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Samuel Corona (right), an activist with the Alliance of the Southeast, chants, “Stop General Iron!” at a rally outside City Hall in June.

Samuel Corona (right), an activist with the Alliance of the Southeast, chants, “Stop General Iron!” at a rally outside City Hall in June.

Pat Nabong

Judge denies bid to force opening of relocated General Iron on Southeast Side

The relocated General Iron metal-shredding operation on the Southeast Side will remain closed for the time being, a judge ruled Thursday.

Cook County Circuit Judge Allen Walker rejected a request by the owner of the operation at East 116th Street by the Calumet River to open for business after former Mayor Lori Lightfoot blocked it last year.

Lightfoot, who initially aided the business’ relocation from Lincoln Park, ultimately denied the permit after a flurry of protests from Southeast Side residents who said they couldn’t take any more air pollution. The decision to block the business followed a months-long health impact assessment of the Southeast Side that City Hall cited in rejecting the permit.

Community organizers even filed a federal civil rights complaint against the city over the matter leading to findings that are forcing the city to change its planning and land-use practices.

In June, a city administrative hearings judge ruled that Lightfoot and her public health department didn’t follow rules when it denied the permit for the operation, which is now rebranded Southside Recycling.

The next month, the business’ owner asked Walker to order the city to allow the shredding site to open, a request Mayor Brandon Johnson is fighting as well as the administrative hearings ruling.

Walker said in court Thursday that the administrative hearings judge did not specifically order the city to issue the business a permit.

“It doesn’t say that, correct?” Walker asked a lawyer for the business. “You folks had or could’ve had that language be included in the order.”

The company, after signing an agreement with Lightfoot in 2019, built a new scrap metal operation at the East Side location.

The operation was never allowed to open, though its fully built.

The delay in the process and the blocked permit have been the subject of multiple lawsuits, though the only win for the company so far has been in the administrative hearings. Another lawsuit in circuit court seeks damages from the city for the costs of building the shredding facility as well as lost revenue.

That proposed move from mostly white and affluent Lincoln Park to a Latino community surrounded by Black neighborhoods on the Southeast Side was the focus of a federal civil rights investigation by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development that concluded the city has discriminatory planning and land-use practices and policies.

Johnsonhas pledged to reform city policies under a binding agreement with the feds and recently announced a plan to introduce an environmental protection ordinance later this year.

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