Tag Archives: vacant lots

Germantown Cleanup Meeting Monday, March 12 at 7 p.m. at St. Francis

Philly Spring Cleanup 2009, volunteers in the corner lot at W Rockland and Greene St. View more photos from the 2009 cleanup on Flickr.

W Rockland Street has participated in the annual Philly Spring Cleanup in 2009, 2010 and 2011. We’re super excited that April 14, 2012 will mark the block’s 4th year participating in the city-wide project. W Rockland Street Neighbors will be sponsoring a Germantown Cleanup Meeting for residents in SW Germantown on Monday, March 12 at 7 p.m. at St. Francis of Assisi Parish to talk about two important projects extending beyond W Rockland St.

Goals for the Meeting:

1. Talk with SW Germantown Neighbors and DePaul Catholic School about the future of the lot at the corner of Greene & Rockland St and creating a community garden.

Neighbors on W Rockland St have been working to maintain the area for the past several years and keep the space clean and clear of illegal dumping, which long plagued the vacant lot at the corner of W Rockland and Greene. W Rockland St residents aggressively advocated to have the blighted houses at 4817 and 4815 Greene St torn down, which loomed over the neighborhood for nearly 20 years (maybe more). In June 2011, the buildings were demolished, after Mayor Michael Nutter paid a surprise visit to W Rockland St to check out the Grow This Block! garden project. The demolition was funded by the Neighborhood Stabilization Program (U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development), managed by the Redevelopment Authority of the City of Philadelphia. For a look back, check out photos of the abandoned houses and learn about the demolition project:

2. Learn about and sign your block up for the annual PHILLY SPRING CLEANUP on Saturday, April 14.

Every block that signs up officially has the opportunity to receive donated supplies for your project including bags, shovels, rakes, brooms, gloves, new recycling bins, special bulk trash pickup and more.

We’re encouraging the blocks surrounding W Rockland St to participate alongside us in the Philly Spring Cleanup. Learn how to register your project at the meeting, or visit www.phillycleanup.com for more information.

We hope you can make it! Check out the flyer below. If you would like to print a copy or share the information, download a PDF of the flyer right here.

St. Francis of Assisi at 4821 Greene St
Enter on Greene St through Courtyard
(between Logan St & W Rockland St)

Questions? Email rocklandstreet@gmail.com or call (215) 805-8091.

Harvard panel on Philadelphia sparks thoughts on the dilapidated built environment

By Emaleigh | Last week, I ended a job, got a new one and went to Cambridge on the fly to attend The Philadelphia Story: Planning. Politics. Reality, a panel at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design. Everything aligns in a Philadelphia story, right? The event was organized by the Philadelphia Inquirer’s architecture critic Inga Saffron, who is on a Loeb Fellowship at Harvard, and fellow Loeb Anne-Marie Lubenau, who has worked to transform Pittsburgh – PA’s second largest city – through design of the built environment.

Speakers included Mayor of Philadelphia Michael Nutter; Alan Greenberger, Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development; Harris Steinberg, Director, PennPraxis; and Glen Abrams, Manager of Policy and Strategic Initiatives, Office of Watersheds. One might expect to find this group at City Hall, but here they all were in Massachusetts.

The Philadelphia Story - photo via Changing Skyline

The Philadelphia Story was a walk through the city’s planning past to today’s scene. The audience heard about Greenworks Philadelphia, stormwater infrastructure initiatives and the innovative “Green City, Clean Waters” control plan, the Master Plan for the Central Delaware and the unfortunate expansion of the Sugar House Casino, the challenges of I-95, limitations of the city’s former transactional political system, the need to institutionalize programs and create systems beyond the 4-year plan, and then some. Head over to Inga Saffron’s blog or check out Ashley Hahn’s story on PlanPhilly for detailed accounts of the panel. For more about how the event influenced my own thinking, stay right here.

Part I: Planning and the Dilapidated Built Environment

The path of the conversation at Harvard pushed me to consider planning that effects Philadelphia’s struggling neighborhoods. My perspective is weighted by my experience in Germantown these past few years and the concentrated neighborhood improvement and stabilization efforts that my sister and I are spearheading on W Rockland Street.

I’m becoming increasingly concerned about the dilapidated built environment. Philadelphia is lined with aging houses in declining conditions. Given the number of Philadelphians living in poverty and the high rate of joblessness, among other factors, home repairs won’t make the priorities list any time soon.

When I pass through parts of Southwest Germantown in particular, I picture the scene 10-20 years ahead, looking beyond abandoned properties and at the conditions of occupied houses. I see my own block.

There is a tremendous need for home repair and improvement assistance programs. It feels like a crisis to me, one that without strategic, widespread action will damn neighborhoods in limbo, threatening the growth of the city.

Who is planning for Philadelphia’s neighborhoods that are literally falling apart, where residents struggle to maintain century year-old houses (like those on W Rockland Street), where gap-toothed blocks of row homes are dotted with vacant lots?

At Harvard, Mayor Nutter remarked, “Changing systems is one thing, changing culture is another.” My connecting point here is that there is a need for a system that is scaled for Philadelphia’s neighborhoods, like Germantown, which is focused exactly on that – changing culture in struggling neighborhoods, not through social services, but through planning and design and urban interventions that in turn build community, engage residents and set a new tone.

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The 4th Annual Philly Spring Cleanup is Saturday, April 2 & W Rockland Street is participating!

It’s that time of year again. The 4th Annual Philly Spring Cleanup is just around the corner! The city-wide cleanup will be heldon Saturday, April 2 beginning at 9 a.m. This is the 3rd year W Rockland Street is participating. Our first year was an huge success. Tons of neighbors came out to give the block a Spring cleaning and a group of students from Drexel University helped us to clean the vacant lots on the block, which were total dumping grounds at the time. Our second year, was even better! More neighbors got involved and student volunteers from St. John’s University, brought to us by organizers at St. Francis of Assisi Parish, came all the way from New York to pitch in.

2011 is here and we have bigger and better plans for transforming our vacant lots into permanent green space. Looking to get involved? Volunteer for our cleanup project! Register online here or email rocklandstreet@gmail.com.

W Rockland Street Cleanup and Lot Transformation Project

We have no funding, nor do we work with any partner organizations. Our group is comprised of a handful of block home-owners working to implement much needed change in our community.

Goals for the 2011 Spring Cleanup:

  • Clean up all 3 vacant lots (minor cleaning compared to previous years!)
  • Install garden beds in the largest vacant lot of the 3.
  • Install fences in order to help curb future illegal dumping issues – all 3 lots.
  • Cleanup and beautify our own homes and yards.
  • Cleanup the street and sidewalk areas along the entire block.
  • Work with our neighbors to cleanup in front of vacant houses (there are several).
  • Work with our neighbors to assist the elderly in cleaning up their properties.
  • Say no to litter and illegal dumping! Respect our neighbors. Make Rockland Street a beautiful, trash free and safe place to live for all residents!

Future Goals for W Rockland Street:

  • Following our initial cleanup, we hope to continue hosting regular cleanups.
  • We would like to have the entire sidewalk and curbs redone on both sides of the street.
  • We would like to have trees planted on the block in vacant lots and along the sidewalk. (Is it possible to get trees from the city?)
  • We want to make Rockland Street clean and beautiful and keep it that way.

Today, W Rockland Street took the UnLitter Us Pledge

Today, W Rockland Street took the UnLitter Us Pledge and completed the online application to become an official Litter Free Zone! I have been really excited about this program since I read the first press release about the launch. To me, UnLitter Us is a great campaign because it is about long-term solutions to litter. It really starts (and ends) with transforming people’s thought process and how they actually think about and address litter. It’s about changing a person’s mindset.

With W Rockland Street, it is a constant struggle but we have seen a decline in litter overall through our efforts. We are looking forward to seeing how the Litter Free Zone can help us continue to move forward.

Here’s my favorite UnLitter Us TV-spot: The City Has A Heartbeat

Find out more about the program on the Streets Department website!

Success @ Philly Spring Cleanup

Kids at the Philly Spring Cleanup

Kids at the Philly Spring Cleanup

On Saturday, April 10th, W Rockland Street joined Mayor Michael Nutter and thousands of volunteers in neighborhoods across Philadelphia for the 3rd Annual Philly Spring Cleanup. This year was a big success. We had much more participation from block residents than last year which felt pretty awesome. Kids and adults of all ages including longtime residents and homeowners to new neighbors and renters worked alongside each other throughout the day with many neighbors helping one another out. I have to say that I was honestly very surprised by the turnout. It really was an amazing day.

Block residents cleaned alleyways and vacant lots, beautified homes and gardens, and removed trash from the sidewalks and streets. Neighbors also used the cleanup as an opportunity for home improvement projects. Basements were cleared out, an old deck was torn down and more. The trash piles were HUGE!

A growing trash collection site

A growing trash collection site during the cleanup

We were also once again joined by volunteers who came all the way from New York City to help out! Last year, a big group of fraternity brothers from Drexel University helped us clean the worst vacant lot on our block (remember this, ugh). This year, block residents worked alongside our wonderful student volunteers from St. John’s University, brought to us by organizers at St. Francis of Assisi Parish. The church is also home to W Rockland Street – located at the bottom of W Rockland Street between Logan and Green Streets. When we saw the students in their matching t-shirts come marching through the school yard with one of the priests from the church we were beyond excited. We could not have accomplished our project to such a degree without the volunteers!

Thanks also to the Philadelphia Department of Streets and sanitation crew for the special trash pick-up and to the Philly Spring Cleanup for once again providing much needed supplies. We were able to give residents recycling bins, brooms (best corn brooms ever by the way), trash bags and work gloves. We also had rakes and shovels for the bigger projects.

Next up for W Rockland Street is the first block meeting of 2010 on April 17. Looking forward to it.

View more photos from the cleanup on Flickr.

Let’s Keep Up the Sweep Up!

The St. John's University volunteers with kids and block residents

St. John's University volunteers with kids and block residents