A Minneapolis community nonprofit is suing the city to stop the development of a project it believes will disproportionately harm the health of people of color.
The East Phillips Neighborhood Institute Inc. sued the city and the Minneapolis Public Works Department on Friday in Hennepin County District Court over the Hiawatha Campus Expansion Project.
The city decided that an assessment to evaluate the project’s environmental impact was not necessary and violated state and federal laws by failing to apply for construction permits with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, the suit said.
“The Hiawatha Expansion Project is likely to cause pollution in an already polluted neighborhood and will likely be detrimental to the public health, safety, and welfare of those living in the East Phillips neighborhood,” according to the suit.
The city could not immediately be reached for comment.
The city’s actions violate the Minnesota Environmental Policy Act, the Minnesota Environmental Rights Act and the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guaranteeing the right to due process, the suit alleged.
The group is asking a judge to stop work on the project and order the city to complete an environmental assessment and environmental impact statement.
“Once these are done by an independent and honest source, I am confident [the project] will be prohibited,” said the group’s attorney, Elizabeth Royal.
The group had hoped to build low-income housing and a community center, an urban farm and job training center on the site.
According to the suit: The city’s project calls for relocating its public works and other services to a site west of Hiawatha Avenue at Longfellow Avenue and E. 28th Street.
The approximately 16.6-acre site is part of south Minneapolis’ “Arsenic Triangle” that was contaminated years ago by a pesticide plant. It would host a fleet of 100 commercial vehicles and include at least seven buildings, among other features.
It would draw about 400 workers’ vehicles.
The suit said the project and site would create air pollution impacting a neighborhood that is 83% people of color, including the country’s largest urban Native American population located at Little Earth of the United Tribes Community, and the black, Somali and Latino communities.