EAST CHICAGO | A petition is circulating in the Marktown neighborhood speaking out against BP's interest in buying property in the area east of the Whiting Refinery from willing sellers.
About 60 residents gathered Wednesday night at the Marktown Community Center to gauge reaction to BP's plans. Kimberly Rodriguez, the meeting's leader and a Marktown resident, said she intends to fight the purchase of homes and told residents the historical community is once again “at a point of crisis.”
“I think as a community we need to consider moving forward with historic preservation because that's going to help keep us here,” Rodriguez said. “All I can ask is that we stand together, because when someone mails a letter or you get a bill it doesn't come to Marktown, Indiana, it comes to East Chicago, Indiana. Whether other people like it or not, we are East Chicago, and I think we need to stand united."
A BP spokesman confirmed to The Times the company is exploring the potential of buying property in Marktown and would work with interested sellers, similar to its purchases in Whiting. BP is in the process of identifying property owners who live in Marktown and will begin reaching out to property owners in the near future to speak with them individually, said Tom Keilman, local BP spokesman.
East Chicago City Councilman Rosendo Cuevas, D-5th, said Wednesday's meeting was to gather the consensus of the community, and he asked residents to raise their hands if they wanted to stay in Marktown.
“Gathering the people here tonight is what we want to see — the unity,” Cuevas said. “We want to get united. If you guys believe in living in here or believe in doing something different, we got to get together to find out what's best for the community.”
The petition calls on the city to implement the Marktown Revitalization Plan drafted in 2008 and for the city and surrounding industry to help the community restore its architectural heritage.
While BP intends to work with willing sellers, Marktown resident Raquel Ordaz said she worries if residents begin parting with their homes, it will impact those who want to stay.
“I have a feeling eventually they are going to make us all (move),” Ordaz said. “That's my opinion, that's what I feel like, eventually that's the goal. Eventually if one family says yes, they are going to start like making us.”