Coming Soon! Proposed Parkside Edge Project in East Parkside

by Jennifer Mahar

A look at the proposed "neighborhood room."
A look at the proposed “neighborhood room.”

The Fairmount Park Conservancy is thrilled to share our progress on the planned new recreation space in West Fairmount Park.  The Conservancy and Studio: Bryan Hanes have been working with East Parkside stakeholders over the last 18 months to envision a modern recreation space along the section of West Fairmount Park that borders the Parkside Ave edge of the park and will serve the adjacent community.

The first phase of the new park will include two distinct sections – a play area that will focus on nature-based exploration (including a climbing structure, sprayground, and more) and a passive recreation area along Parkside Avenue with new seating and inviting gathering spaces that will create a safer and more lively entry into the park for neighbors. Generous funding from the William Penn Foundation is supporting the creation of the new park. The project is currently in the design phase, incorporating feedback received at community meetings throughout 2014.

We will continue to solicit ideas from Parkside residents so that we are able to create a public space that truly reflects the community’s vision. Please be aware that in April and May in conjunction with Penn State University, we will be conducting door-to-door surveys of neighborhood residents in order to assess current park usage, community perception and interest in the park

And stay tuned – once we are farther along with the design for the first phase, we will host an open community meeting to share the design and solicit additional feedback from residents. We hope to begin construction later in 2015.

In the meantime, if you would like more information about the Parkside Edge project in West Fairmount Park, please contact Jennifer Mahar, Director of Park Stewardship at the Fairmount Park Conservancy, at 215-391-4810 or jmahar@fairmountparkconservancy.org.

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Exclusive: The Parkside Recovery Debate: Two Sides to Every Story

by Nikia Brown

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

The controversy around Parkside Recovery’s presence in the community continues to ensue as NHS tackles allegations regarding public safety concerns.

Last fall, The Parkside Journal released an article voicing residents’ frustrations with the clinic’s failure to respond to safety issues such as loitering and erratic behavior. In the current issue, we present responses from Parkside Recovery’s Executive Director, Art Fastman, and Community and Public Safety Liaison, Dennis Lee. On February 9, 2015, Fastman invited Parkside Journal reporters to the Parkside Recovery facility for an inside exclusive.

He expressed a desire to, “unveil the ghost behind the walls.” He assured reporters that there was nothing to hide and appreciated the opportunity to, “tell their side of the story.” Fastman states that prior to the petition for removal, the clinic took great lengths to ensure the safety of patients and community members alike. He says, “Ten months ago the administration implemented the ‘Be a Good Neighbor’ initiative immediately following a public safety meeting with Councilman Jones and Dr. Evans.”

With this program, patients are not only learning how to curve their behavior, but also “learning how to be part of something productive,” says Fastman. As we toured the facility, Fastman shared success stories of patients recovering from serious addictions. He mentioned one patient, in particular, who painted a mural of his recovery process on the wall of a group room. The painting depicts the patient’s journey from a dark addiction to a full recovery. “It’s not all bad. There are success stories too,” repeated Fastman.

According to Fastman and Lee, their administration has been working tirelessly to correct the perception of not only their institution, but also attitudes toward substance abusers. “Stigma is the big issue,” says Lee. “We judge based on what we don’t understand because we can’t relate.” Fastman and Lee believe that the criticism and objections aimed at their clinic are more a reflection of the stigma toward addiction.

“There is a lack of shared community responsibility,” says Lee. When asked why the clinic accepts patients from outside neighborhoods, Lee responds, “Patients don’t feel comfortable going to their own community for support because they fear judgment.” Lee asserts that we can only dispel misconceptions surrounding methadone clinics by providing a space to openly discuss the role of such facilities. “We need to embrace things that we don’t understand. People who are addicted to drugs are a major community health issue,” he says.

Mural on the wall in one of the group rooms showing one patient's journey from addition to recovery. (Photo by the author)
Mural on the wall in one of the group rooms showing one patient’s journey from addition to recovery. (Photo by the author)

In a follow-up interview with The Parkside Journal, community resident Betty Lindley states that her position remains unchanged regarding the petition for the clinic’s removal. “We have not seen any changes from the last meeting held with NHS which I believe was in September. At that time a short-term suggestion was made to require clients to remain inside the clinic until the bus comes instead of making them go to other bus stops.

As supported by the petition circulated throughout the community, the goal remains for the methadone clinic to relocate out of Parkside. Just this week [February 15th – 21st] we saw an increasing number of clinic clients coming to catch the bus at 51st and Parkside Avenue, as many as 20-25 at a time. And because they do not catch the bus in front of their facility at 50th Street and walk from 50th to 51st, the trash left along the way is considerable as well as in the Children’s Garden at 51st and Parkside. Because they all smoke, it is also difficult for residents and others to pass by 51st Street or stand at the corner to catch the bus. The petition and other activity will pick up again after the weather breaks.”

While Lindley maintains that the only solution for improvement in the area is relocation of the clinic, Fastman rebuts, “Participants and community members express gratitude and appreciation for implementing the zero-tolerance policy.

” Lee, on the other hand, questions the validity of the circulating petition. He claims that the petition was never presented to their administration and is leery of the nature of questions or statements being distributed to the public. Fastman contests that their administration is fully invested in the public welfare of Parkside residents. To further this point, he says, “In collaboration with Councilman Jones and Philadelphia’s Business Association of West Parkside, Parkside Recovery played an active role in installing the stop sign on 50th and Parkside Avenue.”

Fastman and Lee state that they have demonstrated their commitment to public safety by initiating a “Parkside Bike Ambassador Program.” Recently, Lee connected NHS to the public safety sector of City Avenue District. Trainers from this department will provide certified training to two staff members and supervisory support. Training will include physical safety, effective communication skills, and conflict resolution. Bike ambassadors are expected to work in pairs and patrol the surrounding area during Parkside Recovery’s business hours. “While they are not to be mistaken for security, they will serve as visual examples of public safety,” says Lee. “Their role is to observe, guide, and deter the threat of danger by their presence alone.” The Bike Ambassador Program is part of “baby steps toward the big picture: holistic care, prevention, and education,” says Fastman. He is excited about this new endeavor and believes that it has the potential to foster a safer environment for Parkside residents. Though the training for the program will take place in Parkside’s own backyard, “it is an expensive undertaking,” says Fastman. He strongly encourages the support and involvement of neighboring community partners. The Parkside Journal will continue to report on this important and ever evolving community issue.

Bill to rename part of City Avenue to “Ed Bradley Way” to be considered by State Senate

by Manny Smith
(originally posted at the PABJ PRISM Web Magazine)

This stretch of City Avenue could soon be known as "Ed Bradley Way"
This stretch of City Avenue could soon be known as “Ed Bradley Way”( image source: Google Maps)

Most area drivers have sped down Philadelphia’s “Broadcast Row” on City Avenue, near Monument Road that is home to at least two television and radio stations. Very soon, Pennsylvania’s State Legislature will consider a bill to co-name the busy section of Route 1 between Presidential Boulevard and Monument Road as “Ed Bradley Way.”

The legendary broadcaster who is best known for his 26 years of award winning work on the CBS News Program “60 Minutes” was a Philadelphia native. He completed his degree at nearby Cheney University in 1964. During the school’s 2013 homecoming celebration “informal discussions regarding a permanent honor Bradley’s legacy” began according to LeRoy McCarthy, a 1992 Alumnus of the School. “Those discussions led to a full grassroots effort,” revealed McCarthy who began researching the late broadcasters’ background in the city.

McCarthy’s research pointed in the direction of City Avenue, the former home of WDAS-FM radio where Bradley began his broadcast career. “It was initially thought that the Bradley Memorial could be located here,” McCarthy explained, but it we discovered that the station had moved from this location in the early 2000’s following an acquisition by Clear Channel Communications. Efforts then turned to alternate locations, including Bradley’s former neighborhood of Mill Creek in West Philadelphia but that area was also found to have been substantially “reconfigured” over the years since Bradley lived there. Finally, the stretch of City Avenue near Monument Road was selected due to the concentration of broadcast outlasts in the area, including the WCAU building which was ironically the former longtime local CBS-owned station in Philadelphia before a format flip in 1995. The broadcast row “was a fitting location to honor Ed Bradley, a Philadelphian and a newsman.” said McCarthy.

With a location researched and selected, McCarthy penned and turned over a formal proposal to change the name of this particular stretch of City Avenue. Because City Avenue is a designated U.S. Highway owned by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, any name changes need legislative approval from the State.

PA State Senator Vincent Hughes
PA State Senator Vincent Hughes

This week, Ben Waxman, Press Secretary for PA State Senator Vincent Hughes confirmed to PABJ PRISM that their office “has formally released documents indicating that we will be bringing a bill requesting the name change” before the Senate. There is a long legislative process ahead with no exact timeline on when the name change would occur given that both the PA House and Senate would need to approve the future bill before final action could be taken to officially change the road’s name.

However, the change could occur sooner rather than later with both McCarthy and Waxman indicating that the proposed bull has been “well received” by lawmakers and prominent friends of the late newsman, including the office of Wynton Marsalis. “Statements of public support are very helpful” in showing support for the bill said Waxman, who encouraged the public to contact Senator Hughes’ office online at www.senatorhughes.com or on Twitter @senatorhughes to share messages of support for the name change.

“I think this is a fantastic idea” said Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists (PABJ)’ President Johann Calhoun, who said he fully supported the name change proposal. “Ed Bradley was not only a first-class journalist, but a Philadelphian who loved this region. It would be fitting to have his legacy honored in this prime location.” Additional information regarding plans to PABJ to provide additional public support for the name-change legislation is expected in the coming weeks.

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

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.

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