Wednesday, April 5, 2023

20 Years Later After the Close of Meigs Air Field (Now Northerly Island)

Northerly Island is a quiet retreat for us in the Sloop, but many newer residents might not realize it's history.  WBEZ has a good read on how the current concert venue and park became what it is today thanks to a brash move by a mayor:

When the sun came up over Chicago on March 31, 2003, it shone down on six large Xs that were bulldozed overnight into the runway of a small downtown airport.

Under the cover of darkness, then-Mayor Richard M. Daley made it clear who ran the city when he ordered the destruction of Meigs Field on Northerly Island without alerting the City Council, the statehouse or the Federal Aviation Administration. The former airport is now a park, which the mayor had wanted for years.

Daley defended the move the next day by citing safety concerns and told reporters it was a risk to have planes that close to skyscrapers in a post-9/11 world.

The destruction of Meigs was a brash stunt that epitomizes Chicago politics. Simpson equates bulldozing Meigs with similarly “autocratic” schemes greenlit by Daley’s father, Mayor Richard J. Daley, such as ordering police to maintain law and order among protesters at the 1968 Democratic National Convention, resulting in violent clashes.

Twenty years after the overnight destruction at the airport, Simpson and others said the maneuver is fading from collective memory, but it can serve as a reminder of the need to have checks and balances on mayoral power.

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