While East Phillips looks for answers on pollution worries, art restored at Roof Depot site

Sunday gathering to restore Urban Farm art.

East Phillips residents and friends gathered Sunday to restore the community artwork Minneapolis city workers unceremoniously removed from the fencing around the controversial Roof Depot site.

The city wants to use the Roof Depot site near 28th and Hiawatha to expand its Public Works yard, a move neighbors say would bring more pollution to an already polluted neighborhood. The East Phillips Neighborhood Institute (EPNI) has proposed a much more community-friendly development for that site.

The city wants to demolish the unused warehouse building on the Roof Depot site, the same building EPNI wants to repurpose into an indoor urban farm, small business incubator space, and more.

Complicating matters, this area was home to a pesticide plant that left massive arsenic pollution. Workers removed some 80,000 tons of arsenic-contaminated soil from the former Superfund site. However, that work didn’t touch the contaminated soil underneath the warehouse, which would get stirred up during demolition, neighbors say.

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The backstory on why Minneapolis is hell bent to expand its Public Works yard in East Phillips in violation of its racial equity commitments

Residents disrupt the Minneapolis City Council Thursday for moving ahead with a plan they say will harm East Phillips residents’ health.

Minneapolis city leaders say their controversial plan to expand the Public Works yard in East Phillips has been in the works for years, an effort to upgrade aging facilities and improve efficiencies.

Much less discussed is how the Public Works project is part of an interlocking set of city plans to build a new fire station and sell city land for private development.

The city’s plan also violates its commitments to reduce racial disparities, an issue city leaders have failed to address.

The East Phillips Neighborhood Institute (EPNI) strongly opposes the city’s plan, saying it would increase local air pollution and harm residents’ health.

While the city has downplayed resident health concerns, federal health agencies recently released a map ranking East Phillips in the highest tier of its Environmental Justice Index, which identifies “communities most at risk for facing the health impacts of environmental hazards.”

Here is a more complete picture of why the city is breaking its racial equity commitments. It begs the question: Just when does the city plan to start living up to those commitments?

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Minneapolis city leaders need to explain how their Roof Depot redevelopment vote meets the city’s racial justice promises

Minneapolis city leaders are once again at a fork in the road in their commitment to racial justice.

At issue are competing visions to redevelop the Roof Depot site in the East Phillips neighborhood.

Site map of city Public Works yard and the Roof Depot site. Image: City of Minneapolis.

Mayor Jacob Frey wants the city to use the Roof Depot site to expand the existing Public Works yard near Hiawatha Avenue to consolidate Public Works operations.

The East Phillips Neighborhood Institute (EPNI) wants to develop the site into a community-owned asset, with “an indoor urban farm, affordable housing, cultural markets, and incubators for small businesses near accessible public transit.”

Since 2017, the City of Minneapolis has made several racial justice commitments. They seem to align with EPNI’s plan much better than the city’s Public Works plan.

The City Council will vote on Roof Depot site demolition this week, the first step in expanding the Public Works yard. City councilmembers supporting the project need to explain to the public how their vote meets the city’s racial justice commitments.

It’s a matter of integrity.

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City of Minneapolis offers self-serving ‘Racial Equity Impact Analysis’ on proposed Public Works project in East Phillips Neighborhood

Backers of the East Phillips Urban Farm development held a press conference at City Hall Tuesday.

The Minneapolis City Council’s Policy & Government Oversight Committee will vote Wednesday afternoon on directing staff to move forward with its Public Works expansion plan in the East Phillips neighborhood, one opposed by neighborhood leaders.

The docket includes the city’s “Racial Equity Impact Analysis” for the project, something that assesses how it aligns “with the City’s Southside Green Zone policy, the City’s resolution declaring racism a public health emergency, and the City’s resolution establishing a truth and reconciliation process.”

The city offers a self-serving and weak racial equity analysis, raising questions about the city’s understanding of, and commitment to, racial justice.

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East Phillips Urban Farm plan stays alive, barely

City Council action is as murky as its commitment to racial justice

The Minneapolis City Council was faced challenging truths today as it deliberated on redevelopment of the old Roof Top Depot site at 28th and Hiawatha: addressing historic and ongoing racism costs money, it means changing “business as usual,” and it’s messy.

The Council faced two different proposals: One to use the Roof Top Depot site to expand and consolidate the city’s Water Works facilities, the other to give the East Phillips Neighborhood Institute (EPNI) exclusive rights to develop the property into an urban farm, affordable housing, and neighborhood-friendly businesses.

The fractured Council punted, keeping both options open, likely making no one happy. Significantly, it voted down proposed language to give EPNI exclusive development rights for its Urban Farm proposal.

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