149th Street and Third Avenue. Proposals are due September 22.