Tuesday, August 02, 2005

The LSRC on Praxair

While at the Carpenter Branch Library on South Grand Blvd. this morning, I picked up a copy of the August issue of the Marquis, whose tagline is "Founded by the residents of Lafayette Square."

Originally the newsletter for the Lafayette Square Restoration Committee, it now proclaims itself "the voice of St. Louis' strong near southside neighborhood groups, serving Benton Park, Compton Heights, Fox Park, Gate District, Lafayette Park, LaSalle Park, McKinley Heights and Tiffany neighborhoods." It is published by the Virginia Publishing Co., publishers of the West End Word.

The Marquis is not currently available online.

Anyway, although they now have lots of ads and some stories about the other neighborhoods, including the newly christened Shenandoah Crossings business district (Shenandoah from Grand to Jefferson, including Tanner B's, Shugga's, etc.), it is still primarily about the Square. So it's not surprising a commentary on the Praxair explosion was above the fold on the front cover, by Jim Willmore, LSRC President.

Here are some excerpts:

"...While communities by their very nature experience challenges, seldom does a neighborhood come close to catastrophe, as was experienced by Lafayette Square."

"...Was there a relationship between the neighborhood and this community? (Under their prior name of Union Carbide, were they communicating with the community in Bhopal?) How did this industrial site move from handling inert gases to processing volumes of flammable and toxic materials into tanks for transport around the city?"

"I think that the free pass that we have given to Praxair is over."

"...Our mayor and our alderman must be congratulated. They were clear from the onset of this disaster and we as a neighborhood are clear as well. Praxair must move."

Strong stuff, indeed.

My response: Comparing this incident to the horrors of Bhopal is, to me, akin to Durbin comparing Gitmo abuses to the Holocaust. It's kind of like a straw man argument, except this kind of analogy seems to diminish the impact of the incident being referenced.

An explosion that killed no one, but certainly caused extensive property damage, is not at all comparable to a massive gas leak that killed at least 3,000 people.

Also, while I agree that Praxair should no longer have its operations within such close proximity to residences, I also think Airgas Mid-America should relocate from its location adjacent to the Grand MetroLink station.

See my previous post on this topic.

What really brought it home: this morning, while reading the Marquis on the #70 Grand bus, I saw an open flatbed truck from Airgas loaded with tanks, including several large tanks clearly marked as nitrogen. While those may not be as dangerous, several other tanks were marked flammable as well. This was on Grand at Chouteau.

While I realize such hazardous materials are routinely driven around the city, particularly to and from the major medical centers and other industrial facilities, I sure don't relish the thought of being nearby when something like that explodes.

Our city is changing. It is time to realize that some kinds of industrial operations are not compatible with certain other uses, such as:

--Public Transit facilities
--Residential areas

We need to think more carefully about land use and zoning in the City of St. Louis. While I support mixed-use, in general, when talking about residential and retail or even most office uses in close proximity, industry is a wholly different matter.

It is unrealistic and unreasonable to completely eliminate industrial operations from the city. However, they shouldn't be thisclose to houses or MetroLink stations.

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