Wednesday June 7th 2023

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New Council Brings New Hope for Environmental Justice in East Phillips


East Phillips Cultural Center gymnasium gathering, where community members gathered on Saturday, December 18th to lift up their ongoing work to bring community-led development to the Roof Depot site.

As Minneapolis residents waited to see what change would result from the November 2021 election, 75 to 100 community members gathered on Saturday, December 18th at the East Phillips Cultural Center gymnasium to lift up their ongoing work to bring community led development to the 7.6 acre Roof Depot site in the East Phillips neighborhood. Led by EPNI staffer Joe Vital, the meeting highlighted EPNI’s work to save the 230,000 square foot Roof Depot building for aquaponic farming, affordable housing, solar development, and a youth-led coffee shop, event center, and bicycle repair and assembly facility. Local BIPOC businesses displaced in the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd are also supporting this community led effort. The meeting featured appearances of City, County and State level representatives. Restating their long-held support for the project were State Senator Omar Fateh and Hennepin County Commissioner Angela Conley. Neighborhood resident Karen Clark, who represented the area for 37 years in the state legislature, presented compelling documentation on disparities of income and wealth, as well as extremely elevated rates of asthma, childhood lead poisoning, and other environmentally related illnesses occurring in our majority BIPOC neighborhood. Her work for environmental justice over many years was the genesis of this project.

The greatest interest was in the changing political situation at the City level. This is being led by 9th Ward Councilmember elect Jason Chavez, joined by Ward 1 Councilmember elect Elliot Payne, and 10th Ward Councilmember elect Aisha Chugtai. In the weeks before the 2021 election, a resolution to tear down the Roof Depot building was reinserted for a vote and passed by a 7 to 6 margin, but 4 of those 7 council members are no longer on the Council. So, in 2022, with optimism and anticipation, East Phillips again presents the Minneapolis City Council with the opportunity to reverse decades of neglect in favor of Green investment and Environmental Justice.

“Urban Farm not Toxic Harm!”

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