December 6, 2015 |
PAT WALDER, who has lived on her East Kensington block for 50 years, was delighted when the Arcadia Commons community association bought two vacant lots last year, removed the trash, built concrete raised garden beds and created a green mini-park for neighborhood families. But last month, Walder woke up one morning to discover that a developer, excavating a foundation on the adjacent lot, had crossed the property line, dug deep into Arcadia Commons, undermined one of its raised concrete garden beds and left that bed half-suspended over the edge of the pit. Walder, 70, who has "watched over my neighborhood for decades," was angry that an illegal excavation turned the kids' park on Kern Street near Huntingdon into a kids' hazard.
June 26, 2015 |
IT WAS 2011. Outside City Hall were rows of tents where many flavors of political persuasion could be found - anarchists, communists, Democratic socialists, libertarians. This was Occupy Philadelphia, or, as Dusty Hinz remembers it, a "great coming-out party for the general left. " Amid the monthslong protests, a splinter group of twentysomethings formed with a plan to sustain the protests' energy in a way that would bring real change to city neighborhoods. Dubbed Occupy Vacant Land, the group of guerrilla gardeners squatted on dozens of vacant, garbage-strewn properties.
April 27, 2015 |
A chilly Saturday did little to stop the march of progress at Bryn Gweled Homesteads in Upper Southampton. There was a crowd at the tai chi class in the community center. Upstairs, Bill Dockhorn, his wife, Carol Wengert, and Jerry Smith sifted through 75 years of documents. Bart DeCorte worked in the community garden. Louise Kidder was off to her kitchen to make sourdough bread to be served later with jam made from the 60 quarts of blueberries her husband, Bob, picks each year in their yard.
January 10, 2015 |
Nic Esposito is at once a romantic and a realist, and both inform his passions: farming, telling stories, and advocating for fresh, local food for all. Now, with Kensington Homestead , his second book and first attempt at nonfiction, Esposito, 32, is emerging as a literary voice for the wildly vibrant farm community in Philadelphia. His 14-essay collection chronicles the joys and frustrations of growing crops in uber-urban East Kensington, where the forces of gentrification press relentlessly through the swirl of entrenched poverty.
October 25, 2014 |
Four decades after settling in West Philadelphia, John Lindsay still speaks bluntly in the Yankee rhythms of his native Boston. After he got wind that a developer was eyeing his community garden at Powelton Avenue and Wiota Street, Lindsay responded by erecting a small billboard under one of his ornamental pear trees. "Jannie Blackwell wants 12 houses built here," it declares. For good measure, he includes a link to his "Save the Wiota St. Garden" Facebook page. The story is a bit more complex than his message suggests, but there is no doubt Lindsay's sign calling out Blackwell, West Philadelphia's powerful Council rep, distills the painful choice being confronted by comeback neighborhoods around the city: gardens or housing?
October 5, 2014 |
Tears trickled from Rashida Ali-Campbell's eyes Friday morning as she watched volunteers turn old tires and empty beer cans into a haven for the have-nots in her West Philadelphia neighborhood. "Have you ever wanted something so much?" she asked. "So many people are helping make this dream come true. This is what I have prayed for. " Tires stuffed with hundreds of pounds of dirt will form walls. Old oven doors will serve as roof shingles. When she is done with what used to be a warehouse at 675 N. 41st Street, it will be a studio with a garden adorned with fruit trees and vegetables.
July 11, 2014 |
Among the favorite tokens that the Rev. William "Jud" Weiksnar will take with him from his time in Camden is a collage of a small girl standing atop a mound of grass, created with shattered glass and litter cleared from Von Nieda Park. The "trash art" was one of the few remaining items in Weiksnar's parish office Tuesday as he packed up to move after nine years as pastor of St. Anthony of Padua Church. The image, created seven years ago by then-third grade student Soledad Velazquez, shows the girl and a godlike figure holding hands beneath an apple tree.
June 2, 2014 |
It was a grand and glorious funeral, one that drew hundreds of people onto the streets to honor not a person but a house. There were tears, more than a couple. But also joy, and music and memories, all in celebration of 3711 Melon Street in West Philadelphia. The house began life 142 years ago as a stack of bricks and lumber, and was set to end it on Saturday as a dusty pile of the same, after a ritual demolition. The empty, abandoned home, its roof failing and back wall bulging, was the centerpiece of "Funeral for a Home," an arts project that paid tribute to one home as a way to recognize them all - in a city where demolitions have become commonplace.
April 28, 2014 |
TILLING THE SOIL at a new community garden for Bhutanese refugees in Northeast Philadelphia yesterday, Meena Dhimal smiled as she raked the land. She said she would grow hot chile peppers and potatoes. Dhimal, 27, and several other Bhutanese refugees of Nepali descent broke ground yesterday at a new community garden - a project of HIAS (Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society) Pennsylvania - on the property of All Saints Episcopal Church, at Loney and Frontenac streets in Rhawnhurst. "This is really an opportunity for them to bring their home culture to their new lives here in Philadelphia" said Sarah Amazeen, director of refugee programming and planning at HIAS, one of Philadelphia's three refugee-resettlement agencies.
April 21, 2014 |
Usually when neighbors and developers lock horns over a project design, things turn ugly and stay ugly. There's a happier ending for One Riverside, a high-rise that Carl Dranoff plans to build on the Schuylkill next to the popular riverfront trail. First proposed last summer, the project at 25th and Locust has undergone a major redesign at the insistence of neighbors, who bitterly objected to the design - and even to the tower's very existence. Now the blank walls on the ground floor are gone.