Bensenville Vows to Appeal, Pledges to Continue David v. Goliath Battle With Daley


Joseph Karaganis, Attorney for the Village of Bensenville underscored the significance of Judge Popejoy’s decision, “This was a ruling on whether or not the children and people of Bensenville will be protected from cancer causing toxic materials.  Judge Popejoy appears to have placed Chicago’s well being ahead of Bensenville’s. We will not allow Bensenville children to be put in harm’s way without ensuring every necessary measure is taken to prevent long term health risks.” 

Those findings were echoed by a highly respected and nationally renowned demolition expert, Rob Adams who was hired by Bensenville this year to evaluate Chicago’s demolition proposal. “Toxic soil disturbance is inevitable,” said Adams who was the New York City official in charge of demolition of the World Trade Center after 9/11.  “The City’s claim that it will prevent the spread of toxins into Bensenville’s neighborhoods through a process known as ‘water spray’ is inadequate and without data or testing to back it up.” 

President Geils and scores of Bensenville residents Thursday also declared their unwavering determination to continue their decades-long David v. Goliath-like battle with Chicago — until the City can demonstrate that it has the billions of dollars needed to design and build “Phase 2” of the O’Hare Modernization Project (OMP). 

“We still haven’t had our day in court,” said a frustrated Geils. “We still haven’t had a hearing on the merits of Chicago’s plan to build the OMP.  I want to invite Illinois lawmakers like Senators Durbin and Obama, as well as the Attorney General and Governor Blagojevich to come visit us here in Bensenville and see for yourselves the trail of tears that Daley has already left in his wake. When the good citizens of Chicago realize they may be asked to fund this billion dollar boondoggle, I want them to know who was asleep at the switch.”

The question of funding of the modernization project has received renewed attention recently with published news reports showing that the city has no demonstrated  source or means to finance the billions of dollars needed to complete Chicago’s massive $15-20 billion dollar O’Hare construction project.

“It’s like the Tom Cruise movie, “Jerry McGuire” – show me the money!  This is the largest public works project in the nation and no one is checking in.  The City has failed to show how they plan to pay for this misguided billion dollar boondoggle,” said President Geils.  “With gas prices at record levels and airlines struggling to survive, there is clearly no money from the airlines, the federal government or taxpayers to finance this plan.  If the City cannot prove there is an adequate funding mechanism, bulldozing our town will be a wasteful, unnecessary and cruel burden on the people of Bensenville,” added Geils.

Bensenville officials and homeowners vowed to carry on their fight against the expansion in federal and state courts.  “I’m 83 years old. I’ve lived here most of my life. ,” said Arlene Benson, a 50-year resident of Bensenville.  “Our streets are already becoming desolate and unlivable.  I’m not just worried about myself.  There are senior centers and day care facilities directly in harm’s way of the toxic chemicals that this demolition will release; it’s unconscionable.”

As part of and beyond the toxic chemical public health issues, Bensenville officials also raised a fundamental public policy question for Chicago and Mayor Daley.  The Village’s question to Mayor Daley is: “Why destroy an entire neighborhood for a project you are never going to build?”

The only project Chicago is actually building at O’Hare is the “Phase 1 Airfield Project” – which at most requires 33 properties out of the more than 600 properties Chicago proposes to demolish in Bensenville.

It is becoming increasingly apparent that Chicago cannot complete even the multi-billion dollar balance of “Phase 1” of O’Hare expansion let alone the even more expensive multi-billion dollar Phase 2.

Thus far the O’Hare based “Majority In Interest” (“MII”) airlines at O’Hare — who have contractual veto power under the over any further expansion at O’Hare have only agreed to the construction of the “Phase 1 Airfield project”: 

The O’Hare airlines have refused to approve the multi-billion dollar balance of the “Phase 1 Master Plan” (new Western Satellite terminal, Concourse K extension and People Mover). Further, these same airlines have refused to approve additional billions for any construction of “Phase 2” – which includes more runways and requires millions of additional square feet of new terminal construction (Terminal 4, Terminal 6 and the Western terminal) to carry Chicago’s forecast passenger growth.

If Chicago does not build the massive terminals – it cannot carry the forecast passenger load and does not need all the proposed runways. Contrary to Chicago’s press spin the deadlines for much of this terminal construction have already passed and there is no way these terminals will be constructed by 2014 or 2016 (Chicago’s Olympic date). Chicago has previously said that the City will be able to come up with the billions needed — without the participation of the airlines.  Yet Chicago has failed to disclose the current cost for the rest the full expansion (estimated at $14-15 billion in 2003) or exactly who will come up with the billions needed to construct the rest of the expansion.  

“Even if some magical outside source offered to advance the billions – the airlines would have to pay for use of these facilities to pay off the debt,” said Village President Geils. “Imposing these massive multi-billion dollar costs on airlines in dire financial straits is sheer financial folly.”

“This is not about fear mongering,” said President Geils.  “Court-ordered soil testing has already shown that demolition in the “acquisition area” will blow dozens of toxic cancer causing chemicals in fine dust particles onto the homes, nursery schools and elderly care facilities of our community.  For the City to move forward with bulldozing under these circumstances is cold-blooded and clearly motivated by greed. We will appeal Judge Popejoy’s ruling.”