Company that botched Little Village smokestack demo will pay over $12M, court docs say

ByMaher Kawash and ABC7 Chicago Digital Team WLS logo
Wednesday, January 17, 2024
Company that botched smokestack demo will pay over $12M: court docs
A Hilco Chicago demolition was botched back in 2020, and now the company will pay over $12M in damages to impacted Little Village residents.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Some relief is on the way for Little Village residents who suffered personal damages from the Crawford Station implosion back in April 2020.

On Wednesday, the Loevy & Loevy law firm announced a settlement of more than $12 million in a class action lawsuit against the Hilco Redevelopment partners.

The class-action federal case against Hilco was brought after the company took down a 380-foot smokestack at the Crawford Power Station at 35th Place and Pulaski Road, sending up a massive plume of dust that settled over the neighborhood.

Residents said this was the necessary outcome, as they're still shocked by how little notice they received about that planned demolition almost four years ago.

"We had received a rolled-up flyer that was in our fenced the night before, as if that's supposed to educate people what's coming, and nobody expected to have the problems that occurred the next day," said former Little Village resident Juan Rangel.

Rangel joined roughly 80,000 to 90,000 other people who can file a claim for compensation in the class action lawsuit. The law firm believes each person will receive between $200 and $500, depending on how many people file a claim.

"A lot of the damages are the emotional distress of just witnessing this happen in their neighborhood. We also got a lot of reports of people who were outside coughing and being uncomfortable, and some people had property damage. We'll be able to recover for all of that in this lawsuit," said Loevy & Loevy Partner Scott Rauscher.

A large amount of dust took over Little Village when the demolition happened.

Many residents said it made it difficult to breathe and caused lasting respiratory problems. Genaro Contreras lives two blocks from the implosion site, and said he was healthy before the implosion, but since then he's been to hospitals several times because he has trouble breathing and sleeping.

Some residents said this lawsuit isn't just about money for them, but more so an effort to show their frustration with elected officials, who they believe didn't do enough to help them.

"I will say, had this occurred in any other community, let's say Lincoln Park or somewhere like that, this implosion would've never been allowed to happen. And perhaps, because people saw this as just a Mexican community or an immigrant community, working class community, they allowed it to happen," Rangel said.

At a news conference last year, the Little Village Community Council said the city's Inspector General's report on the incident, which was leaked to the media, finds fault with several departments that were involved in allowing permits to be issued for the demolition.

The site, which now houses a warehouse distribution site for Target, sits in the 22nd Ward. Alderman Mike Rodriguez said he has seen the OIG report and calls the incident environmental racism against his predominantly Latino community.

"The IG report states real clearly that city bureaucracy failed the residents of Little Village, failed my neighbors and failed my community," Rodriguez said.

Impacted residents will have until March 26 to file a claim online. Many of them are now moving forward with more peace of mind about the message that has been sent on behalf of the Little Village community.

"Regardless of what the community is like, the makeup, the income or whatever people want to see in neighborhoods that people have to come first, regardless," Rangel said.

The next step for this process will come in April, when a judge overseeing this case will decide on fully approving the $12 million settlement.

Those who qualify should file claims at by March 26.