Thursday, February 18, 2010
THE CHRONICLE OF A CONSPIRACY AGAINST
February 17, 2010
by Thomas R. Anthony
President, Elyria Neighborhood Association
by Thomas R. Anthony
President, Elyria Neighborhood Association
Should neighborhoods have protections against industrial pollution? Should neighborhoods have a say in their future? Should neighborhoods protect their citizens? Should elected leaders punish neighborhoods working for self-determination by de-funding their kids’ recreation center? Should troubling health study results be tabled and ignored in order to expedite huge corporate profits? Should elected leaders help funnel public money to their campaign workers through non-profits that deliberately harm private property rights? If you have no opinion, read on and inform yourself of the FACTS:
1. Elyria, established in 1881 (the year before the Union Stockyards Company, 23 years before the Western Stock Show, 30 years before Purina, 56 years before Conoco, 122 years before
TAXI and River North,) is one of Denver’s oldest, smallest and poorest neighborhoods, bounded by I-70 and Purina, the Platte River, the Union Pacific North freight tracks, and the North Denver boundary line just south of Suncor Refinery. Counting multifamily housing, it has about 250 dwelling units and 1,000 residents which include about 400 kids. According to the Piton Foundation, Elyria averages 200% more families with children, and more than 200% higher rate of those children born to teenagers; where 91% of the kids qualify for DPS free lunch; where we earn 70% of the average household income while supporting double the number of occupants per house. Because Elyria is only two miles from downtown Denver, in a broader context, enough vacant and underutilized real estate exists between Broadway in Globeville and Brighton Blvd. in Elyria to accomodate 40,000 new dwelling units which, due to their central proximity, would save an estimated $2.6 trillion more in transportation costs than subdivisions on E-470 over 50 years.
2. Elyria has been included in 2 EPA Superfund sites: ASARCO and VB/I-70. However, with a diverse cultural population, the Platte River Greenway, 100 acre North Side Park and Heron Pond Natural area, 220 acre Riverside Cemetery, 100 acre National Western Stock Show and Coliseum, proximity to Downtown and the surface transportation grid, Elyria is replete with extraordinary assets.
3. In Spring of 2004, the EPA issued the results of a $20 million study called the Risk Screening Environmental Index (RSEI.) The Index showed a timeline in which residents of Elyria were exposed by 800% of normal expected airborne pollution in their zip code, 80216. That Spring an Environmental Impact Study commenced with the goal of finding a reasonable way to widen I-70 through Elyria without causing “significant environmental harm.”
4. Elyria School was closed in 1986 and sold to a theatre group for a reported $14,000. Thereafter all schoolchildren have not had a safe means of getting themselves to school, having to cross York St. and the UP tracks at 47th. The theatre group has since twice bought property on Santa Fe Drive using city loans and virtually mothballed Elyria School. It is in the I-70 study zone, but the theatre group has never made a written comment on the I-70 plans. Elyria School is rumored to be under contract for sale to the US Army although its Director has promised for months to clarify exactly what is to be done with the school, although the student population of Northeast Denver has increased by 7,000 students.
5. In 2005 Elyria Neighborhood designed a partially tunnelized I-70 through the 8 blocks of historic residential construction existing in Elyria and Swansea and submitted over 600 signatures to the study team in support of their plan. To date, although over $16 million has been spent on the I-70 Draft EIS, their plan has never been studied. The signatures were delivered by certified mail to Councilwoman Judy Montero on March 3rd, 2005. Ms. Montero supports putting a permanent 12-lane, 6 mile detour in I-70 through Elyria.
6. Elyria Neighborhood’s plan supporting an 8 block, six-lane “cut and cover” through Elyria and Swansea, and retaining a 4 lane elevated section for local access would eliminate most noise and most pollution from the neighborhood and allow expansion of the Swansea Elementary playground over the “cover”. The Presidents of Elyria Neighborhood and of United Elyria/Swansea Neighborhood, Clayton Civic Association and over 1,000 neighborhood residents and stakeholders have supported this concept in writing. In October, CDOT executed a contract with Keystone Group to facilitate a multi-stakeholder discussion about how to deal with I-70, but forbid the group to discuss the Elyria Plan. To date, Elyria’s proposal of an elevated 46th Avenue 4 lanes wide, and virtual tunnel about 8 blocks long and six lanes wide, between Brighton Blvd and Steele Street, has been ignored, although it was in the 2008 Denver Democratic Platform and the Central Democratic Committee of Denver adopted a resolution dated November 17th, 2009 in support of doing a detailed analysis of the plan.
7. Since 2005 that time at least two internationally recognized health studies have confirmed health effects of living near busy highways: permanent lung damage and cardiovascular problems. The Elyria Tunnel and associated filtration opportunities is the ONLY way to reduce localized pollution while allowing for a 50% expansion of traffic.
8. In 2004, a local private non-profit corporation, Cross Community Coalition, took a position that I-70 should be bent and re-routed through Elyria Neighborhood in either of two routes, one taking 54 homes of the remaining 250, the other which would remove the National Western Complex. This realignment would add about 2 miles to each East-West commute and 7 million new square feet of concrete to the area and, counting new capacity, up to a million needless new vehicle miles a day. The new alignment would permanently divide Elyria from Globeville and the Platte River Greenway and virtually eliminate the currently preferred North Metro FasTracks station option at 48th and Brighton Blvd, as well as the Stockyards Station post office which serves thousands of residents and businesses.
9. On November 1st, 2004, Denver Post reporter Robert Sanchez wrote an article on the $2 billion plan and stated Lorraine Granado, Executive Director of Cross Community wanted I-70 moved north through the National Western Complex. This article reported that the result of keeping the interstate on its current alignment would be “up to 105 homes, several businesses and Swansea Elementary would be lost.” Upon detailed analysis of the proposal which would key these results, ENA discovered the Study Team had moved the highway footprint 200 feet north of the existing viaduct. (The actual “residential parcel” loss from this action is 89.) The Elyria Tunnel option would in fact expand the playground and not destroy the school, and since the “No Action Alternative” proposes moving the highway footprint 100 feet north, there are clearly viable compromises to this “Plan.” However, the CDOT Keystone Contract precludes the Study Group from discussing them.
9.a. On October 6th, 2005, Denver Post reporter Jeffrey Leib wrote the last major article published about the I-70 study in which he stated: “Lorraine Granado, a community leader in the Globeville-Elyria-Swansea neighborhoods through which I-70 now slices, said a realigned interestate that largely skirted the community would be the preferred option.” In this same article Mr. Leib also reported: “Other options for I-70 include keeping the highway in its current right of way…putting that stretch of the highway below grade in an uncovered trench.” ENA President Tom Anthony meanwhile had two items published in 2005, one in the Rocky Mountain News and the other in the Denver Post stating Elyria’s preference of tunnelizing on the existing right of way.
10. Cross Community Coalition is a private non-profit that distributes tax dollars, does not hold public meetings, owns significant real estate in Globeville and Swansea, lists about 17 staff people, solicits mostly taxpayer funds as a 501 c 3 Non Profit and represents its Mission to be “improve the quality of life for all residents of Elyria, Globeville and Swansea.” The same brochure that trumpets this goal announces “We are working on moving I-70 north, out of the neighborhoods.” The 2005 brochure listing the Board of Directors of Cross Community Coalition noted only one resident (Lorraine Granado) and six other people among whom are the General Manager of Nestle-Purina and Manolo Gonzalez-Estay, with Purina, Suncor and Valero as major donors. Coalition.
11. In 2004 a group called Healthy Air for North Denver (
HAND) began meeting. At the time, this group was mostly government employees and “non-profit” staff on salary, none of whom lived in the neighborhoods other than Lorraine Granado from Cross Community Coalition. It was started by an EPA attorney who was representing the public in a lawsuit against the Valero and Conoco refineries, Karen Kellen, who is now a Lakewood councilperson and still a senior attorney with Region 8 EPA.
12. In June, 2005, Suncor committed to purchase the refineries and the EPA signed a Consent Decree with Suncor, overseen by Region 8 EPA attorney Karen Kellen, which settled the Conoco/Valero lawsuit for decades of polluting the neighborhoods. According to one article, Suncor had to buy $700,000 worth of engine parts for trucks and buses and to install “more efficient burners.” According to the EPA, Suncor actually paid over $2 million in fines, but was able to use 75% of this money paying for capital improvements of its refinery. Part of the settlement was $400,000 to non-profits for projects approved by Suncor. One non-profit Earth Force, which received $40,000 in grants, is directed by Denver City Councilwoman Judy Montero’s campaign treasurer, Lisa Bardwell. Suncor Refinery also donated three grants totalling most of $104,000 to Cross Community Coalition.
13. During this time the President of Elyria Neighborhood Association had been asking at the
HAND meetings if there were plans to expand the refinery. He stated if so, the neighborhoods needed the protection of off-site air quality monitoring, since we knew we were being polluted. Currently, the process for reporting bad smells in the neighborhood is this: you call the phone number for Shannon McMillan which is 303-692-3259 and get a recorder. At some point someone calls you back and you talk about what is going on; sometimes a CDPHE employee is sent to sniff at the Suncor fence line. If there is reason to think something actually happened, CDPHE can request internal monitoring data from Suncor. New regulations adopted by the City and County of Denver now consider that unless five different phone calls from five different addresses are received in the same approximate time frame, nothing happened. As of this writing, approximately six Elyria residents are able to be in regular e-mail contact.
The government employees and industry representatives from
HAND publicly stated three times that Suncor was not expanding its refining capacity at the Diamond-Shamrock/Valero Suncor Refinery. However, after a Denver Post article announced Suncor’s project to expand capacity, the President of Elyria Neighborhood, in the August, 2005 HAND meeting, stood up and asked why EPA had signed a deal with Suncor without any neighborhood input, since the neighborhoods wanted external monitoring on the facility. He was escorted from the meeting by the two meeting facilitators, Caelan McGee (who later went to work for the Keystone Group) and Manolo Gonzalez-Estay, director of the 2003 Montero Victory Campaign.
14. The Denver Post announced in February, 2006, that Suncor had expanded capacity to 90,000 barrels a day from 60,000 barrels a day, a 50% production increase. Suncor profits climbed a reported 964% with the refinery’s net take at approximately $4 million per day. Nice payback for the $700,000 in truck and bus parts and non-profit donations; especially since it was for polluting the neighborhoods for decades.
15. At the September
HAND meeting, it was announced that a grant for $90,000 to be used, in part, for Land Use planning in Elyria, had been received by HAND and given to Groundwork Denver on behalf of HAND. Groundwork Denver has no Elyria residents.
16. At this
HAND meeting, the President of ENA asked who would oversee the grant dispersal. Then it was divulged that the representative from Suncor had veto power over any selection made by the committee. The “moderator” selected was Charlie Chase. According to the Denver Post, Suncor pays the entire cost of the Commerce City government.
17. Land Use Committee meetings commenced on September 28th, 2005 in the Highlands area at the office of Earth Force, a non-profit with a $400,000 annual budget run by Lisa Bardwell, Campaign Treasurer for Councilwoman Judy Montero. The President of ENA attended and asked why the meetings had to be held in Highland and why he didn’t see any of his neighbors on the committee. At the meeting he showed the committee members the Elyria 2020 Vision plan the neighborhood had developed at no cost to the city or other taxpayers or any federal agencies, signed by, at that time, about half the neighborhood. (Within the following month they’d pretty much all signed it.)
18. At the summer, 2005 meeting of the VB/I-70 Citizens Advisory Group, which the President of ENA had heard about earlier that year after inquiring how to form a
CAG for his neighborhood, Elyria, where remediation was taking place under the VB I-70 OU-2 ROD, he asked whether any health studies had been done in the neighborhood. It was disclosed that a cancer study had been done already. He asked how to get a copy of the study. He was later given one by CDPHE. After reading it, he saw there had been 942 cancers emerge in the Elyria, Swansea, Clayton area in the 16 year study period, including 8 elevated cancers which had been found in his neighborhood, including some cancers associated with petrochemical exposure. Among the tabulated Cancer Study results done by the VB/I-70 team in November, 2003 were instances of:
· lung cancer, up to 165% of “expected;”
· pancreatic cancer, up to 264% of “expected;”
· cervical cancer, up to 256% of “expected;”
· breast cancer, up to 363% of “expected;”
· pharynx cancer, up to 607% of “expected;”
· larynx cancer, up to 499% of “expected;”
· brain and nervous system cancer, up to 379% of “expected;”
· multiple myeloma, up to 416% of “expected;”
yet the Study concluded that these results were attributable to the poor health habits of the residents and their bad genes. Proximity to the interstate highway, the Suncor Refinery, and Xcel Cherokee coal burning power plant were not seen as contributing influences. Former ORNL researchers J. P. McBride, R. E. Moore, J. P. Witherspoon, and R. E. Blanco made this point in their article “Radiological Impact of Airborne Effluents of Coal and Nuclear Plants” in the December 8, 1978, issue of Science magazine. They concluded that Americans living near coal-fired power plants are exposed to higher radiation doses than those living near nuclear power plants that meet government regulations. The Xcel Cherokee coal powered generator sits on the northwest edge of Elyria. Suncor Refinery sits immediately across the Denver boundary north of Swansea. All the cancers were blamed on poor health habits of the residents, and none on the condition of their environment. The President of ENA stated that the high rate of breast cancer among young women not only was highly suspicious, but that since most young women move out of the neighborhood after graduating high school, only a small part of the potentially affected demographic had been studied: only those women who still lived in Elyria, Swansea and Clayton after graduating from high school. It was possible that 80% of those qualified for the cancer survey had never been scanned. CDPHE refused to do further studies and Councilwoman Montero’s office and Cross Community Coalition complacently agreed with the decision.
19. In October, 2005, Elyria Neighborhood officially requested follow-up neighborhood health study be done by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) due to the 8 types of cancer that were found to be elevated in the neighborhood. Elyria was denied this request. Elyria asked that a study of the existing birth defects database be conducted. This was also denied. Neither the VB-I70 committee nor the Cross Community Coalition nor Councilwoman Montero nor
HAND supported the request. ENA contended that the study actually showed the neighborhoods being marginalized to the point that a moratorium on additional heavy industrial and significant traffic increases should be immediately imposed.
20. On Oct. 25th, 2005 the “steering committee” of
HAND sent out the following message: “Tom Anthony of Elyria Neighborhood Association is no longer welcome to participate as a member of [ HAND] nor to attend our meetings…” This is due primarily to the fact that he refused to allow his e-mails to be censored by Charlie Chase. Mr. Anthony later was allowed to participate in meetings, although he never officially “joined” HAND.
21. On October 27th, it was announced that
HAND had received not a $90,000 grant but a $308,000 grant, and that HAND had chosen to utilize some of the money to make the “Breathe Better Bus” which would be brought to Swansea Elementary School to begin its community outreach Nov. 3rd. Pretty fast work! With about 25 actual residents protesting outside the school yard, the grant was awarded to HAND with much media attention, under the I-70 viaduct and with the stench of the Purina factory the elementary school children must tolerate every day. HAND decided to use the money to study “indoor air pollution.” Results of the study were never reported to the Elyria Neighborhood Association.
22. On December 12th, 2005, a flaring operation at Suncor Refinery ignited a fuel plume that reached over half a mile into the air. The plume was photographed by the President of ENA.
23. In April, 2006 an explosion and fire that blew the roof and two walls out of a building at 4875 National Western Drive alerted Denver Fire to the fact that a new biofuels refinery had been set up in an old sheet rock storage warehouse between a residence and the stock show, along the Platte River Greenway. No zoning or building permits for the operation had been obtained. The facility owner, Biofuels of Colorado, whose parent company was in New Jersey was, at the time, under a Cease and Desist order for a similar refinery in Adams County on which 22 citations had been issued.
24. In June of 2006 the Elyria Neighborhood Association received notification from Zoning of a change of use at that site to biofuels manufacturing. The Zoning Code currently proscribes petroleum refineries in Denver, but does not contain the word Biofuels. This operation was to produce 10 million gallons per year using an esterification process: boiling oil with methanol and caustic soda. ENA objected.
25. In August of 2006 the Zoning Administrator issued the Use Permit for Biofuels. ENA protested to the Board of Adjustment.
26. In May of 2007 the Board of Adjustment overturned the Use Permit. However, in October of that year, the refining facility received a new Use Permit, this time asserting it planned to use recycled oil products and for this reason was a recycling center. The refining process was stated to be changed to an acid based reaction using 5 million gallons per year of sulfuric acid and methanol boiled with used french fry oil. Again, ENA objected to the Board of Adjustment. This time, the Board of Adjustment upheld the Use Permit. ENA appealed the decision. In December, 2010, ENA lost the suit. Legal costs to date to Elyria Neighborhood Association have been about $20,000. Legal costs to the taxpayers defending these decisions: unknown.
27. In April, 2009, Denver Parks and Recreation adopted the River North Greenway Master Plan, showing the area between National Western Drive and the river corridor as a mixed use area with significant greenway recreational expansion, exactly on the site of the Biofuels plant which had been attempting to establish a grandfathered industrial use which threatens every other property owner within 1,000 feet. The Platte River Greenway abuts the zone lot for Biofuels to the rear. As of that time, no protective berming around the estimated 100,000 gallons of chemical storage tanks had been provided. On October 28th, 2009, Denver Environmental Health reported that the Biofuels refinery was closing operations and shipping off its equipment and that a fine of $119,000 was pending from CDPHE.
28. In September of 2006 Elyria Neighborhood learned that Cross Community Coalition Board Member Manolo Gonzalez-Estay had assumed leadership of the North Metro EIS study for the $1.2 billion million North Metro Fastracks line. Manolo had originally managed the Judy Montero Victory Campaign in 2003. Manolo immediately opened an office for the North Metro EIS at the Cross Community Coalition building in Swansea. One potential stop on the North Metro line has always been on the UP line next to Cross Community Coalition.
29. In October, 2006, the President of Elyria Neighborhood sent an e-mail to the
HAND membership stating that Manolo’s status as EIS manager and his positioning of the EIS office at Cross Community Coalition were direct conflicts of interest, since the organization of which he was a Board Member stood to gain a central role in the development planning. This e-mail precipitated a retaliatory action against him by HAND, to wit: he was “voted out.”On October 25th, 2006, the President of Elyria Neighborhood Association was notified that HAND was holding an official vote “Shall the HAND members remove Mr. Tom Anthony as a representative of the Elyria Neighborhood Association from all HAND meetings, including meetings initiated by any HAND subcommittee?” The reason given was Mr. Anthony’s “disruptive behavior” (read: commitment to integrity) at meetings and refusal to have his communications to government officials and NGO participants be censored by Charlie Chase. Mr. Anthony pre-empted the HAND members and resigned his unofficial membership. Since then Groundwork Denver, Earth Force and HAND, not to mention Councilwoman Montero’s District 9 office, have gone out of communication with Elyria Neighborhood Association, although evidence that community plans are still being formulated by them continues to surface on the Denver.org website under “Elyria Swansea Plan” which shows that those groups have used the Suncor donations to demonstrate how a new 6 mile superhighway alignment through Elyria Neighborhood is good urban planning.
30. On October 6th, 2006, a pollution plume covering at least 25 square blocks of North Denver emanated from Suncor. Elyria Neighborhood made a complaint using an old e-mail list from
HAND, made up primarily of government employees in the public health department. Denver Department of Health confirmed some teachers at Bruce Randolph Middle School had also complained of the incident. Although Cross Community Coalition is 10 blocks closer to Suncor there was no complaint from that quarter. Subsequent FOIA requests from CDPHE confirmed no pollution complaints from Cross Community Coalition since 2004.
31. On October 24th, 2006, the President of Elyria Neighborhood Association met with Speaker of the House Andrew Romanoff at the invitation of Mr. Sal Rivera. Present at the meeting were Lorraine Granado, Councilwoman Montero, Faith Winter of Envirocitizen, and Chris Arend of Diana DeGette’s office. The group explained to Mr. Romanoff the various options for the Interstate 70 EIS through Elyria and Swansea. The ENA president showed Mr. Romanoff what were at that time 600 neighborhood signatures including the President of United Elyria Swansea, the President of Clayton Civic Association and the entire Board for ENA supporting the “cut and cover” solution for I-70 on the existing alignment utilizing the southern half of the viaduct for local connections along an elevated 46th Avenue. Ms. Granado argued “the neighborhood” wanted the realignment. Councilwoman Montero offered that the two options which had by then moved to the front of the pack, widen 200′ to the north with no tunnel or realign through Elyria, were both satisfactory. The ENA president stated the neighborhood preference had never yet been studied. She declined to support it. Mr. Romanoff declared a lack of consensus. More than two years later the DEIS was issued and the Elyria Tunnel option had still not been studied. In essence, since 2005, the only options for I-70 being studied at taxpayers expense are at least twice as harmful as the original I-70 project overseen by the Eisenhower Administration 12 years before the adoption of the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA.)
32. In October of 2009, after receiving 51 pages of comments on the I-70 DEIS from the DU School of Law, and approximately 240 megabytes of comments from Elyria Neighborhood Association, CDOT determined to hire an outside firm to conduct a “collaborative process” to study I-70. On November 2nd, 2009, Michelle Halstead of CDOT informed Elyria Neighborhood of this fact. On November 11th, 2009, Ed Moreno of Keystone Group attended the ENA meeting and subsequently was contacted by Tom Anthony to confirm: “Councilwoman Montero, who is on record supporting the realignment through Elyria Neighborhood, is charged with selecting the stakeholders from District 9, and are being directed not to study the Elyria Tunnel.” Mr. Moreno responded the “salient facts” were true. Meanwhile, Professor Mike Harris of the DU Law School responded: “CDOT has a responsibility under federal law to respond to every issue raised in the DEIS.” Such as, why nobody has yet studied the split level tunnel/viaduct concept supported by 1,000 residents.
33. On April 8th, 2009, EPA Region 8 “Environmental Justice” department held a “listening session” at the Cross Community Coalition. The President of Elyria Neighborhood attended for about five minutes to ask why the “listening session” couldn’t be held after working hours instead of at noon on a work day, and why it couldn’t be held at a neutral location instead of inside the walls of the organization that had been the most responsible for destroying housing values in Elyria. Michael Wenstrom of EPA stated that they would consider that request. However, despite numerous written communications to Mr. Wenstrom, “Region 8 EPA Environmental Justice Program Director” and his colleague, Art Palomares, Region 8 Director of Policy, Environmental Justice and Information Management, all responses to Elyria Neighborhood from Region 8 EPA ceased on the day ENA President Tom Anthony asked the question: “Is Suncor Refinery planning a new expansion?” To date requests from Wild Earth Guardians for a response have gone unanswered, and even a simple request for meeting notes from the April 8th meeting has been ignored. EPA Region 8 Environmental Justice, Policy and Information Management has been unearthly silent.
34. On March 19th, 2007, Elyria Neighborhood sent Mr. Dave Shelley of RTD Fastracks a letter signed by 56 members of Elyria Neighborhood stating there was a conflict of interest in placing Manolo Gonzalez-Estay in charge of the EIS. Mr. Shelley responded “RTD is confident we selected the right team for the job.”
35. After spending a reputed $40 million in real estate options trying to make the 36th Street Yards and UP TOFC site work as the Commuter Rail Maintenance Facility in order to keep the North Metro alignment adjacent the Cross Community Coalition building, RTD determined the total cost of purchasing the TOFC site to be $750 million; significantly over the budget of $200 million for the entire site purchase and construction. Therefore, this alignment for the North Metro was abandoned.
36. RTD then commenced a new study for a CRMF site, settling on the west bank of the Platte River where Zeppelin Development had gotten a modification of Blueprint Denver from heavy industrial zoning and built the
TAXI condos, partially with a $6 million .25% over LIBOR interest-only loan from OED because the investment would help the impoverished neighborhoods. To date TAXI and the surrounding area, River North, have absorbed virtually all the planning dollars advanced in the past 10 years with the 78 page River North Master Plan and the recent adopted 80 page 38th and Blake Plan and the 77 page 41st and Fox Plan which allow for approximately $2 billion in new development zoning. Meanwhile Community Planning and Development has left the vulnerable North Neighborhoods with no plan, no context, and no future while their property values fell up to 70% and the new Draft Denver Zoning Map has thrown out the Blueprint Denver vision and replaced it with Heavy Industrial zoning in the “Globeville Mixed Use Area” of the Platte River Greenway between Globeville and Elyria. TAXI is where Councilwoman Montero offices.
37. Despite the fact that the area west of the river adjacent to the Burlington Northern freight yards appears to be the best CRMF location due to the proximity to Union Station, ease of access, proximity to the existing RTD bus maintenance facility and existing rail maintenance, and easy access to the proposed Front Range Commuter Rail alignment,
TAXI successfully encouraged RTD to find a different location. At any given day up to 150 ea 30,000 gallon fuel tankers, and 50 ea 30,000 chemical cars containing caustic soda, sulfuric acid, chlorine gas and methanol, are parked a few hundred feet from TAXI on 48 rail sidings alongside Interstate 25.
38. The new preferred CRMF location is about a mile further north and adds that distance to approximately 80 maintenance trips a day through the largely residential area of Prospect, up and down a 3% bridge grade over the Consolidated Main Line and Platte River. Access by a proposed Front Range Commuter Rail service, which Colorado Rail Passengers Association has said has no proposed platform in the Union Station concept plan, will be with difficulty. A FRCR station could be easily placed at
TAXI which could be used as a transit transfer point and rail hotel with temporary employee housing, thus relieving concerns about selling condos with close proximity to large quantities of fuel tankers and chemicals in a virtually immoveable freight entrainment yard. Apparently, the condos are selling so well that TAXI isn’t interested in this arrangement and wants to continue to ignore the liabilities inherent in the situation. And so does OED.
39. In June of 2007 numerous elected officials came to Globeville to help dedicate the new $25 million Franklin Bridge project between Globeville and Elyria, praise the Greenway, talk about revitalization and beam upon the inhabitants. Just upriver from the dedication ceremony was the federally subsidized Biofuels plant which ENA was in court with (with the pro-Biofuels decision being defended by the City Attorney,) backed up to the Platte River Greenway and the new $25 million public investment.
40. In January of 2008, the EPA issued its final plan for the Vasquez Blvd/I-70 Operable Unit 3 Superfund site, an arsenic plume under Globeville and Argo Park and swimming pool. ENA and United Community Action Network submitted comments, but two hours late. The EPA refused to extend the comment period and Councilwoman Montero refused to ask them to. In October, 2009, a home at 47th and Grant in Globeville, valued in 2004 at about $150,000, sold on the open market for under $47,000. It’s title had been burdened with a caveat of liability from the Argo Smelter arsenic plume.
41. In 2001, Elyria proposed creating an open air weekend market in the National Western Stock Pens, with 750 booths. The pens sit idle 11 months per year. National Western, which continually wrings its hands about the difficulties it has balancing its “never disclosed” budget, agreed to lease the pens but insisted on having all the concessions and parking revenues. Parking revenues under a successful market scenario were estimated by Elyria Neighborhood to be in the region of $5 million a year net. Since the Neighborhood desired to run the concessions in the Market as its profit center for generating a revenue base for establishing a neighborhood revolving loan fund similar to the Grammeen Bank, this refusal terminated the negotiations, idling the Stockyards Market concept ever since. In March, 2009, Senator Jennifer Veiga in whose District the National Western Stock Show is located, introduced SB173, a bill for a $1.5 billion state subsidy reportedly with the goal of helping the Stock Show move out of Denver. The current improvements for the Stock Show were built by Denver voters in 1992 at a cost of $30 million and leased back to National Western for $1 per year in order to keep the economic impact from the Stock Show in the central Denver area. SB173 was passed into law in May, 2009. Senator Veiga then resigned and moved to Australia. In approximately September, 2007, the average price of an Elyria home dropped below that of the average 6- horse transport trailer parked outside the National Western Equestrian Center.
42. On March 31, 2009, Councilwoman Montero joined DPS Board Member Arturo Jimenez and Public Works Director Guillermo Vidal and 13 other commentors to the DEIS for the I-70 East Corridor in supporting a realignment of I-70 through Elyria. Elyria submitted 1,003 signatures in support of its partial tunnel option, bolstering the 78 comments received from the general public generally favoring this treatment, although it was not advanced in the DEIS.
43. In April, 2009, the results of a two year Denver Parks and Recreation Task Force were published, favoring retention of Elyria’s Johnson Recreation Center as a neighborhood rec center. On October 3rd, 2009, ENA was notified by Manuel Hernandez, a staff person at the Anna Louise Johnson Recreation Center in Elyria for 35 years, that the city had disclosed to him plans to “transition” Elyria’s 100 year old recreation center. On October 26th, 2009, the City Council advanced the 2010 budget without funding for Johnson Center. In January, 2010, Elyria’s Blue Jays Police Athletic League teams were sent to Swansea Recreation Center. It appears this move is in retaliation against Denver’s poorest neighborhood by City Councilwoman Judy Montero, whose office is now attempting to place a gang unit at the rec center, although Elyria’s crime statistics dropped 11% in 2009, one of the largest drops in the City.
44. Since CDOT first web-sited the realignment proposed by Cross Community Coalition, real estate values in Elyria have fallen over 70% from their historic highs in 2004 and Elyria has led the foreclosure rate in the metro area. Dozens of long-time homeowners have lost their homes, had their belongings thrown onto the sidewalk, and moved to Aurora or Thornton. A house on Williams Street a block from the proposed North Metro FasTracks Station and kitty corner to Elyria Park, sold in May, 2009 for $36,000. The home at 4781 Williams Street sold in January, 2010 in a bank sale for $37,200. The demographic in 2003 showed nearly 64% home ownership in Elyria; all of whom should have benefitted from the proposed North Metro Elyria Station. Instead, we’re still looking out from under the avalanche.
45. As of today, against all logic, Elyria is officially in the running to be the route of a permanent six-mile interstate detour either down Williams Street or just east of Brighton Blvd., courtesy of Lorraine Granado and the Cross Community Coalition, its donors, the State, the EPA, RTD, and the City of Denver CPD office (which submitted no less than 73 comments to the DEIS, not one of which mentioned the realignment’s conflict with the $1.2 billion North Metro Fastracks line), and Councilwoman Montero, who sided with the 2% of DEIS commentors favoring the detour. The same Government entities that donate money to the Cross Community Coalition (EPA, City of Denver, RTD) have funded the I-70 EIS and taken testimony from
CCC staff. The Cross Community Coalition has been receiving donations from Purina, Suncor, Valero, National By-Products, Concrete Works of Colorado, and has used staff people to actively lobby for the new I-70 Alignment through Elyria.
46. In terms of Urban Planning, the key to a sustainable future, the Elyria I-70 Alignment would permanently cut Elyria and Swansea off from Globeville and the Platte River Greenway, add 1.8 miles to each commute on a year 2025 vehicle burden estimate of 250,000 vehicles per day, or over 400,000 needless Vehicle Miles Travelled daily, in itself imposing what amounts to a needless $80 million annual metro trip detour cost. It would also cost Denver taxpayers an undisclosed $500 million in new road bonds for the rebuild of 46th Avenue into a major six mile truck route and arterial street immediately behind Swansea Elementary (which once had a tunnel beneath 46th to connect with south Swansea due to the traffic on 46th,) destroy either the Stock Show complex or about 54 homes on what is now Williams Street and Brighton Blvd., put a 12 lane Superhighway within a block of another 60 homes and within a few feet of Elyria Park, Elyria School and Johnson Recreation Center, and Riverside Cemetery, turn an asset of Denver Public Schools (the vacant DPS Bus Lot) located adjacent the ideal North Metro commuter rail station into a condemned right of way, and take about two dozen Elyria businesses and the Stockyards Station Post Office while permanently marginalizing the entire remnant of Elyria Neighborhood into a polluted armpit of Purina. In a unique twist of fate, it would negatively impact the Sand Creek Greenway, which received an additional $50,000 Suncor grant from the Consent Decree settlement.
47. Draft 4 of the New Denver Zoning Code shows no Transit Oriented Development zoning near the proposed North Metro FasTracks stop at 48th and Brighton Blvd; in fact all the land on 3 sides of Elyria Park is slated to remain I-B: Heavy Industrial. All the land west of the Platte River in Globeville including on three sides of North Side Park is slated for I-B, Heavy Industrial. A reminder, Elyria Neighborhood Association was in court with the Denver Board of Adjustment for three years for permitting a new fuel refinery use adjacent the Platte River Greenway between a residence and an entertainment use; a 10 million gallon a year refinery using methanol and sulfuric acid in a boiler process that, if it loses vacuum, can “level half a city block” according to an industry expert. Not only does the draft New Zoning Map ignore the River North Greenway Master Plan adopted by Parks and Recreation in April, 2009, but it completely ignores Blueprint Denver, the document it references as its guiding vision.
48. Since October 3rd, 2009, the 50-odd kids currently in the Police Athletic League program, 27 kids in the karate class, 22 adults in the aerobics class, and estimated 400 other kids in Elyria are dealing with the Anna Louise Johnson Recreation Center being “transitioned for repurposing.” It is currently one of three of the 31 existing and under construction recreation centers in the City considered for “repurposing.” One of the others is in Globeville. Meanwhile Mayor Hickenlooper’s business partner, Charlie Wooley, just sold property he owned near Capitol Hill to the City for $6 million, on which is intended to be built a brand new rec center. Another rec center is being built in Stapleton for a reported $12 million. On October 20th the RFP issued by the Parks and Recreation department was posted on the Parks and Rec website. Upon downloading it, it was found to be 60 pages long. No Parks and Rec representatives have written any letter saying why this action is being taken, the neighborhood was never contacted directly about it, and during the two year long Recreation Task Force hearings, Johnson Rec was never recommended for transitioning. According to statements, the decision to repurpose was made on September 15th. While Councilwoman Montero stated in the public hearing it was only being “repurposed,” (although Elyria Neighborhood, being proud of the Chargers and Blue Jays, thought it had a great purpose already) Elyria and its kids await their fate.
49. On October 15th, 2009, 11 days before voting to advance the 2010 City Budget without funding for Elyria’s Johnson Recreation Center, Councilwoman Montero attended the Elyria, Globeville, Swansea Business Association meeting at the National Western Complex and spoke for about an hour and a half on her accomplishments and plans. Among them, having Groundwork Denver make us a neighborhood plan. She also stated she was getting federal money from the stimulus, giving it to Newsed, a low income housing non-profit, which was buying up the foreclosed homes in Elyria which her highway realignment had reduced to 30% of their 2004 value, and renting them out for Section 8 housing. Participants in the meeting were allowed one question at the end. The President of Elyria Neighborhood Association asked why her office had long since ceased all meaningful communication with the Neighborhood Association. Her response: “it’s because of you, Tom Anthony.” At the end of the meeting no more hands were raised and one more question was taken, so therefore the President of Elyria Neighborhood Association asked Larry Burgess, President of the Elyria Swansea Globeville Business Association since 2001, if he planned to change the policy of no public input at his Board Meetings held in the Purina board room. He said no.
50. Since Community Planning refused to include us in the River North plan in 2003, Elyria has been an uncontextualized block of residential zoning in a sea of heavy industrial zoning. Since most of this I-2 land is either vacant or used as entertainment at National Western, we have desperately needed a neighborhood plan that would inform future investments. As to Groundwork Denver, perhaps the grant from
HAND to do our neighborhood plan hasn’t been sufficient to allow for planning around the 12-lane superhighway Ms. Montero has promoted since 2005, making the planning process more tedious than normal. Perhaps there is some difficulty figuring out how to deal with the $30 million in improvements Denver built for the National Western Stock Show that Sen. Veiga provided $1.5 billion in tax subsidies to encourage moving to Arapahoe County. The promise of “making us a neighborhood plan” was a two-time campaign promise made by John Hickenlooper in 2003, and again in 2008; promised by Planner Steve Gordon upon adopting the River North Plan in 2003, promised in writing in 2006 by Kim Kucera, Councilwoman Montero’s aide, paid for to the HAND group in 2006, commenced with an official launching in 2007 at Swansea Rec Center, and now promised again in 2010. Elyria Neighborhood met with Councilwoman Montero on November 12th, 2006 to present to her the Elyria 2020 Vision Plan signed by nearly the whole neighborhood, and she declined to act on it, preferring instead to have her campaign manager do the plan using EPA dollars and fines from Suncor’s polluting of Elyria to hire her Earth Force and Groundwork Denver groups and the industry reps approved through Cross Community Coalition to plan the highway realignment through Elyria. None of these groups actually interact with Elyria Neighborhood Association, which meets monthly, currently at Pilgrim Church, 4727 Vine, Denver, CO 80216.
51. On November 12th the Draft EIS for the North Metro Fastracks line was issued. Several times the document states the neighborhood preferred station location across from the DPS bus lot on Brighton Blvd has “a conflict with the CDOT I-70 East Corridor alignment.” Numerous references to transit oriented development, walkable neighborhoods, and car-dependent culture are sprinkled throughout the DEIS.
52. On January 15th, 2010 the City of Denver officially supported the location for the North Metro FasTracks Station at 48th and Brighton Blvd in Elyria, consistent with the Elyria 2020 Vision Plan. Our Plan has the commuter rail stop and NOT the interstate highway at 48th and Brighton; and a block away, still has the Anna Louise Johnson Recreation Center in it.
53. Elyria Neighborhood Association has never taken donations from a compromising entity. It is fully funded by local residents. While we will fight to survive we’d prefer life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness and the peaceful enjoyment of our property. [Gee, where’d we get that novel idea?] This “Fact Sheet” was assembled because it is impossible to build the future we envision if the past never is held to account.
54. On January 15th, 2010, Chicanos Por La Causa, Inc. received a $137 million grant from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development to purchase distressed properties in 8 states, including Colorado, where the local office of CPLC will use $10.2 million for this purpose. Elyria Neighborhood, distressed for six years by the policies of Councilwoman Judy Montero, is among the targeted neighborhoods. Shortly after the grant was awarded, Councilman Rick Garcia quit his City Council position to oversee the regional HUD programs.
55. Documentation for the above Fact Sheet can be provided upon request.
Elyria Neighborhood can be contacted at 303-299-0202, [email protected], if you wish to support the cause of Constitutional rights, efficient transportation, justice, and a sustainable, liveable environment.
Tom Anthony, current President of ENA, moved to Elyria in 2000. His background is in real estate, construction, alternative healing and non-profit management. Previously, he joined with key South Denver leaders and founded CLEAN-IT, Citizens Loving their Environment and Neighborhood, Invincible Together, in 1996, and partnered with the Overland Neighborhood Association, West University Community Association (WUCA) and others to overturn the completed Record of Decision at the Shattuck superfund site at 1805 S. Bannock, Denver. At the time his city councilfolks, Dave Doering, Bill Himmelman, and Kathleen MacKenzie, actually wanted to help their neighborhoods.
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