EFNC Draws Crowd at Community Meeting, Distributes Assessment Survey

More than 100 people turned out for a Public Community Meeting on  Tuesday evening, June 25, 2013, filling a room at the Eastwick Mercy Wellness Center in southwest Philadelphia.  The Eastwick Friends & Neighbors Coalition (EFNC) presented a packed agenda, providing updates on key issues that impact community residents and stakeholders.

An Eastwick Community Assessment was distributed for people to complete.  All Eastwick residents, business-owners, and stakeholders are urged to complete and submit; click here to download Assessment.  Scan completed copy and email to EastwickFNC@gmail.com, or snail-mail to EFNC, P.O. Box 16985, Phila PA 19142.

EFNC first came together a year ago to oppose construction of 722 apartments in 51 two-story buildings, on a 35-acre parcel abutting John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge and 87th Street residential homes.  In January 2013, EFNC ratified its bylaws, and became a Registered Community Organization (RCO) with the Philadelphia City Planning Commission.

EFNC has been working hard to identify and understand issues that affect the environmental, economic and social health of our community, including John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge.  The list is extensive, as Eastwick is challenged by ongoing flooding, a superfund site comprised of 2 landfills, toxic emissions from mega-highways and oil refineries, jet fuel dumping from planes landing in nearby Philadelphia Airport, industrial noise and air pollution, closing of Pepper Middle School and Comm Tech High School, and weak local economy.  These disproportionate environmental and social burdens mirror historical community disenfranchisement, beginning decades ago when 2,500 acres were seized  and nearly 10,000 residents displaced in an ill-fated urban renewal plan that destroyed the social fabric of Eastwick.

EFNC President Terry Williams moderated the two-hour meeting, introducing more than a dozen EFNC leaders and representatives from key local and national agencies.  The audience was highly attentive, showing positive spirit and community commitment.

EFNC Vice President Ramona Rousseau-Reid stressed the need for local residents and business owners to get involved in the issues, bring friends to meetings, and stand up for Eastwick’s future.  EFNC Board Director Joanne Graham spoke about localized and chronic flooding in Eastwick – the issue that galvanized organization and garnered support and action from Philadelphia elected officials and agencies.  Joanne introduced 3 representatives from FEMA, who spoke about FEMA’s role in flood plains and flood insurance.  FEMA Rep Dave Bollinger urged people not to buy flood insurance from mortgage companies, who charge higher rates through brokers; he suggested buying directly from main insurance carriers.

Michael Nairn, Professor of Urban Studies at University of Pennsylvania, asked everyone to “aim high, produce bold new ideas” in regards to the best use of the 128-acre parcel at stake, and crafting future vision of Eastwick.  “Our priorities are clear, to protect residents from harm, increase amenities, save the environment.”  The City of Philadelphia and Army Corps of Engineers has a draft proposal to build a levee on Cobbs Creek near the planet-named streets [Saturn Place, etc.], to mitigate flooding from those severely-impacted areas.  EFNC cautions this approach, as it might simply move the flooding problem downstream to Heinz Refuge and Tinicum Township.

Josh Barber and Larry Brown were on-hand from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), commenting briefly on status of  Clearview and Folcroft Landfills superfund remediation options.  Josh invited all to attend an EPA meeting on July 18, 6:00-8:00 pm, at John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge, featuring more detailed information about clean-up plans for these superfund sites, and Q&A session.

EFNC Board Director Earl Wilson added compelling perspective to the Clearview Landfill, recalling years ago when residents heard the daily rumble of trucks headed to “Heller’s Dump” to unload mountains of trash into the creek.  He noted the landfill became so large that it re-directed creek waters and increased neighborhood flooding.  Terry Williams remembers playing in the dump as a kid, having no idea it would someday become a toxin-leaching superfund site.  Earl was pleased to hear Josh Barber speaking about EPA site remediation, indicating, “For 30 years we’ve heard them say, ‘We’re going to get to that,’ and now we’re finally getting all the parties to the table!”   Earl urged community members to act as disciples, getting more neighbors to meetings. “You’ve got to generate the energy to move forward.”

Terry Williams indicated the urgent need for economic development in Eastwick, with its lack of local-owned businesses and empty store fronts in the flagship Penrose Shopping Plaza on Island Avenue.  Airport expansion must prioritize local residents for employment opportunities.

EFNC Secretary Debbie Beer spoke about environmental stewardship as a fundamental principle of future sustainability, co-existing alongside economic development and social structure.  The 128-acre parcel of land that catalyzed EFNC into action last year, provides critically-important stormwater storage for Eastwick right now.  Debbie advised, “Airport expansion will cause the loss of wetlands and even fill parts of the Delaware River.  The airport is required to mitigate their actions, and this parcel of land is the perfect opportunity for that mitigation to occur locally, and benefit the community.”  She noted, “publicly-accessible wetlands landscape with raised boardwalks, interpretive signs and educational programs would greatly enhance tourism opportunities for the region.”

Attorney Amy Laura Cahn, of Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia (PILCOP), reflected on the past year of EFNC activities, since she first began representing the Coalition.  She praised the dedication of folks who turned out in droves and spent hours at City Hall to oppose the rezoning bill that would’ve allowed Korman to build apartments.

EFNC has cultivated strong allies in the past year, garnering support from Senator Anthony H. Williams, Congressman Bob Brady, and Councilman Jim Kenney.  We appreciate a strong relationship with Local Councilman Kenyatta Johnson, who was represented at the meeting by his legal counsel Steve Cobb, and Chief of Staff Chris Sample.  40th Ward Leader Edward Thornton expressed support for EFNC and it’s goal of building a strong future for Eastwick.

Eastwick Friends & Neighbors Coalition maintains its unwavering commitment to an environmental, economic and socially sustainable future for Eastwick.  Community awareness, education and information is key to achieving success, and EFNC will continue to engage residents and stakeholders in future meetings.  Thank you to everyone who attended the Public Community Meeting on June 25.  Please sign-up to follow our blog via email, and check our website frequently for meeting notices.

EFNC Hosts Public Community Meeting June 25, 6:00 pm, Wellness Center

EFNC invites all to attend and participate in a public Community Meeting on Tuesday, June 25, 2013.  We’ll provide updates about key community issues, including flooding, status of 128-acre parcel, Clearview Landfill, economic development, environmental stewardship and more.  Attend and contribute feedback towards the future well-being of our community!

FREE light refreshments will be served.

Meeting Details:
Tuesday, June 25, 2013
6:00 – 8:00 pm
Eastwick Mercy Wellness Center, 2nd floor
2821 Island Avenue, Philadelphia PA 19153

Eastwick Mtg Flyer 2013-0625

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