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New Direction for East Phillips Urban Farm Derailed by Mayor Frey’s Veto

Update: On March 24, the Minneapolis City Council upheld Mayor Frey's veto of CM Chavez' motion by a vote of 7-6. At the March 24 City Council meeting, CM Chavez said he hoped to bring a new motion forward at the next full council meeting on April 7. Look for an update on that in the May issue of the alley. By Lindsey Fenner At the March 10 City Council meeting, new Ward 9 Councilmember Jason Chavez put forward a motion that rescinded the council action last fall that gave a green light to the expansion of the Public Works facility at 1901 E 26th Street. Chavez’ motion gave the East Phillips Urban Farm project a new way forward on that parcel. It also explicitly included the public works training facility that had been left out of the last council action, stopped demolition of the former Roof Depot Building, instructed city staff to find funding options to repay the Water Fund, and required community stakeholders to make formal proposals for redevelopment of that city-owned land by June 30 2022. Chavez’ motion passed the City Council with a vote of 8-5, after a series of impassioned speeches by those voting in favor. Voting for Chavez’ motion were CMs Chavez, Chughtai, Ellison, Johnson, Koski, Payne,Wonsley Worlobah, and Council President Jenkins. Voting against Chavez’s motion were Ward 6 CM Osman who represents Phillips West and Ventura Village in Phillips, as well as CMs Goodman, Rainville, Vetaw, and Council Vice President Palmisano. But Mayor Frey’s veto derailed the Council’s action. In his March 11 veto letter to the Council, Frey said he would sign a similar motion with conditions including: changing the word “rescind” to “suspend,” giving clear guidelines for a formal proposal from community stakeholders, and including a clear finance plan for the community redevelopment. According to council rules, Chavez’ vetoed motion would need to be reconsidered at the next City Council meeting, March 24, after the alley goes [...]

New Council Brings New Hope for Environmental Justice in East Phillips

New Council Brings New Hope for Environmental Justice in East Phillips

By STEVE SANDBERG 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 [...]

Dave’s Dumpster

Dave’s Dumpster

City Moves Forward with Public Works Expansion in Phillips; Neighbors Continue Fight for Environmental Justice

City Moves Forward with Public Works Expansion in Phillips; Neighbors Continue Fight for Environmental Justice

By LINDSEY FENNER The Minneapolis City Council voted to continue the Hiawatha Maintenance Facility expansion at the Roof Depot site at 1860 E 28th St on a narrow 7-6 vote. The approved plan, put forward by Ward 1 CM Kevin Reich, is a reversal of the previous Council directive to halt the Public Works expansion project in East Phillips. Community members, led by the East Phillips Neighborhood Institute (EPNI), have protested for years against this project, putting forward an alternative vision for an Indoor Urban Farm at the 7-acre Roof Depot site. Reich’s proposal came as a surprise to Urban Farm supporters, including Ward 9 CM Cano. The passed proposal, which was “Option B” of four potential plans presented to the City Council over the summer, moves the City Water Yard facility from it’s crumbing building in Northeast to East Phillips, demolishes the Roof Depot building that community activists had wanted to use as an indoor urban farm, removes a proposed training facility for Public Works from the expansion plans, and sells 2.8 acres of the site for “community use.”  The vote to continue the public works expansion in East Phillips came despite a Racial Equity Impact Analysis (REIA) presentation that showed that neighbors near the project already “experience much higher levels of cumulative pollution than residents from majority white city neighborhoods and the average metro area resident leading to hiring levels of asthma and hospitalization for children and adults living in the surrounding neighborhoods.” The Public Works expansion is expected to bring an increase of car and truck traffic into the neighborhood, which will further increase already high levels of air pollution in East Phillips.  Council members Bender, Cunningham, Ellison, Fletcher, Goodman, Reich, and Ward 6 CM Jamal Osman voted in favor of the Public Works expansion in East Phillips. CMs Jenkins, Johnson, Gordon, Schroeder, Palmisano, and Ward 9 CM [...]

City Council Committee Votes to Halt Hiawatha Public Works Expansion, Future of Urban Farm Uncertain

City Council Committee Votes to Halt Hiawatha Public Works Expansion, Future of Urban Farm Uncertain

By LINDSEY FENNER In a confusing and close vote, on August 18 the Policy and Government Oversight (POGO) Committee partially approved a staff directive authored by CMs Cano, Jenkins, Gordon, and Johnson, that halts the planned expansion of the Hiawatha Public Works Maintenance Facility at the Roof Depot Site at 1860 E 28th Street in East Phillips. However, an abstention by CM Ellison on the part of the directive which would have given the East Phillips Neighborhood Institute (EPNI) exclusive development rights to the property tied the vote 6-6, so that provision did not pass. This means the future of the East Phillips Urban Farm project proposed by EPNI is uncertain. The partially approved staff directive passed by a 7-6 vote, with Council Members Reich, Fletcher, Cunningham, Osman, Goodman, and Bender voting no. The POGO Committee is expected to receive a financial report on the city costs of maintaining the Roof Depot site until development, as well as a “racial equity impact analysis” at their meeting on September 9. In a separate vote, the City Council voted to approve the Environmental Assessment Worksheet of the now halted Hiawatha Public Works Expansion Project. EPNI filed a lawsuit in summer 2020 to stop the City from demolishing the Roof Depot building before an environmental review was completed.

East Phillips Urban Farm Faces Crucial City Council Vote in August

East Phillips Urban Farm Faces Crucial City Council Vote in August

By LINDSEY FENNER The future of the East Phillips Urban Farm will reach a crucial turning point in August when the Minneapolis City Council will hear a staff report on the future of the City”™s Public Works expansion at the Roof Depot site at Longfellow and 28th Street, and vote on an Environmental Assessment Worksheet (EAW). An EAW is a short document that reports on the facts of a project and determines the need for a further review called an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). At the end of April, the City Council approved a staff directive that paused the City”™s Public Works expansion at the Roof Depot site, with a required report at the City Council Committee of the Whole meeting on Thursday, August 5. The report will include information on the financial and operational impact of ending the Public Works expansion project and recommendations for selling the property to community groups.The Public Works expansion, if it went forward, would increase car and truck emissions in a neighborhood already overburdened with pollution and accompanying health conditions like asthma. Neighbors, community members, and allies have been fighting for another vision of the Roof Depot site, the East Phillips Urban Farm. The community project would include urban agriculture, affordable housing, job training, and a small business incubator. The community group organized around this vision, the East Phillips Neighborhood Institute, has an active lawsuit against the City of Minneapolis to stop the Public Works expansion, is working on securing funding and a buyer for the property, and has been holding workshops with business owners, community groups, and tenants interested in renting space within the 230,000 sq.ft. Roof Depot. The East Phillips Neighborhood Institute (EPNI) hosted a workshop with local businesses and community organizations such as Migizi, Gandhi Mahal, Little Earth, and more to envision a business model for the future East [...]

Residents storm city hall to protest

Residents storm city hall to protest

Phillips community not given a voice at meetings on public works expansion BRAD PASSAs part of a protest by Phillips residents who have been ignored by city staff and council members, a Native American Drum group performed a prayer and request for understanding prior to the Transportation and Public Works Committee meeting on Dec. 4, 2018. Throughout this process, the city has ignored its own principals and civic engagement, and sought to railroad its own plans for the neighborhood. by Carol Pass, EPIC Board president Neighborhood residents continue to oppose the city”'s plans to expand its public works facility into the Roof Depot/Sears site in Phillips neighborhood (1860 E. 28th St.) that would further increase pollution and illness in the area.  Instead, they support a plan fashioned by local residents themselves that bring jobs, affordable housing, an indoor aquaponics urban farm, solar energy, and a bike repair shop to the location along the Midtown Greenway. Under pressure, probably from Public Works staff, to make something happen, the city scheduled meetings with the Ways & Means Committee, Transportation & Public Works Committee (T&PW), the Committee of the Whole, and the Full City Council and then rescheduled some, making notification of Urban Farm supporters difficult at best.  Nevertheless, Urban Farm supporters filled the council chambers and overflowed in the hall at the T&PW Committee meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 4, as a Native American Drum group performed a prayer and a request for understanding in the pre-meeting chamber. Citizens were not allowed to speak but carried signs to express their support of the Urban Farm concept. Chair Abdi Warsame (Ward 6) passed a motion that would provide no space for the Urban Farm and permit demolition of the incredible Sears warehouse through T&PW without recommendation to the full council, with the stated hope that it could be modified to meet the needs of public [...]

BULLETIN! EPNI Indoor Urban Farm Supporters

BY CAROL PASS The future of the East Phillips Indoor Urban Farm project will now be determined at the Wednesday, Nov. 14 Ways & Means Committee meeting at 1:30 P.M. 3rd floor of City Hall after the possibility of a negotiated settlement regarding the East Phillips Indoor Urban Farm was removed from the October 30th Ways & Means meeting. We need your presence on the 14th of Nov. to show citywide support for a sustainable East Phillips Indoor Urban Farm Project. This delay will provide the City and Public Works time to understand EPNI”'s 2-acre proposal with shared space. The fact is: this is the smallest possible sustainable size for this project. We have worked the math and done the research ”“ anything smaller and we no longer have a project. We need to make this clear. Shrinking this project further will absolutely require us to give up the entire project, something we are not prepared to do. Come stand with us for the promise of a positive economic future for East Phillips. The choice is now! (more…)

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