Save the meadows

By Michael Schreiber

Visitors to FDR Park in South Philadelphia may have been startled by the growl of bulldozers during the past year. Since August 2022, the city has been systematically uprooting trees and moving mountains of soil in the western portion of the park.

This area, affectionately dubbed “The Meadows” by park users, contains popular picnic grounds and miles of hiking trails through wildflower meadows, woods and wetlands. It has been a place for school and pre-school nature programs, music festivals and family gatherings as well as a setting for quiet contemplation. Tragically, however, much of this natural area has now been destroyed, and another 50 acres of beautiful green space may also disappear if the city government goes through with its proposals.

The Department of Parks and Recreation and the Fairmount Park Conservancy are planning to construct a gigantic sports complex within The Meadows. Eventually, 16 artificial-turf playing fields, basketball and tennis courts, buildings, parking lots and roads would be built in this section of the park. The fields would be lit for night games with high stadium-style light towers. Because of problems of water drainage, an elaborate system of cisterns would be constructed beneath the playing fields, ballooning the initial costs of the project to over $100 million.

This second phase of the city’s plan to reconstruct The Meadows could begin as early as March 2024. While the first phase included wetlands in the southwestern portion of the park, this second phase would concentrate almost entirely on clearing additional land to the north for the proposed sports complex. The new area that has been targeted for clearance and reworking into athletic fields and buildings includes the large picnic grounds south of the historic Bellaire mansion (ca. 1715).

Several public meetings to discuss this new phase have been called for early 2024, culminating in a Zoning Board hearing in February. The Zoning Board will decide whether the city can gain permission to cut down close to 50 mature heritage trees in this section of the park. At the same time, however, a broad coalition of environmental groups and concerned neighbors and park users has expressed alarm over additional problems that the project could create.

Many have called attention to the anticipated rise in noise, traffic and light pollution in the adjoining Packer Park neighborhood, due to the crowds of people who will need to travel through the area in order to make use of the complex. Parking is already a concern due to Phillies and Eagles games; the colossal new sports facilities in FDR Park will make these problems far worse. Many have asked why Parks & Rec cannot improve its poorly maintained playing fields throughout the city instead of putting 16 fields into a single park at the far end of South Philadelphia.

Another prominent issue involves the projected use of plastic artificial turf for the playing fields. Artificial turf presents great dangers for our children. It is not only a harder surface than natural grass but it heats up to far higher temperatures in the summer. The potential for increased injuries and burns is why the NFL Players Association has called for the removal of artificial turf from all stadiums that still use it, and why the international soccer organization, FIFA, refuses to play on synthetic surfaces.

Even worse, artificial turfs — including the most modern varieties — are coated with non-degrading “forever chemicals” (PFAS), which can lead to liver and thyroid debility or cancer. These toxic substances would drain into the watershed, and eventually into the Delaware River. This is a blatant violation of the city’s own policies against chemical pollution of local waterways — a matter that the city is acutely aware of, since it is currently suing PFAS manufacturers. Artificial turf is also highly expensive; it must be replaced every eight to 10 years, at the cost of millions of dollars.

South Philly Review readers who are concerned about these (and other) issues raised by the city’s plans for FDR Park can obtain more information by contacting Save the Meadows. See the website: www.savethemeadows.com. ••

Michael Schreiber is a longtime environmental activist in Philadelphia.

Stop the street closures

OK, listen up. This crap has to stop. The city has a very big problem on its hands. It is totally unacceptable to block street after street en-route to our two major hospitals in Center City, for hours, in order to hold these so-called runs the city supports each year. Do you realize that you are delaying the journey for people in need of emergency care or immediate medical assistance from reaching a hospital in time? Is it really worth risking the life of someone who might need immediate attention, just because a few people, who probably shop at Whole Foods, are allowed to put their running agenda before someone’s medical emergency? How is anyone supposed to reach these hospitals without delays, detours and traffic jams? Even the rigor mortis crawlers in the race are doomed because they will have to remain on the ground until the race is over and the streets open up. This has to stop and you know how?

Lawsuits aimed in every direction, a few for the city, more for the hospitals for putting the lives of people in need at risk. Someone has to take the blame for this and be held accountable. What about hospital workers who can’t reach the hospitals in time to start their shifts? I guess the patients won’t mind missing the medication that’s keeping them alive because of the delay, since it seems you don’t care about them, either. I was in a rush to reach the hospital, it was a dire situation. Realizing I couldn’t get there because street after street prevented me from making a left turn, I ended up frantically crying, asking the cops, how can I get to the hospital? Finally, one told me to go straight to Delaware Avenue. Delaware Avenue? Oh, was jumping in the river and swimming past the blocked streets the only way to reach the hospital? I was so frustrated. I left my bathing suit home, and even though I can swim, I have no sense of direction so I could just imagine the panic and mayhem I would have encountered washing up on Camden’s shore au naturel. OMG, what a disturbing thought. God help me. But seriously, are you kidding me? No, no, no. I would agree that at times I forget to adjust my mouth’s filter before speaking, but when I reached the hospital my mouth could not stifle my frustration. I couldn’t understand why the hospital would allow this to happen, a host of people agreed with me. This nonsense can not continue. I’m speaking to Pennsylvania Hospital and Jefferson Hospital.

Wake up and fight the city for the good of all concerned.

Maria D’aponte

Urban renewal at Vare

It was inspiring to read Mark Zimmaro’s report on the nearly complete $21 million construction project going on at the Vare Recreation Center in Point Breeze (“Great things happening at Vare Rec,” Dec. 20). As the report states, the century-old facility was totally demolished to make room for this new work in progress.

The original Vare Recreation Center was long in need of repair. Mayor Kenney and other city officials attended a historic groundbreaking ceremony two years ago and announced the reconstruction of Vare as part of Rebuild Philadelphia, funded mostly by a sweet beverage tax. 

Of course, this is a project we should all support. As the report states, Vare has been nationally recognized for its sports and recreation programs. It has provided safe space and guidance for neighborhood youth that help to minimize violent conduct. For that reason alone, it should be rebuilt and sustained.

So thanks to Mark Zimmaro and the Review for recognizing and reporting the importance of restoring a landmark center that has served the youth of Point Breeze and will continue to do so in the future. And bravo to Rebuild Philadelphia for recognizing and supporting this kind of urban renewal. 

Gloria C. Endres

Promote American goods and workers

Supporters of the Buy American Made Campaign and American Workers Radio can look with pride at our accomplishments in recent years. Together we have generated the support of tens of millions of Americans and everyone is asked to help us make 2024 the year to promote American made and American workers even more.

We see that our actions speak louder than words and that we, America’s consumers, have been doing everything possible to make changes happen, because the level of changes we need will not happen on their own.

By using our purchasing power to support the work and skills of American workers first, we have seen more companies proudly supporting the American-made label. Our goal is to encourage more businesses to expand in America so we can have more American-made items available everywhere we shop.

With the help of tens of millions of our supporters all over America, along with radio, internet and newspaper commentaries, we continue to spread the word and our grassroots campaign continues to grow. From what we see, our efforts are more effective than America’s national elected leaders who were elected to represent the well-being of the American people. Most people struggle to list the names of national leaders who have gone out of their way to get business leaders, investors and America’s workforce together to restore industries in the United States of America. National elected leaders should follow the example of state and local leaders, and supporters of the Buy American Made Campaign, to look for every opportunity possible to urge businesses to expand and restore jobs in all parts of the United States of America.

Thank you for your ongoing support. Promote our efforts during 2024 so we can create more long-lasting and quality jobs for our fellow Americans.

Happy New Year and thanks for spreading the word.

Michael Blichasz