CHICAGO — Norfolk Southern Railway Company held a meeting Tuesday night at Kennedy King College to discuss railyard expansion with Englewood residents.

“To modernize a legacy railyard,” said Herbert Smith of Norfolk Southern Railway. “It takes a lot of investment, and it takes the need.”

Since 2013, the rail company has bought land south of its railyard, using eminent domain to purchase and demolish homes to make way for its expansion.

Under former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel, the City sold over 100 lots to the company for $1.1 million. Current Mayor Lori Lightfoot also supports the expansion, saying it would benefit minority and female-owned businesses.

Alderwoman Jeannette Taylor (20th Ward) has pushed back against the ordinance. She said she is concerned about the environmental impact to residents, the quality of contracts received by minority owned businesses and what she’s recently witnessed at the home of the last family to hold out against Norfolk Southern’s expansion.

“I was there the day they literally brought a moving truck, a bulldozer and cops to move that family out,” Ald. Taylor said. “It says who they are as a railroad, how disrespectful it is. A lot of those families only received $30,000 for their homes.”

The family Ald. Taylor mentioned was evicted after not cooperating with Norfolk Southern, which acquired the title to the house in 2017.

Norfolk Southern issued the following statement regarding the eviction of the family who previously lived in the home:

After exhaustive attempts to reach a voluntary deal with Ms. Edwards, NS was forced to resort to the use of eminent domain under Illinois law. Pursuant to that process, we acquired title to the property in 2017. The court order included benefits to Ms. Edwards, including moving assistance, in an amount of more than $200,000. Over the next four years, however, Ms. Edwards simply refused to access those benefits, refused to engage in dialogue with us on trying to reach a peaceful resolution, and otherwise refused to vacate the property despite the order. Filing for eviction was a last, and unfortunate, resort necessary for us to acquire possession of the property that we then owned, one that followed 10 years of trying to work directly with the Edwards family, and efforts that included attempts at outreach from relocation consultants, community activists, elected officials, and court-appointed advocates with Chicago Volunteer Legal Services.

Connor Spielmaker – Norfolk Southern Railway Company