O'Hare expansion moves into new phase

February 25, 2008 3:23:51 PM PST
The first home was torn down in west suburban Bensenville Monday, making way for the O'Hare airport expansion project. But the demolition doesn't mean more homes are coming down.

The teardown of a Bensenville home owned by the City of Chicago is an isolated event. The home was demolished for safety reasons. Even though the city has acquired 90 percent of the properties it needs for the runway project on the south end of the airport, the Village of Bensenville continues to fight expansion in court.

135 Garden Avenue is on its way to becoming a pile of rubble. This Bensenville home is the first to be torn down by the City of Chicago for its O'Hare expansion project, and if the Village of Bensenville has its way, this home will be the last to go.

"To say that this is the beginning of the end is an extreme exaggeration. Frankly, we believe this is an outrage," said Jim Johnson, Village of Bensenville.

For years, Bensenville has used all legal means possible to fight O'Hare expansion. The city has slowly acquired 549 residential and commercial properties in Bensenville in hopes of building a south runway. The city's request to demolish the properties is tied up in court, except for 135 Garden Avenue. Because there was a fire at the address, both sides agreed, the home had to come down.

"We are tearing down the house because we are doing it for safety reasons. And because of the sensitivity of this matter, I wanted to make sure I was personally out here overseeing the issue, making sure everything was done to contract specifications," said Rosemarie Andolino, O'Hare Modernization Project.

The Village of Bensenville sent over an inspector and a person to document the demolition. Because the tear down was an isolated event, Bensenville's village manager Jim Johnson does not understand why the City of Chicago turned it into a media event; the city used it an opportunity to talk about expansion.

"It was a well-orchestrated public relations campaign," said Johnson. "The program is moving forward. Construction has been going on since 2005, when we had our regulatory permission to do just that," said Andolino.

Further demolition of homes is tied up in court pending an environmental study requested by the Village of Bensenville and ordered by a judge.

Even though 522 properties now owned by the City of Chicago are vacant, the Village of Bensenville says it will continue to use all legal means possible to stop demolition of any more properties.

Both sides are back in court Tuesday.