Success at City Council Hearing

Eastwick Hails Success at City Council Hearing on June 12, 2012

The Eastwick Friends & Neighbors Coalition is pleased to announce that on June 12, 2012, Councilman Kenyatta Johnson tabled the proposed rezoning bill that would’ve given the Korman Company the green light to proceed with constructing 722 rental apartment units on 35 acres of green space in Eastwick, adjacent to John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge.

Councilman Kenyatta Johnson At Eastwick Hearing

Councilman Kenyatta Johnson wants Korman Residential to ease concerns over its building site that’s partially in a flood zone. Photo courtesy of Philly.com, AKIRA SUWA / Staff Photographer

Councilman Johnson was persuaded to this action by more than 100 community residents and Heinz Refuge supporters who attended the City Council Rules Committee Hearing at City Hall on June 12, 2012, to express opposition to Bill #120418.  Attendees waited patiently all day to present over 3 hours of testimony, including significant discussion about the lack of community input, flooding and environmental concerns, and linkage between the Korman proposal and a settlement agreement allowing the City to take undeveloped acreage in Eastwick for unspecified use by the Airport.  The Coalition submitted a Petition to Council signed by 404 residents opposed to the Korman proposal to build 722 rental apartment units with 1,034 parking spaces on 35 acres of land.

Over two dozen people testified for the Coalition, including Eastwick homeowners, Sierra Club Philadelphia, Delaware Riverkeeper, Clear Air Council, Friends of Heinz Refuge, Pennsylvania Young Birders, ornithological experts, flooding engineers and more.  At the end of the testimony, Councilman Johnson decided to withdraw the bill to allow for more community input.

This success was the result of many long hours of research, organization and meetings by the coalition, engaging with community residents and Refuge supporters to mobilize behind a clear, concise message, “pull the bill, to allow time for the community to be equitably engaged in the process.”  The attendant community offered compelling, articulate reasons for opposition to the development, including significant flooding concerns, loss of critical wildlife habitat, and lack of community engagement in the project planning process.

Councilman Johnson’s decision to table the rezoning bill provides time for the Coalition to develop a strategy and vision for the future of the Eastwick green space.

The Eastwick Friends & Neighbors Coalition, the Friends of Heinz Refuge, and Heinz Refuge manager Gary Stolz extends heartfelt thanks and appreciation to everyone who sat for long hours in City Hall on June 12, expressed firm opposition to the development proposal, and gave verbal testimony outlining concerns. Such unified strength, dedication and determination was responsibile for saving “Tinicum Marsh” 40 years ago, and can save the valuable Eastwick green space under attack now!

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Compelling Reasons Not to Develop

Join the Eastwick Friends & Neighbors Coalition in Opposing Development!

Rendering of proposed Korman development

An artist’s rendering of the site of the planned 735 apartment complex in Southwest Philadelphia. (Credit: Pennoni Associates)

This project would add insult to the injuries inflicted on the Eastwick community decades ago, when the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority raided the peacefully-integrated, middle class neighborhood of Eastwick, and forced 10,000 residents to sell their homes at below-market prices, to make way for “more homes.”  Most houses were razed, land was cleared, and some new streets were built.  Korman developers were given a right to build up until 2015, but the new homes were never built as promised.  Korman constructed some homes and an apartment complex.  The remaining 100+ acres has reverted to diverse vegetation and habitat for wildlife.

Development of this magnitude – 722 apartments and 1034 parking spaces in 35 acres – would significantly expand impervious surfaces, leaving little choice for stormwater runoff, except to flood surrounding areas even more than existing conditions.

This deal robs the Eastwick community of the right it was promised for a major say in determining its future – –

Members of the Eastwick Firnds & Neighbors Coalitions

Members of the Eastwick Friends & Neighbors Coalition: (left to right) Mariatu Kalokoh, Monique Holland, Debbie Beers and Carol Simmons. (Photo by Emily Wren for Grid Magazine)

An agreement was reached between the Eastwick residents and the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority in the early 1960’s that the community would be consulted on new development plans.  Eastwick residents have been kept in the dark about the plans Councilman Kenyatta Johnson and Korman have collaborated on for a large-scale apartment development and the associated zoning change from single family to rental apartments

Saw Whet Owl as seen at the John Heinz Wildlife Refuge at Tinnicum Marsh

Saw Whet Owl seen during a bird walk at John Heinz Wildlife Refuge at Tinnicum Marsh in the Eastwick neighborhood. The refuge hosts thousands of wintering ducks and geese.a good variety of birds and deer, fox and other creatures, all threatened by prosed residential development.

The plan for this prime parcel of open land would deprive the Eastwick community and the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge of valuable environmental benefits — in greenspace, stormwater retention and flood storage, and habitat for wildlife

Eastwick residents, surrounded by massive amounts of paving and intensive land use, greatly value the oasis of greenspace on this site.  The “Eastwick green space” includes forested wetlands, one of the fastest-declining habitat types in North America. The Eastwick green space has been subject to bird surveys consistently and annually since the mid-1980s, including the long-running Christmas Bird Count, PA Migration Count, Philadelphia Mid-Winter Census, Bald Eagle and Rusty Blackbird surveys, annual frog survey, etc.  Species of special concern have been documented at the Eastwick green space, including Cerulean Warbler, Wood Thrush, American Woodcock, Rough-legged Hawk, Palm Warblers, Ring-necked Pheasants, Southern Leopard Frogs and more.

Replacing the Eastwick green space with intensive development will further concentrate stormwater runoff and its pollutants, undermining the habitat quality in and near the Heinz Refuge.

John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum
86th and Lindbergh Blvd. Philadelphia PA 19153
(215) 365-3118
www.heinz.fws.gov

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