Daley demolishes Meigs Field

Chicago mayor stages night attack to begin turning airport into lakefront park

The following story from the Chicago Sun-Times (March 31, 2003), describes how Chicago isn't fooling around when it comes to expanding its great lakefront park. What about Cleveland's Burke Lakefront Airport?

Meigs now a no-fly zone

By Robert C. Herguth, David McKinney and Maureen ODonnell Staff Reporters

Mayor Daley unfurled his own version of shock and awe overnight: Without notice, he sent heavy equipment into Meigs Field under police guard to begin demolishing the lakefront airport.

Although increasing security was the stated goal, Daley long has wanted the airfield converted into a park, in line with Daniel Burnhams long-ago vision.

The mayor said a handshake deal he made with former Gov. George Ryan to keep the airport open for 25 years was dependent on action in Congress to secure OHare Airport expansion. Because that failed, the deal was off, the mayor said.

The move stunned Meigs backers, who believed the Ryan-Daley agreement was still in effect.

"Theres no logic," said Steve Whitney of Friends of Meigs Field. They dug Xs into the runway all the way down.

Whats more, a number of small planes remained parked at the airfield, with no runway now to leave, he said, adding a taxiway might have to be used. From our perspective, this is a pure and simple land grab, he said.

Friends president Rachel Goodstein called Daleys methods creepy, and officials said their group is considering a lawsuit at the state and federal level.

The mayor acknowledged there were no specific security threats to Meigs, but insisted that closing the airport could someday help prevent a tragedy in which a terrorist aboard a small plane might slam into a high rise or big crowd downtown.

He sidestepped questions about whether the timing was intended to avoid someone going to court to keep Meigs open.

He said the final straw came when he heard about no-fly zones over Disneyland and Disney World, and that it took months for the City of Chicago to get the federal government to re-establish temporary flight restrictions over part of downtown earlier this month.

The Park District owns the land, and city officials said they had the legal authority to shut down Meigs.

But proponents of keeping Meigs open called Daleys action an abuse of power and said its clear hes using the anxious atmosphere of today to shut down Meigs and create a park there.

Gov. Blagojevich's administration signaled its support for Daley's move on Meigs despite not being informed of the mayor's plans before backhoes moved in. While we didn't know about this in advance, we do support closing Meigs Field for public safety and security concerns, said Blagojevich spokeswoman Cheryle Jackson.

I can't make any sense of this, said Patty Schuh, spokeswoman for Senate Minority Leader Frank Watson (R-Greenville). This is just bizarre. They're doing it at 11 oclock at night and stranding vehicles there. Is this revenge? I don't know what it is.

© 2003 Chicago Sun-Times


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View towards Meigs Field on Chicago's lakefront: Soon to be open, free and clear.

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