The Chicago Park District board of directors has voted unanimously to proceed with demolition of Chicago Meigs Field. The board, all appointees of mayor Richard Daley, refused to defer the decision even a few weeks to allow the Friends of Meigs Field to present a plan that would reopen the airport as a combined park and airport.
Richard M. Daley
A bill moving through Congress that would dramatically expand Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD) would also protect tiny Meigs Field (CGX) for the next quarter century. But opposition to the proposal to add runways at O’Hare and build an entirely new airport at Peotone, Ill., could scuttle the deal.
Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, a veteran of the bare-knuckle school of politics, is defiantly defending his destruction of Meigs Field last year despite threats from the FAA to fine the city $33,000 for closing the lakefront airport and another $4.5 million for illegally diverting revenues from O’Hare to pay for closing the downtown airport.
The destruction of Meigs Field’s runway is viewed by enraged aviation interests as an act of vandalism to a public facility that would have landed any other citizen of Chicago in jail. Such is the power of politics in the Second City, however, that Mayor Richard Daley Jr. continues to walk free, plotting with his lawyers.
It has been more than a month since Chicago mayor Richard Daley’s midnight raid on the city’s lakefront airport, Meigs Field. By now, the story of the runway’s actual destruction is widely known. Reactions have been pouring in from groups as diverse as NBAA, the Experimental Aircraft Association and the National Air Traffic Controllers’ Association.
A pair of lawsuits against Mayor Daley and the city of Chicago are working their separate paths through state and federal courts, and legislation has been introduced in the Illinois state Senate to expand O’Hare Airport. Meigs supporters are rallying to try to have language attached to that legislation requiring preservation of the lakeside airport, as was done in the ill-fated 2001 agreement between Mayor Daley and then-governor George Ryan.
On the first Saturday in February, despite record warmth, only two bicyclists and a Chicago police car took to the sloshy paths at what used to be Meigs Field. The former GA airport has been reincarnated as Northerly Island, a wildlife grounds. The former terminal houses exhibits on flowers, birds and a poster of Northerly from 1931. There is no mention, inside or out, that an airport occupied the site.