Chicago gas station owners say city inspectors shut them down for minor infringement and “racist reasons”

Owners of gas stations and convenience stores throughout Chicago are calling on the city council to investigate the mass closure of their alleged business as part of Mayor Lorilightfoot’s strategy to reduce violence.

At a press conference earlier this week, about 15 owners gathered at a closed Falcon fuel station in the Lightwood district of the South Side. They claimed that more than 25 gas station owners were cited for minor building breaches and were closed by the city, saying the closure cost them thousands of dollars.

“Every time they come, they have different reasons,” says 8950 S. Ashland Ave on the South Side. Mohsin Omer, a gas station manager whose brothers own an Amstar gas station in Tokyo, said. “They are just looking for a reason (to shut us down).” The city’s building bureau installed a microwave next to the coffee maker, changed the bathroom pipes from plastic to metal, and He said that some of the reasons for the shutdown were the need to extend the drywall.

“Some are rational, but some don’t make sense,” Omer said. He added that the city visited his business three times. After he had almost finished fixing the first series of violations, they came back and gave him more to fix, including extending drywall throughout the building.

The closure was part of Lightfoot’s efforts to discourage gang members from gathering in the area where the store is located, according to a release announcing a press conference on Monday, according to Hassan Nigem, chairman of the Arab Chamber of Commerce in the United States. I believe there is.

Store owners also claim that Lightfoot specifically targets Arab-American and Muslim store owners “for racist reasons,” Nigem said. The mayor’s office provided the following statement issued by the Housing and Architecture Bureau, adding that the petrol station owner’s complaint was alleged.

“The city has worked closely with gas station owners to ensure compliance with city ordinances,” the statement said. “Two weeks ago, the Deputy Mayor, several senior division leaders from the Department of Architecture, Commerce and Consumer Protection, and the Chicago Police hosted a roundtable of just these businesses, as a follow-up to the demands of business owners. , The city provides companies with a business liaison team and code checklist and is committed to active compliance. “

Aldo. Raymond Lopez, 15th, said on Monday that inspections and closures appear to be part of Lightfoot’s efforts to combat crime.Frequent Lopez In conflict Together with the mayor, he added that he had contacted many of his colleagues about concerns about the closure of gas station owners.

“We guarantee that this will be pursued by the Housing and Architecture Bureau and the Police Department. If we do not get the answer we want, we will introduce a resolution seeking hearing on this issue,” Lopez said. rice field.

Falcon Fuel manager Aysar Abushanab said inspectors came on July 23 and closed the station due to five safety breaches. Non-waterproof fixtures and accessories in the cooler; problems with emergency gas pumps that are at risk of electric shock and require permission to repair. There is no carbon monoxide detector and fire extinguisher. A passage that is too narrow. Due to these breaches, inspectors report that the building “poses an imminent danger and constitutes an imminent threat to the general public.”

Mr Abshanab cited the difficulty of navigating the bureaucracy and reopening the store, but he says it is still closed. “(I) sent an email and made a phone call, but no one answered,” he said.

Some of the gas station owners we talked about at the press conference have gas stations all on the South Side of Washington Park, Stoney Island, Lightwood, and Brainerd.

Many gas stations are located in areas with high crime rates. In Police District 22, where Omer’s gas station is located, there were 74 shootings between 2021 and September 6. There were 101 shootings in Police District 8 where a press conference was held in Falcongas.

According to the owner, some stores have been closed for up to two months. They said many of the tests were done on Friday and they couldn’t come to an electrician or other company to contract to deal with the breach until the next business day after Monday.

Others, including Mohammed Abdullah, who supplies gas to Falcon fuel and owns three stations, claimed that inspectors had already seemed to have decided to close the store. Other owners, like Omer, said they would process the list of violations and the inspector would return to provide a new list of violations.

according to Building Standard Law Enforcement Process Listed on the Housing and Architecture Bureau Website, There are three levels of building code violations.

20 notifications. This includes violations when maintenance is required and when the store owner receives a warning notification. 50 notifications. This includes violations that are not considered dangerous and lead to administrative hearings. And 80 notices are threats, including “dangerous and dangerous” violations, and are brought to the Circuit Court.

Documents provided by Omer show that court action has been taken against gas stations, with nine of the 33 gas station violations listed labeled as dangerous and dangerous. I am.

When it comes to fixing and resuming violations, the shopkeeper added that the process is daunting and full of bureaucracy that delays resumption. This can range from having to wait for permission to fix some of the breaches, having difficulty finding a contractor on the weekends, to not being able to answer the phone. According to city documents received by Omer, the time to call the local supervisor for questions is limited to 9:30 am to 11:30 am.

“Some companies have been in business for over 20 years, and perhaps even more,” Nijem said. “We want to know what’s happening and why they’re doing this.”

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