Sunday, May 28, 2017

Environmental, Health Questions Loom Over New Union Station Plans

ABC 7 Chicago recently reported that a $1-BILLION Dollar project to modernize the area immediately surrounding Chicago's Union Station, including some new work to Union Station itself is planned. According to this report, "The master concept includes a few office towers across the street and a proposed food hall along Clinton Street. The proposal also includes a residential tower that will be built above the head house at Union Station. There is also a plan for a public green space on the roof level."

"The initial design, proposed by Riverside Investment and Development Company, would create about 3.1 million square-feet of new commercial space near the station."

The Amtrak CEO, one Mr. Charles Moorman is said to be working with Rahm Emanuel, Mayor of Chicago, to "develop the commercial sections of Union Station and the neighboring, Amtrak-owned properties. They predict it will take six years to complete." The new project will allegedly create some 8,000 permanent jobs. Artist concept graphics were released recently courtesy of ABC 7 Chicago.

However, as exciting as this project may sound, there are dangers. The United States EPA has measured air quality in and around Chicago Union Station. The EPA testing focused on something called PM2.5. particulate matter that is 2.5 micrometers (µm) in diameter and smaller. PM2.5 is sometimes referred to as fine particulate matter, a complex mixture of extremely small particles and liquid droplets. Particle pollution is made up of a number of components, including acids (such as nitrates and sulfates), organic chemicals, metals, and soil or dust particles. The size of particles is directly linked to their potential for causing health problems. EPA is concerned about particles that are 2.5 µm in diameter or smaller because those are the particles that generally pass through the throat and nose and enter the lungs. Once inhaled, these particles may affect the heart and lungs and cause serious health effects. The particulate matter measured in this survey is primarily from diesel exhaust. In addition to contributing to particulate matter, diesel exhaust contains many other harmful pollutants, including carbon monoxide, benzene, formaldehyde, and nitrogen oxides.

The above information comes directly from the EPA study on Chicago Union Station air quality.

According to the EPA, Union Station isn't the only concern. They say "There are several buildings with ventilation systems that impact air quality at Union Station." A particularly telling, and very concerning question and answer at the EPA site for this study:

Question: The PM2.5 concentrations on train platforms were 23-96 percent higher than concentrations at street level - but a graph shows the average PM2.5 concentration on the south platform is 372 percent higher than the average of all background concentrations. Can you explain?

EPA Answer:

"For each hourly platform test value, EPA calculated the percentage reduction needed to reach the street level concentration of PM2.5. The range was from 23-96 percent. From 7-8 a.m. on June 16, the street level measured 26 µg/m3 and the south platform measured 673 µg/m3, so PM2.5 reductions of 96 percent would be needed. At 6-7 a.m. on June 15, the street level measured 41.33 µg/m3 and the north platform measured 54 µg/m3, so PM2.5 reductions of 23 percent would be needed.

EPA's graph depicts average concentrations over the duration of the study on the north platform, the south platform, and at street level. Average concentrations on the north and south platforms were, respectively, 200% and 372% higher than the average concentration on the street."

Research done by Chicago-One led to several trusted sources that, when put together and taken altogether, spell out a long and arduous history at Chicago Union Station on the topic of air quality and connected safety issues as spelled out by the above statement from the EPA.

The first source is Kari Lydersen, a reporter for the Chicago Reporter. Kari wrote a headline, "Tests Reveal Unsafe Air at Union Station" Kari's work here dates back to January 1st, 2010. Lydersen first gives a rather grim picture of great personal risk taken by employees and passengers alike, "inside Union Station, on the platform and even inside the train, people are exposed to particulate matter at levels far exceeding what the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency considers safe, according to testing done by the Clean Air Task Force commissioned by Respiratory Health Association of Metropolitan Chicago last year."

The Chicago Tribune says they performed their own investigation of the air quality at Chicago Union Station in 2010 as well. The Chicago Tribune said they tested "for black carbon, an indicator of soot, while the EPA tested for particulate matter. Both methods measure diesel exhaust, but making direct comparisons is difficult. Agency officials said they focused on the open-air Union Station platforms — rather than inside train cars or the station itself — because the agency has the clearest authority under the federal Clean Air Act to address outdoor air pollution." Source article here

Bill Davies, a British developer who bought the vacant main post office building in 2009, was under a federal court order to maintain a massive ventilation system that sucks diesel fumes from Union Station tunnels at the time of the 2010 Chicago Tribune report.

Fast forward four years to 2014, and the problem doesn't get any better. "Chicago CBS 2 Investigators found train ventilation systems covered in filth. Vent after vent, train after train, walls and ceilings dirtied by the air blowing into the cabins. With IIT, CBS 2 conducted field-testing using special monitors to detect levels of dangerously small or ultrafine particles that can penetrate deep in the lungs and cause health problems.

“Four-hundred-thousand per cubic centimeter, that’s huge,” says IIT’s Brent Stephens. “That’s more than you’d find in the middle of a highway.”
Source article here.

CBS 2 obtained a full response from the EPA at that time. Here is the full U.S. EPA Region 5 Response:

“Currently, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is funding and conducting ongoing research into the potential health effects of exposure to microscopic, ultrafine particles and nanoparticles. More research is needed before the Agency can establish national ambient air quality standards for such particles.

CBS2’s test methodology and results are not directly comparable to EPA’s ambient air monitoring program. EPA monitors outdoor air on a continuous 24-hour basis to determine whether the national ambient air quality standard for PM2.5 is met on annual basis. OSHA has set an indoor air quality standard for PM2.5 and that standard may provide a better basis for comparison.

EPA is making progress toward reducing harmful air pollution from train engines. New EPA engine standards effective in 2012 reduce particle pollution, as well as the emissions of hydrocarbons and gaseous pollutants. Beginning in 2015, new train engines will be subject to even stricter requirements. As rail systems nation-wide replace their engines over the years, they are bringing in cleaner equipment that will improve both indoor and outdoor air quality.

EPA along with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the Federal Railroad Administration, the Federal Transit Administration, and state and local agencies, participates in Metra’s task force to improve air quality in and around passenger trains. EPA is also working with the nation’s major railroads to implement voluntary efforts to reduce idling emissions beyond the mandated reductions.“

Moving forward to February 10th, 2016, Danielle Prieur wrote for "Medill Reports Chicago", providing these graphs

Danielle Prieur also quoted Amtrak, Metra, and Mooney of the U.S. EPA: 

"Marc Magliari, spokesman for Amtrak, said his corporation’s main efforts are being put into updating ventilation systems and viaduct systems surrounding Union Station.

“The ventilation is an important issue and it’s going to be addressed through an ongoing process through the city’s master plan. We are working with the city on the Canal Street [ventilation system] that covers all the tracks,” he said."

"Metra echoed this focus in a statement: “[We] are pleased to partner with the city of Chicago and the CTA on a long-term solution to address the air quality issues which could be solved through the master plan to reconfigure and redevelop Union Station.”

"Mooney said it isn’t clear whether progress has actually been made as another air quality study has not been performed."

On December 27th, 2016, the Chicago Tribune wrote again on this matter, and said that "Illinois will collect nearly $98 million for anti-pollution projects from a federal legal settlement with Volkswagen, the German automaker that installed secret software in nearly a half-million diesel vehicles to make them appear cleaner than they actually were. The agreement stipulates the money must be used to reduce lung- and heart-damaging nitrogen oxides emitted by diesel trains, buses, ferries and equipment."

In that same piece, the Chicago Tribune said that "Metra is still reliant on locomotives built in the 1970s that are significantly dirtier than newer models. Metra responded by upgrading its passenger cars to filter out diesel soot. But its decades-old locomotives still emit high levels of pollution that form acrid blue clouds inside Chicago's busiest commuter station." - Source article here

"The EPA considers diesel exhaust one of the most dangerous types of air pollution. Breathing even small amounts can inflame the lungs and trigger asthma attacks, researchers have found. Several studies have linked exposure with heart attacks, cancer and premature death." - Chicago Tribune

This brings us into the current day. On January 12th, 2017, just close to 6 months ago, the City of Chicago announced this:

Mayor Emanuel, Amtrak And Other Union Station Partners Announce Redevelopment Plan Designated As USDOT Emerging Project

Agreement Creates Path to Federal Backing for West Loop

In that announcement, the City of Chicago laid out these points:

The Union Station Redevelopment plans envision a public-private partnership to

implement both transportation-related improvements as well as transit-oriented developments surrounding the station. The three main goals are:

1. To expand and renovate the station to be an architecturally significant transportation terminal that both preserves and builds upon its existing architectural heritage.

2. To allow a growing number of passengers and other visitors to use the station facilities in the most efficient, safe, and pleasant manner possible.

3. To create a vibrant commercial center and civic asset that welcomes and serves travelers, neighborhood residents, and downtown workers alike, while further enhancing the economic vitality of the City of Chicago and the region.

Among the improvements that could be funded under the agreement are the following:

* Renovation of the Canal Street Union Station Lobby.

* Rehabilitation of the Great Hall skylight and dome structure.

* Renovation and expansion of the Adams Street and Jackson Street entrances.

* Expansion of the Union Station Concourse.

* Widening of platforms.

* Improvement of ADA accessibility throughout the station, including installation of an elevator at the Canal Street Headhouse.

* Reconstruction of the Canal Street and Harrison Street viaducts.

* Construction of pedestrian tunnels connecting Union Station to Metra’s Ogilvie Station and to the CTA Blue Line stop at Clinton Street.

* Transit-oriented development, including commercial/residential development of the air rights over the Headhouse and commercial/office/retail uses surrounding Union Station.

This brings us to where we are today. There is currently no word on how developers plan on keeping Union Station residents safe from the dangers mention in this article.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Man Arrested For Groping Woman on CTA Has Serious Arrest History

On February 3rd, 2017, a woman got on her bus, and expected to be safely transported. A safe transport is exactly what did NOT happen. A suspect that police have now identified as Christopher Gates of the 400 block of N. Harding Ave, is alleged to have grabbed the female passenger in an inappropriate manner without her consent, and then exited the bus.

Christopher Gates - Chicago Police photo
Gates is charged with one felony count of aggravated battery to a transit passenger and one felony count of unlawful restraint. This is not the first or even the second arrest for Gates. Gates is well-known to the Chicago Police Department, mostly for violent offenses, and offenses involving illicit drugs.

According to Chicago Police public adult arrest records, gates has been arrested 8 times in the past, and this arrest would make his 9th. Gates was arrested for the first time by Chicago Police on May 25, 2014 at 5:00PM. That first arrest had Gates charged with Possession of a Controlled Substance, and possessing less than 2.5 grams of cannabis. Gates was arrested that day at 1156 N Keeler Ave. on police beat 1111. At that time, police had his address listed as 726 N. Harding, located on police beat 1112.

Harding was arrested the second time on Saturday, August 30, 2014 at 12:50 PM at 1222 N Pulaski Rd. This second arrest was also for Possession of a Controlled Substance. This time, the arrest took place on police beat 2534. This area is well-known for gang, drug, and other serious criminal activity. At the time of these first two arrests, Gates lived at 726 N. Harding on beat 1112.

Thursday, March 12, 2015 8:15AM, just 17 days short of seven months since his 2nd arrest, Gates was arrested for Stalking/Cause Fear/Safety/2+ (a violation of 720 ILCS 5.0/12-7.3-A-1), and Battery - Make Physical Contact, in violation of 720 ILCS 5.0/12-3-A-2. By this time, Gates had moved to 4102 W Crystal St., on beat 2534, according to Police Arrest records.

At some point after his issuance of warrant arrest on June 28th, 2016, he moved from 554 N Avers Ave, and by Oct 26th, 2016, he moved to 426 N Harding Ave.

Gate's full arrest record is displayed below as evidence of the above statements. This record came from the Chicago Police Department Adult Arrest Database, available to the public. 

As of this latest arrest, Gates has been held in Cook County Jail in lieu of a $900,000 bond. Gates is due back in court on 6/14/2017. This information per the Cook County Sheriff's Department Inmate Locator Service. 

Chicago-One News attempted to reach out to the Cook County State's Attorney's Office and the Chicago Police Department for an official statement, and communications with police are pending for further information about Mr. Gate's prior history with their department. Chicago Police Spokesman Anthony Guglielmi has stated the department must keep their comments limited to Mr. Gate's prior history only, due to his current case in a pending status with the Cook County Circuit Court. (Edited on May 4th, 2017 at or around 9:30AM to reflect changes to facts regarding communications between Chicago-One News and CPD)  

Chicago Fire Department Spokesman Recovering Well After Collision in Department Vehicle

CFD Spokesman, Larry Langford - Chicago Tribune photo
On May 2nd, 2017, Chicago Tribune Reporter, Rosemary Regina Sobol, wrote about what is the 2nd vehicle collision in six months involving CFD Spokesman, Larry Langford. Both collisions involved his city - issued vehicle.

“I was just going to get more coffee and drive back to my house and start my day,’’ Langford said. “All of a sudden, wham!" - Tribune Article quote.

 Larry tells the story in his own words:

"I was stopped at a light at 59th Street and Union Ave. after six in the morning, closer to seven, when I heard the sound of tires on wet pavement. I thought, oh-oh, and looked up.’’ "I saw the car leave the scene, and stop close by. I get out of the car and ask if he's ok. He mumbles back to me, saying "yeah". "He didn’t apologize, or ask if I was all right, he wasn’t looking at me. He just kept looking at his car.’’ "So, I ask this guy for his drivers license and ask if he has insurance. He told me the car was stolen."

Langford: "You stole it?"

Driver: "yes"

At this point, Langford tells that the driver walked away. The driver then started to run, and left the car behind.

Chicago-One News spoke to Larry Langford this morning on his way into the office after buying his morning coffee. Anyone in the Chicago media business, and who eventually covers police & fire department incidents gets to know Larry very quickly. Larry stated to Chicago-One that he's a little sore, but is otherwise doing well.

Larry is typically all - go, no - stop, and carries with him a spirit of helpfulness, is generally very jovial and easy to get along with. Get well soon, Larry!

Two Chicago Police Officers Shot - Three Being Questioned, Investigation On-Going

Chicago's OEMC Zone 13, home of the Chicago Police Department's 9th district daily operational communications needs. The dispatcher was having a routine night, which means highs and lows in activity. Domestics, vice calls (drugs, gangs, guns), parkers, and various criminal shenanigans that aren't new to the city.

Suddenly, an officer describing a van is heard, followed by an officer screaming into his radio...."MY PARTNER'S HIT, MY PARTNER'S HIT, MY PARTNER'S HIT 64TH & ASHLAND" shortly after a flurry of radio activity, "GET THOSE AMBULANCES ROLLING! LET'S GET THEM IN HERE!" The dispatcher finding a way to stay calm and collected, says, "We've got ambulances on the way" 


By the time it was over, two officers had been shot. We now know these were two Tactical Officers from 009. For those not familiar with CPD parlance, Tactical Officers are plainclothes personnel specializing in investigating things like gangs, guns, robbery, burglary, drugs, prostitution, etc. They drive unmarked cars, and possess specialized training for their work.

The shooting occurred at or around 9PM last night, May 02, 2017. Per the statement made by the department, the officers were sitting in their unmarked unit in the 4300 block of south Ashland Ave. when they saw someone in a silver van shooting at another vehicle, according to preliminary information.

 As it all unfolded, Chicago's independent journalists covering the crime beat gave live coverage from the radio traffic. Enter Spot News....

Now come the tweets from Chicago Police Spokesman, Anthony Guglielmi, to confirm what has happened. Anthony is Twitter verified, as noted by the blue badge with the checkmark.

Superintendant Johnson spoke to the media, saying, "We believe these officers were followed and targeted", a statement giving insight into the frantic manhunt that took place last night after the shooting. Upon being fired at, police returned fire. At this time, it is not believed that anyone was struck by the fire from police service weapons.

Current information says that both vehicles involved had left the scene hastily, and  The van was found near 37th Street and Racine Avenue, less than two miles away, and either a rifle or shotgun was recovered near the scene, according to a source citing preliminary information. A second weapon was also recovered, and three people were taken into custody for questioning, police said.

Per AJ Guglielmi, Chicago Police Spokesman, one officer has been released from the hospital, and Detectives are continuing their investigation. According to ABC 7 Chicago, the second officer may be released later today.