Grays Ferry resident Brian Clinton is the assistant chief of staff to Mayor Jim Kenney, and when you work in the mayor’s office, you get complaints from your neighbors. Lots and lots of them.
“It’s always about dumping or alleys or dumping in alleys,” he said. Being the proactive Philadelphia resident he is, Clinton reached out to the head of the city’s Community Life Improvement Program – otherwise known as CLIP – to see if it could help provide some supplies for clearing weeds and other debris out of neighborhood alleyways.
“They said if you get volunteers we’ll come out and do it for you,” Clinton said. “It’s not even like we’re just going to drop off the bags – we’ll give you the bags and the rakes and we’ll actually come do the work with you, but you need to get some volunteers.”
So Clinton rounded up a few volunteers and as of June, they cleared their first alley. In early July, they cleared their second alley, and their third on Monday of last week.
One of the volunteers, Terry Quinn, said she came out to clean despite the heat “to better the community.”
“It’s safer and cleaner for the kids,” she said. “We’re already dealing with COVID, we don’t need to deal with any other diseases that are coming out of these alleys because God only knows what they throw back there.”
As she, Clinton, the rest of the volunteer team and some of the employees from CLIP worked on cleaning out the alley between the 1500 blocks of Dover and Newkirk streets, they found weeds, a large tree and lots of debris thrown into the alley by contractors, Quinn and Clinton said.
“When they remodel a house they take their cement or whatever they rip out and throw it out in the alley rather than dispose of it,” said Quinn.
Clinton said that many developers flip houses in the neighborhood and proceed to leave what’s left of the old house in the alley.
“Everything they ripped out, they just leave it,” he said. “We ran into it a couple times where we’re chopping up all the green stuff and we’re ripping the trash out then we get halfway up and there’s, like, stairs or a whole house here. Sometimes people dump their own household trash but a lot of times it’s, like, huge major renovation stuff.”
Tyrique Glasgow, a Grays Ferry resident and founder of the Young Chances Foundation, brought some neighborhood kids to the cleanup to help them change their idea of a “community in poverty.”
“It’s not normal for them to see cleanups,” said Glasgow. “But it’s normal for them to see police activity or gated-up rec centers. That’s why I applaud Brian for making sure that the mayor’s office and different agencies come together to provide this opportunity.”
Glasgow added that bringing children to the cleanup allows them to see the types of services and resources the city has to offer.
“But also how community groups deal with conflict resolution and how they can talk about their differences about wanting to answer a common goal,” he said. “And a cleanup is one of them.”
Clinton said the group’s end goal is to clean every alleyway in Grays Ferry, of which there are about “50 or 60.” He said the best part of the cleanups is seeing elderly neighbors get excited about being able to use their alley again.
For more information about CLIP, click here.