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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East Phillips Urban Farm shows the City of Minneapolis’ disregard for its promises to stop systemic racism

Roof Depot site.

East Phillips community leaders have a dream: To increase the livability of their notoriously polluted neighborhood. And they have a plan:  Renovate the former Roof Depot and Sears warehouse site into a community-owned multi-use resource. It would include an indoor Urban Farm – producing healthy foods in what is now a food desert –  space for small business, jobs training programs, low-income housing, and a large solar array.

Six years ago, the East Phillips Neighborhood Institute (EPNI) was negotiating to buy the Roof Depot site, but the city of Minneapolis intervened and bought the property. The city wants the land to consolidate its Water Works Maintenance Facility, currently in Southeast Minneapolis, with Public Works operations already on Hiawatha Avenue next to the Roof Depot site. 

The city is blocking what would be a community asset and replacing it with a project that harms neighborhood livability.

The city is breaking multiple promises its made, and policies its passed, to address the kinds of racial injustice that exist in East Phillips.

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City of Minneapolis suppressed staff report favorable to the East Phillips Urban Farm Project

The city of Minneapolis inexplicably has kept a report from public view that would provide a win-win-win-win — for the East Phillips’ Urban Farm development, the city’s Water Works facility upgrade, the city’s climate goals, and the city taxpayer.

The report was leaked to the public, apparently some time last week.

The city’s Public Works Department issued a statement that the report was no more than “an informal, internally drafted report for contingency planning purposes only.”

Joe Vital, a South Minneapolis community organizer who backs the East Phillips Urban Farm project, said it was “disheartening” that the city suppressed the document.

It “puts into question transparency in this city,” he said. “If we are missing information at this level, it makes me wonder where else it exists?”

“It invites the question: Who is really steering this Hiawatha Expansion Project?”

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Minneapolis police use of “less lethal” force criticized for head shots, cop complaints rarely end with discipline, and more

In this blog:

  • Study: Minneapolis police use of “less-lethal” force during George Floyd protests caused serious injuries
  • The Bad Cops: How Minneapolis protects its worst police officers until it’s too late
  • Minneapolis police misconduct payouts rising
  • Minneapolis Charter amendment updates
  • How will the Minneapolis City Council’s racial justice promises affect important neighborhood redevelopment decisions?
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