Eastwick Residents Make Their Voices Heard

Crowds gather for City Council hearing on Eastwick Flooding Problems

Crowd gathers for City Council hearing on Eastwick Flooding Problems (Photo: Karen Pilling)

Yesterday a crowd of  over one hundred Eastwick residents and supporters gathered at City Hall to testify to rampant flooding and toxic run-off from Super Fund sites, something that they say has gone on way too long.

The hearing was held by City Councilman Kenyatta Johnson.  Also in attendance were Councilman-At-Large James Kenney, Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown and  Representative Maria Donatucci. Testifying at the hearing were Deputy Mayor Rina Cutler and Water Commissioner, Howard Neukrug, subject matter experts and a dozen residents of  the Eastwick community.

Deputy Mayor Rina Cutler’s testimony was in stark contrast to neighbors’ assertions that storm drainage is in poor condition throughout the community. According to Mike Dunn, reporting for CBS Philly,  Deputy Mayor Cutler essentially blamed the constant flooding in Eastwick on “Mother Nature — and on the residents themselves.

Following testimony by the city, experts in geology, the environment, urban planning and civil, architectural and environmental engineering painted a very different picture, that in fact, the Korman development will put current and future residents at risk physically and financially.

Eastwick Development "Equals" More Flooding!

Many in the audience held up homemade signs of protest.
Photo: Karen Pilling

Richard Nalbandian, consulting geologist and environmental planner at M. R. Nalbandian and Associates testified that “flood hazards in the Eastwick area, particularly in the area south of 86th Street, are significantly understated by the existing FEMA floodplain maps. ”

Michael Nairn, a lecturer of Urban Studies Program, University of Pennsylvania, described the Eastwick neighborhood as “disenfranchised and impacted disproportionately to flooding by sea level rising, increased storms, toxic releases in the ground.”

Franco Montalto, P.E. Ph.D. Assistant Professor, Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering department at Drexel University and Director, Sustainable Water Resources Engineering Laboratory at Drexel suggested that the Korman Company who is proposing a 35 acre development, will need to perform a number of studies, including a drainage, water quality and channel protection studies in order to assure residents of the development’s suggested negligible impact on current flooding conditions .

Fred Stine, Citizen Action Coordinator, Delaware Riverkeeper Network provided  environmental arguments, testifying on behalf of 11 environmental agencies, including the Clean Air Council, Clean Water Action, Friends of the Heinz Refuge and the Philadelphia Parks Alliance. According to Stine, the flooding in Eastwick  is caused by inadequate infrastructure and improper land development within the floodplain. But the environmental concerns are not the only issue. One must look at the flooding, Stine said, through the “context of the myriad environmental hazards that burden the area disproportionate to other parts of the city.”

Then, it was time for the Eastwick residents to have their say.

One by one,  Eastwick residents spoke of flooding in their homes; some referenced toxic releases from Super Fund sites and more. Resident Jill Minick articulated all the benefits that were promised to her when she bought her home on 84th Street in 1979, contrasted with today’s reality – an impromptu backyard swimming pool each time it rains, and a sinking street that impedes water runoff.

Stand Up For Eastwick!

Neighbors stand up for Eastwick!
(Photo: Hannah Pilling)

Over a dozen Eastwick residents testified about their personal experiences with flooding in the community.  Lifelong resident Terry Williams set the tone with eloquent, compelling statements about the vibrant community of Eastwick in the 1950’s before the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority forced 10,000 residents out of their homes.  He recalled playing in the woods of what is now Heinz Refuge and asked City Council to imagine life as an Eastwick resident, to “walk a mile in my shoes…” and to do the right thing.

Another resident added, “Our flooding issues are in plain view if you are interested in knowing.”

Attorney Amy Laura Cahn, from the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia, testifying on behalf of the Eastwick Friends and Neighbors Coalition insisted that current flooding problems must be addressed before new development can be considered,  adding that the community would support varied types of  housing with green spaces,  if it could provide input during the planning and implementation.

Decisions on how to solve the flooding problem and on the proposed development by Korman Company are still uncertain. PlanPhilly, offers an in-depth account of yesterday’s hearing. Within the article,  Councilman Johnson appears on record, in a video, stating that the bills are not moving forward anytime soon.  Eastwick residents who want to preserve their homes and improve their quality of life are counting on it.

Related Articles:

Eastwick Residents Say City of Phila. Failing To Control Flooding in Neighborhood by Mike Dunn (CBS Philly) – October 9, 2012

City says feds need to build earthen berm to provide flooding relief in Eastwick, and 722 apartments won’t make it worse by Kellie Patrick Gates (PlanPhilly) – October 9, 2012

Eastwick residents bringing concerns over chronic floods to City Council by Carolyn Beeler (NewsWorks) – October 8, 2012

Eastwick Flooding Victims Head to City Hall posted by Samantha Melamed, Philadelphia City Paper – October 8, 2012

The Riches of Eastwick by Liz Pacheco for Grid Magazine – September 7, 2012
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1 Comment

  1. It was great to see the neighbors get the chance to tell their stories and to hear the contrast between expert testimony and the testimony of Deputy Mayor Rina Cutler and Water Commissioner Howard Neukrug.


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