Parkside Recovery Debate

by Nikia Brown

Parkside Recovery Center before opening for the day
Parkside Recovery Center before opening for the day

Tensions continue to rise as sharply clashing and dissenting opinions emerge concerning Parkside Recovery’s presence in the Parkside community. Parkside Recovery provides treatment to opiate dependent individuals, but the impact of this facility appears to extend far beyond its clinic doors.

On Thursday, July 17, 2014, Parkside Recovery hosted an on site meeting of a select group of individuals to discuss the various allegations and criticisms that have been directed at the clinic in a petition that calls for the removal or closing down of the facility.

Long time community activist Lucinda Hudson began by saying that those circulating the petition should have first brought their concerns to community organizations like the one she heads (Parkside Association of Philadelphia) before initiating a petition drive.

She also asserted that Parkside Recovery had begun working on resolving problems related to the clinic long before the petition drive began. She therefore deemed the petition drive to be unnecessary. The Parkside Journal attempted to obtain additional statements and opinions from others present at the meeting, but a majority of those present expressed discomfort with the presence of press and requested that we (two Parkside Journal reporters) leave before the official beginning of the meeting.

Since we were unable to discover what about the methadone clinic was going to be discussed in the meeting, we talked to nearby residents and business owners regarding their feelings about the clinic. Community resident Betty Lindley states, “The methadone clinic has been holding the community back for 39 years with operations that have expanded to 7 days a week from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.” Donna Parker, a resident and community liaison, echoes similar sentiments expressing concern for her children. She stated that patients of Parkside Recovery are under the influence of drugs which could lead to unpredictable behavior.

She added that patients loitering outside the clinic after treatment threatens the safety of her girls who pass the clinic en route to extracurricular activities at Cornucopia on 49th and Parkside. Lindley and Parker believe policies implemented by the clinic offer no real solution, but rather exacerbate the problem. Lindley states, “The clients are currently being forced by clinic security from catching the bus at 5000 Parkside Avenue just outside the clinic.

Instead they are coming further into the community bringing trash, inappropriate behavior and drug transactions… if there is a problem at 5000 Parkside then what rationale is there for dispersing the problems throughout the community?”

While Lindley and Parker maintain that the clinic hinders community progress, other residents feel that the problems surrounding the facility have been addressed. Robert Zakian, Charter Member of the Business Association, told The Parkside Journal that 3 months ago he would have agreed with Lindley and Parker. When returning home from work, he was often met with the unpleasant experience of patients loitering outside of the facility. He claims, however, Parkside Recovery took appropriate measures to resolve the issue by implementing a zero tolerance loitering policy.

A view of 5000 Parkside Avenue
A view of 5000 Parkside Avenue

When discussing whether the safety of residents is an issue, Zakian responded, “There are more security guards than there are people.” Lucinda Hudson of the Parkside Association of Philadelphia agrees with Zakian emphatically stating, “Parkside Recovery has made a herculean effort to improve the situation.” Zakian says the zero tolerance loitering policy, “killed two birds with one stone.” He continued, “By attacking the loitering issue, the clinic simultaneously addressed concomitant complaints such as littering and alleged illegal drug transactions.

he debate concerning the effects of Parkside Recovery on the community raises some difficult questions. As stated, a petition for the removal of the clinic is in circulation and some residents feel the clinic not only affects community members, but local businesses as well. Parker told The Parkside Journal that workers at Shop Rite have personally shared with her their frustrations regarding the lewd and disruptive behavior of the clinic’s patients.

Zakian retorts that he cannot validate this claim because employees have not directly voiced these complaints to him. While Donna Parker would like to see the clinic moved to a remote location, Zakian says, “The clinic and the patients have a right to be there. And thus the debate continues.


Look for continuing updates on this story here on our website

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Habitat For Humanity Lands In Parkside

by Michael Burch

Here we see volunteers and staff from Habitat for Humanity working up high on one of the historic houses on Viola Street.
Here we see volunteers and staff from Habitat for Humanity working up high on one of the historic houses on Viola Street.

Located in the Parkside section of West Philadelphia is a quiet little block named Viola Street. Viola Street is one block south of Parkside Avenue. Many people don’t realize that much of Parkside was built after the country’s first world’s fair which was known as the Centennial Exposition of 1876. All of the 4200 Block of Parkside and part of Viola Street are listed on the National Register of Historic Places due to the many examples of Victorian style homes on the block. Unfortunately, like many other neighborhoods in this city, Viola Street experienced a serious decline during the 1980’s and 1990’s. The reasons for this decline can be debated by sociologists at another time.

For our purposes city neighborhoods need restoration and upkeep. A beautiful neighborhood can become blighted as home owners move out and reinvestment in homes decreases. Thus on Viola Street the neighborhood lost homes and residents. That, however, was in the past. Today Viola Street is on the upswing thanks to the efforts of concerned local residents and organizations like Habitat For Humanity!

Habitat for Humanity Philadelphia, is an affiliate of Habitat for Humanity International which is one of the largest nonprofit homebuilders. They recently acquired the smaller The Other Carpenter, a much smaller concern with similar ambitions. The goal of Habitat for Humanity and the Other Carpenter is to transform lives and our city by building quality homes in partnership with families in need, and uniting all Philadelphians around the cause of affordable housing.

Sometime around 2007 residents on the block came together to form the Viola Street Residents Association, a group dedicated to reclaiming their neighborhood and putting an end to the Blight. Community Block Captain Lorraine Gomez gives us some insight into the formation of the Viola Street Residents Association. She states that “the Viola Street Residents Association is a grassroots collective committed to the revitalization of our street and the surrounding East Parkside community. VSRA’s aim is to reverse the tide that contributes to our community’s decline. We aim to reach our goal through resident participation in beautification, greening and restoration projects.”

Ms Gomez’s family has been on Viola Street since the late 1950’s and Ms. Gomez herself has been living bock on the block for the last ten years, and in that time VSRA was formed.

Ms Gomez goes on to say “Viola Street Residents made contact with The Other Carpenter in 2005 when they were doing the “Porch Rehab Program”.

This was the beginning of Viola Street’s current rehabilitation phase. We now fast forward to the summer of 2014 on Viola Street. For at least six weeks during the summer, Habitat for Humanity staff, volunteers, and Viola residents have been diligently and meticulously working on repairing sidewalks, fixing windows, removing weeds, working in their community garden , and scraping paint and repairing leaks. It has been a massive job and has created quite a stir in the usually quiet neighborhood. Viola resident and recipient of the Habitat for Humanity Home Repair Program, Mr Vannie Graham, commented enthusiastically on the program by stating “Its great work being done; you can’t beat it. I’m very happy with the program and its positive results”.

Picture above shows area residents working hand in hand with Habitat staff and volunteers.
Picture above shows area residents working hand in hand with Habitat staff and volunteers.

The Parkside Journal wishes to make its readers aware that there is an application process that residents must complete and there are specific guidelines that must be met in order to be considered as a candidate for participation in this program. Gomez goes on to add that “the reaction from my neighbors has been overwhelming. Habitat for Humanity and The Other Carpenter have been like a transfusion for our block. Viola Street is 51% home owner occupied. Our homes are well kept on the inside but may not be the healthiest on the outside. We have some neighbors who are on a fixed income and cannot afford to have all of the repairs done that are needed at the same time.

Habitat for Humanity has allowed us to afford to have the entire repair work done professionally and at one time. You can feel the energy on the block as the work nears completion.

In an effort to learn more about Habitat’s Home repair programs I asked Cassie O’Connell, the Director of the Other Carpenter to elaborate on their programs. “Habitat for Humanity Philadelphia has two branches of home repair; The West Philadelphia repair program (The Other Carpenter) performs block-based repairs in East & West Parkside, Mantua, Mill Creek, Belmont and Cathedral Park. Blocks may apply with a minimum of 4 homeowners at our office at 4127 W Girard Avenue or by calling 267-284- 0310.

We also have a special Weatherization and Home Repair Program which performs repairs in focus areas across the city and is currently searching for veterans to apply. Any Interested applicants can call 215-765-6000 for more information.”

In continuing to talk to O’Connell, I learned that Habitat’s home repair programs are funded largely by individuals, foundations, corporations and faith groups. “Thrivent Financial donated $40,000 for the Viola Street project and area faith groups raised an additional $15,000.

That’s a huge investment on Viola Street; I asked her what she thought of the reactions from the Viola Street community.

O’Connell says “Viola Street represents what Habitat is all about – bringing people together to do something none of us could have done on our own. I’m incredibly grateful to all the dedicated and joyful people who came together – Thrivent Financial, area Churches, individual volunteers, the VSRA, Historical Preservationists, the Historical Commission, skilled carpenters, the Laborer’s Union, youth groups, the Cement Mason’s Union, summer interns, our subcontractors and suppliers, Habitat’s staff and Partner Families, and most of all the Viola Street residents. A huge thank you to everyone for making it happen!”

The 41st Street Bridge: A bridge closed way too long!

By David Buckholtz

A woman and child head across the 41st Street Bridge (source: Google Maps)
A woman and child head across the 41st Street Bridge (source: Google Maps)

For twenty years, the bridge over 41st Street has been shuttered, severing an important artery between Parkside, Mantua, and the rest of West Philadelphia. But new construction around the barricaded bridge is paving the way for a re-opening in the upcoming years according to a progress update from the Philadelphia Department of Streets.

Speaking with the Parkside Journal, June Cantor, Public Relations Specialist for the Streets Department reports that “newly agreed upon deadlines for the construction of the bridge have remained on schedule. It is the expectation of the Streets Department to begin advertising the project for construction by the end of the year and beginning construction in the spring of 2015.”

A new bridge, designed with the “active input” of residents on both sides has lead to the completion of a final design of the new bridge. Everything from lighting to architectural style were of a concern to the community. The community also selected the final architectural style of the bridge with a nearly unanimous vote, the communities selection was presented the Art Commission where it received full support.

While a firm construction timeline for the installation of a new bridge is still being determined, other necessary work around the bridge that needed to be completed is now underway, says Cantor. “Amtrak has recently started constructing foundations for the new wire supports. They are keeping us updated on their progress and should be completed in the fall of 2014.”

The relocation of the power supports will allow trains to continue operating once The Streets Department begins removing the crumbling bridge. In the meantime, due to decaying asphalt on the bridge surface, and underlying corrosion, members of the surrounding communities are urged to respect the concrete barriers and not cross the bridge by foot as the instability of the bridge makes any and all use of the bridge unsafe.

The Journal, as well as all of our neighbors look forward to a reopening of this vital link to our community sooner rather than later.


Look for further updates on this story on our website

Educated Sistas’ In Parkside

In the following article, Bria K. Williams details her experiences with EDUCATED SISTAS’ ASSOCIATION which is a nonprofit charitable organization. The mission of Educated Sistas’ Association is to educate, network, inspire, mentor and motivate women and girls, especially at- risk teens. This is a nation-wide organization which was established in 2007. In her article, Bria Williams describes her experiences with the Philadelphia branch of the organization, which is located at 4036 W. Girard Avenue. Its phone number is (215) 222-0417. The Parkside Journal is publishing this article in keeping with its policy of publicizing organizations that seek to bring about positive change in our community.


 by Bria Williams

typing on the computerMy journey with Educated Sistas’ Association began in July of 2011. I was referred to Mrs. Genithia Geiger by a classmate. All I can remember her saying is, “I think you two would get along well”. My classmate went on to tell me that Mrs. Geiger was the Founder and Executive Director of a mentoring organization, Educated Sistas’ Association, and that I could benefit from being a part of it. Therefore, I got in touch with Mrs. Geiger and set a date to meet that summer.

I met with her on a weekend morning and she told me what the nonprofit organization was all about. She informed me that Educated Sistas’ is a member organization established to educate, advocate, network, inspire, and motivate women and girls, especially at-risk-teens. Mrs. Geiger went on to explain that they carry out their mission through community service, education, mentoring, training, and development in order to empower women and girls.

The nonprofit was established in 2007 when Genithia, herself a high school drop out recipient of a GED, experienced first hand how the lack of resources, mentors, and low self-esteem could lead to dropping out. Her background and perseverance form the foundation that is used to connect and inspire girls and young women in the community.

I have always been very ambitious from a young age, so I knew that having a mentor would help me as I figured out what paths I needed to follow to take me where I wanted to go.

Currently, I attend The Pennsylvania State University. I am a sophomore who is majoring in print journalism and minoring in Political Science. Upon graduation, I would like to move permanently from West Philadelphia to write as a political journalist for a major newspaper publication in a big city—either New York, Los Angeles, or Washington.

To achieve these goals, I am currently writing for two newspapers: The Daily Colleegian and the Centre Daily Times. I am also the Co-Editor of OutRider Newsletter, a publication for and by the LGBTQA community.

I have grown to have extreme confidence in myself and I have Genithia and the wonderful people at Educated Sistas’ to thank for that. Genithia has contributed tremendously to my success. This organization is not only a mentoring program. It also allows the black community to come together and do something positive. It is a safe and nurituring space that encourages a struggling lower class young woman to go from dropping out of high school to receiving a scholarship to a four year institution of higher learning. Great things can happen to you at Educated Sistas’ if you put in the work. It provides young women and girls with community service experiences, mentoring, scholarship and college/university information, and anything else they need to succeed.

Summer Reading Programs could be the Answer To Keeping Your Child’s Skills Current and Ready For The New School Year.

by Michael Burch

State Representative Brown with some of her award recipients. (Photo Credit: Michael Burch)
State Representative Brown with some of her award recipients. (Photo Credit: Michael Burch)

More than a hundred people attended State Representative Vanessa Brown’s reading challenge finale this year held at the Franklin Institute Science Museum in Philadelphia. Rep. Brown designed the Reading program to help parents keep their small children reading during the summer months when school is not in session. Studies show that readings skills tend to fall off during the summer months, forcing students to catch up once school commences in the fall.

Representative Brown says “This is the third year I have promoted this reading challenge, and I have offered the program to other members throughout Pennsylvania, Brown said. “Good reading skills are crucial for educational growth, and this program will keep children reading and interested in the summer without the pressure of school. All the children who attended the event received certificates and metals, for completing the summer program.

There were other programs in attendance, all sharing their curricula with parents and students. Some of the programs participating were Stemnasium Learning Academy, Literacy 4 Peace, and the Partnerships for Achieving Careers in Technology and Science (PACTS) program from the Franklin Institute.

Musical entertainment was supplied by a promising young group called “Little Big Sister”.

At the end of the formal program, participants took part in an interactive Franklin Institute Science Demonstration and then toured the many exhibits and programs that the Institute had to offer. Looks like all the kids had a great time.

Creative Voices: Words I Write *Mom*

Upon your shoulders first
Was when I viewed the world
You set my mind in motion
Towards the mountains that I hurl

As the years have come and gone
I look back in awe and think
How hard for you to raise a son
Bring him to manhood’s brink

Pain and Joy.
Life gives no guarantees
We come. We live. We go.
And some look back to see
What of the seeds that they did sow

In retrospect with all their might
There are still things one may miss
So let me take this moment here
To strongly tell you this

Of all your tears and sacrifice
There is no way to measure
But know inside my heart and soul
Your love is my greatest treasure

If ever a time should come when
The future forgets the past
I trust that fate will bend with pen
And these words I write will last

CFOXC
StoryVoiceSong.Com

Say hello to our new neighbors! Four new lion cubs born at the Zoo!

984150_10152218664312934_2093569066972678944_nPhiladelphia, PA – (July 8, 2014) Philadelphia Zoo is pleased to announce four new members of its animal family: African lion cubs born to Tajiri, the Zoo’s 4-year-old female, during the early morning of Thursday, June 26th. This is the first litter for Tajiri and 6-year-old male Makini, and marks the expansion of the pride in First Niagara Big Cat Falls. These are the first lion cubs born at Philadelphia Zoo since 1996, continuing the Zoo’s successful breeding of big cats over the past few years.

Mother and cubs are doing well. Like newborn humans, lion cubs are essentially helpless, relying on their mother for care. Tajiri has been in almost constant physical contact with her cubs since their birth, and appears confident and relaxed as a first-time mother. Zoo staff continues to monitor them by videocamera during this crucial time, giving Tajiri almost complete privacy in her off-exhibit den.

“We’re very excited to welcome Tajiri’s new cubs, the first lions born at Philadelphia Zoo in 18 years,” says Kevin Murphy, Philadelphia Zoo’s General Curator. “We work with the Species Survival Plan® (SSP) breeding program of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), whose goal is to manage populations of threatened, endangered and other species across AZA zoos, to maintain long-term genetic and demographic viability. This birth, Tajiri’s first, is a significant contribution to the lion population in the U.S., and we are cautiously optimistic as Tajiri continues to be a fantastic mother.”

The successful birth of Tajiri’s cubs further highlight the Zoo’s ‘Year of the Big Cat’. The ‘Year of the Big Cat’ launched with the May 2014 opening of Big Cat Crossing, and continues as the Zoo encourages guests to become ‘big cat heroes’ and help save these magnificent animals. Visitors will learn how their consumer choices and positive influence can protect big cats and other species by urging food, cosmetic and other companies to use 100 percent deforestation-free palm oil.

“We are thrilled about Tajiri’s healthy new cubs. Visitors to the Zoo will soon have the opportunity to see the next generation of this vulnerable species thrive here at the Zoo,” said Andy Baker, Chief Operating Officer.

Tajiri was treated in 2013 for blastomycosis, a fungal infection she contracted before she arrived at the Philadelphia Zoo. The blastomycosis fungus is not found in our area of the U.S., but is found in the soil in certain parts of the country (with Wisconsin, Tajiri’s former home, being one of those places) and on rare occasions can infect animals or people. Blastomycosis is contracted by inhaling the spores in the geographic areas of the country where the fungus is found. It is not transmissible from animal to animal or from animal to person; therefore, Tajiri did not represent a risk to other animals or people at our Zoo.

“Following months of treatment last year, we believe Tajiri made a full recovery,” says Dr. Keith Hinshaw, Philadelphia Zoo’s Director of Animal Health. “We will continue to be vigilant for any signs of a relapse, but we are very optimistic that this illness will not resurface in the future.”

African lions are vulnerable in the wild; habitat loss and conversion for agriculture have led to a decline in some population sizes. Philadelphia Zoo supports wild lions by partnering with the Ongava Research Centre (ORC), whose focus is on monitoring lions on Ongava Game Reserve, one of the largest private reserves in Namibia, to better understand how they form groups and how those groups expand and ultimately disperse.

The lion cubs’ public debut is not yet confirmed, but will not occur for approximately 3 months, when Tajiri and the cubs are ready to venture from the privacy of their den. For updates on the cubs or to ADOPT an African lion, visit PhiladelphiaZoo.org or follow our social media channels: Twitter @PhillyZoo, Instagram @PhiladelphiaZoo and Facebook.com/PhiladelphiaZoo.

News that is from, about, and benefits our Parkside Community in West Philadelphia.