Lawsuit filed to stop Cortland and Chicago River TIF and more


Attorney Aneel Chablani explained the lawsuite

A lawsuit to halt the creation of the Cortland and Chicago River TIF (Tax Increment Financing) district, much of which is for Sterling Bay's Lincoln Yards, was filed in the Circuit Court of Cook County today against the City of Chicago by Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights on behalf of Grassroots Collaborative and Raise Your Hand for Illinois Public Education. 

In addition, the suit argues that the City’s racially and ethnically discriminatory administration of the TIF system has disproportionately benefited areas in majority-White census tracts to the detriment of areas in majority-African American and majority-Hispanic census tracts.

The specific ask in the 58-page document is to have the court:

A. Declare that Defendant City of Chicago violated: (i) the Illinois Civil Rights Act and (ii) the Tax Increment Allocation Redevelopment Act in the administration of its Tax Increment Financing system.

B. Enter an order that declares the ordinances adopting the Cortland and Chicago River Redevelopment Project Area, the Cortland and Chicago River Redevelopment Plan, and the allocation of the Tax Increment Allocation Financing for the Cortland and Chicago River Redevelopment Project Area invalid and that temporarily enjoins any activity that would further the Redevelopment Plan for the Cortland and Chicago River TIF District;

C. Enter an order enjoining the City of Chicago from the designation of new Tax Increment Financing districts until reforms are made to ensure compliance with the Tax Increment Allocation Redevelopment Act and eliminate its discriminatory effects under the Illinois Civil Rights Act;

D. Award all available monetary damages to plaintiffs;

E. Order the City of Chicago to pay plaintiffs’ reasonable attorney’s fees and expenses, including expert costs; and

F. Order all other appropriate relief as the interests of justice may require. 


Pastor Marshall Hatch

Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights' Attorney Aneel Chablani, explained, “The complaint filed this morning is a systemic challenge to Chicago’s administration of the TIF system. It challenges not only the creation of the Cortland and Chicago River TIF district, but the manner in which Chicago uses the TIF system to benefit areas of the city not intended by the statute and by doing so negatively affects low-income communities of color and the very neighborhoods that were intended to be aided through the use of TIF funds. This lawsuit seeks to repeal the creation of the Cortland and Chicago River TIF District, and to force the City to reform its TIF process to be fair, lawful, and nondiscriminatory.”

“Clearly make no mistake about it," said Pastor Marshall Hatch, New Mt Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church in West Garfield Park, "how we deal with TIFs going forward will determine whether or not we can expect a new day in the city, or whether we can get the same old same old tale of two cities. We are misusing the spirit and the purpose of TIF funds. This lawsuit will highlight the racial underpinnings of the way TIF funds are used to disinvest in some communities and invest in others.”


Amisha Patel

"Grassroots Collaborative has been working on TIF reform for over a decade. We have seen firsthand the racial inequality that TIFs have created. Immediate action is required to bring the TIF program back in line and ensure that our property tax dollars are spent equitably,” stated Amisha Patel, Executive Director of Grassroots Collaborative. “The people are left to do what the politicians won’t."

She went on to say that it is not ok to have the increased taxes put into the TIF to be used by the developer while the schools, parks and libraries are deprived of the higher taxes collected.


Joy Clendenning

Raise Your Hand for Illinois Public Education's Joy Clendenning added, “Chicago Public School parents, on the ground in their children’s schools and in their neighborhoods, bear the detrimental effect of the misuse of TIFs as we experience our under-resourced schools, libraries, and parks and especially as we witness and experience the disparate impact on Black and Brown communities throughout Chicago. We stand ready, to once again call out this racist abuse of the TIF program, and seek legal recourse to remedy for this miscarriage of justice.”

The district covers the 165-acre North Branch Industrial Corridor between North, Webster and Clybourn Avenues and the Kennedy Expressway. Sterling Bay's Lincoln Yards portion is approximately 55 acres, though Sterling Bay owns more land in the district that is not part of Lincoln Yards project.

Both Lincoln Yards and the $1.3 billion TIF approved for Lincoln Yards have been approved by Chicago's City Council, despite much opposition by various organizations and residents. The TIF was approved on April 10, during Rahm Emanuel's last City Council meeting as Mayor.

More Background: Development the "Chicago way": Sterling Bay/Lincoln YardsLincoln Yards project keeps changing on way to Thursday's zoning committee meeting



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