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Pilsen surveyed on future of coal plant site

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Pilsen residents will fill out surveys at a community meeting Wednesday, describing what they want to see on the site of a local coal plant slated for closing.

It’s part of an ongoing survey being conducted by the Pilsen Alliance [2] among its membership and at neighborhood churches and schools, said executive director Nelson Soza. The meeting is Wednesday, June 20 at 6:30 p.m. at Casa Aztlan, 1831 S. Racine.

The Alliance wants to present its findings at a hearing of the city’s task force on reuse of the Fisk and Crawford plants next week, Soza said.  The task force is holding community hearings on June 26 at the National Museum of Mexican Art and on June 28 at the Little Village High School.

Soza is among several community representatives on the task force, along with representatives of the city and Midwest Generation, which owns the Fisk and Crawford plants.  He says discussions have been “very positive and very respectful,” with “everybody generally headed in the same direction.”

The task force is charged with sketching out a general framework for redevelopment, he points out. “The challenges will come when the details start being put down,” following the task force report, expected next month.

Soza describes an emerging consensus with economic development that provides living-wage jobs as a top priority.  “People are also hoping we can make up some of the green space deficit in Pilsen,” hopefully including public access to the Chicago River, he said.

With tactics ranging from pressure on the City Council to lawsuits and civil disobedience, community and environmental groups fought for years for the closing of the two plants.  Emissions from the old plants, which lack modern pollution controls, have contributed to higher death rates and increased levels of disease, according to researchers.