MAT Asphalt Derails McKinley Park Affordable Housing Project

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Anthony Moser
Board member, Neighbors For Environmental Justice anthony.moser@gmail.com

CHICAGO (Aug. 27, 2020) — The City of Chicago has decided not to support an affordable housing development in McKinley Park, citing concerns over its proximity to the MAT Asphalt plant, a controversial facility that depends heavily on city contracts.

In early 2019,  McKinley Park residents learned of a proposed addition of 120 units of affordable housing through the redevelopment of a historic Central Manufacturing District building across from McKinley Park. 

Neighbors for Environmental Justice met with the Department of Housing as they considered this project. Yesterday the DOH informed the group that they had reached a decision:

“The Commissioner then made the determination that, while this project is worthy of consideration for a multitude of factors – including creating 120 units, many family-sized, of affordable housing on the park; and preserving and leveraging these important historic buildings – with the asphalt plant is in its current location, the City would not move forward with underwriting and funding affordable housing at the Parkview-proposed location.

The Commissioner has asked that the City research more appropriate possible locations for the plant.”

The following is a statement from Anthony Moser, board member from Neighbors for Environmental Justice: 

  “As a working class community facing pressures of gentrification, this project seemed ideal and was broadly supported by community stakeholders, including Neighbors for Environmental Justice. The only barrier towards this project was MAT Asphalt, a controversial polluter located just 500 feet from the building.

“Learning that the City of Chicago will not be funding affordable housing because of MAT Asphalt confirms our worst fears about this company: not only are they actively harming our park and quality of life, but they are now acting as a deterrent to the type of developments our community wishes for and deserves.

“We appreciate Commissioner Novara recognizing the obvious: MAT Asphalt should never have been built here. For McKinley Park, the path forward is clear: we must shut down the plant that nobody asked for so we can build the affordable housing that everyone wants.”

“But addressing Chicago’s pattern of environmental racism will take more than picking a new neighborhood to pollute. We must require strict monitoring, we must consider the environmental impact of city vendors, and every neighborhood that has experienced decades of pollution must have decades of investment.

  1. Housing justice
    As the cost of housing continues to rise across the city and with neighborhood rental going up, like Pilsen and Little Village, McKinley Park is under threat of gentrification. Therefore we call on the city to enact policies that will preserve, maintain, and create affordable housing options for the Southwest Side. We call on the Illinois legislature and governor to lift the statewide ban on rent control and continue the moratorium on evictions.
  2. Environmental justice
    The city must cancel its contracts with MAT Asphalt and its sister companies for polluting our air and violating their permits.
  3. Aldermanic action
    Ald. Waguespack is the chair of the powerful Finance committee. He must lead the charge to cancel the city contracts that keep MAT Asphalt running, and introduce legislation requiring the city’s procurement process to consider the environmental impact of city vendors.

    Ald. Cardenas is the alderman for the 12th ward and the chair of the Committee on Environmental Protection And Energy. Despite the denials of his office, emails show he was aware of plans to build MAT Asphalt at least as early as 2017.

    The time has come for Ald. Cardenas to choose: he cannot support affordable housing in his ward and MAT Asphalt at the same time. Will he continue to defend the park polluter, or will he finally admit that this plant is hurting our neighborhood?

“McKinley Park deserves clean air and affordable housing. MAT Asphalt must close.”

###

A map of affordable renting housing in Chicago, showing a large empty section over and around McKinley Park
A map of affordable renting housing in Chicago, showing a large empty section over and around McKinley Park.