The City of Chicago
and Chicago Park District closed downtown commuter airport Meigs
Field March 30 in an overnight operation, citing homeland security
as the main motivation for the swift action. Demolition equipment
operated by a local general contractor rolled into the 55-year-old
airfield shortly before midnight and began tearing up its 3,899-ft-long
runway with a series of large "X" gouges in the asphalt,
preventing small planes from taking off or landing.
"We did it
for public safety," says Mayor Richard M. Daley, whose
action has been called "one of the boldest moves in the
mayor's career." No public notice had been given.
Nine days earlier,
The Federal Aviation Administration and the Dept. of Homeland
Security had implemented a temporary flight restriction banning
planes from flying over the city's downtown area. Daley and
city emergency management officials claim that private aircraft
flying to and from Meigs Field, although just outside the
downtown perimeter, were still posing a security threat to
nearby buildings. "We are not going to allow an airport
to operate for a few people at the expense of a larger number
of people," says Cortez Trotter, the Chicago's emergency
City aviation officials
decline to say which local contracting firm had been retained
to perform the demolition, which reportedly cost roughly $175,000.
But a spokeswoman with the city's procurement services department
says the office is not aware of any specific contracts used
for the runway work. Rather, she says the job was most likely
an extension of an existing aviation maintenance contract
held with the city.
groups believe the runway's demolition is the beginning of
a new civil engineering project to further improve public
lakefront property. "It's a complete smokescreen. Daley's
been trying to close Meigs Field for years to turn it into
a park," says Steve Whitney, board member of Friends
of Meigs Field.
"Yes, I do want a park at
Meigs Field," says Daley, confirming his support for
such a plan but not commenting further.