Squilla plans to clean and green

Com­munity groups can get a $1,000 grant from Mark Squilla’s of­fice to help af­ford neigh­bor­hood cleanups.

(L-R) fore­ground Coun­cil­man Kenyatta John­son (camel coat),ÊCarlton Wil­li­ams, Deputy Com­mis­sion­er Streets De­part­ment (be­hind and between John­son and Farnese),ÊState Sen­at­orÊLarry Farnese (gray suit), City Coun­cil­man Mark Squilla. (one tall, one wide)

Newly elec­ted City Coun­cil­man Mark Squilla (D-1st dist.) has a mes­sage for city res­id­ents who feel em­battled by neigh­bor­hood blight and de­cay: Your cries for help no longer will go un­heard.

Squilla was in Port Rich­mond on Jan. 18 to at­tend a meet­ing of the civic group Port Rich­mond West Com­munity Ac­tion Net­work (CAN), held at the Trin­ity Pres­by­teri­an Church in Kens­ing­ton, to dis­cuss the group’s mis­sion to rid the neigh­bor­hood of filth and va­cant prop­er­ties.

A week later, on Jan. 25, Squilla an­nounced that he wants to ex­pand those ef­forts city­wide.

Dur­ing a news con­fer­ence held in Miff­lin Square in South Phil­adelphia, Squilla out­lined plans to clean and green the first dis­trict. The ini­ti­at­ive, ac­cord­ing to a news re­lease from his of­fice, “will in­volve a re­newed part­ner­ship with city of­fi­cials and a need to bet­ter edu­cate cit­izens about the laws already on the books and whom to call if they have is­sues with city ser­vices.”

Squilla was joined in his an­nounce­ment by rep­res­ent­at­ives from the De­part­ment of Li­censes and In­spec­tions, De­part­ment of Parks and Re­cre­ation, De­part­ment of Streets and the Phil­adelphia Wa­ter De­part­ment. The rep­res­ent­at­ives echoed the mes­sage of as­sist­ance, but also em­phas­ized that help is needed as well from com­munit­ies.

“This ini­ti­at­ive shows that the city is ser­i­ous about clean­ing and green­ing these com­munit­ies, city­wide,” Squilla said. “We’re here be­cause we want to part­ner with the neigh­bor­hoods, friends groups and all civic as­so­ci­ations. The city of Phil­adelphia, along with the people stand­ing be­hind me at this po­di­um, can and will work to­geth­er to make this ini­ti­at­ive a real­ity.”

De­cay­ing neigh­bor­hoods have been a long­stand­ing prob­lem in the city, and ad­dress­ing blight is a pri­or­ity for the new coun­cil­man, he said. Vi­ol­ent crimes have been es­pe­cially pre­val­ent lately in neigh­bor­hoods like Port Rich­mond and Kens­ing­ton, a prob­lem that Squilla says dir­ectly cor­rel­ates to the status and ap­pear­ance of these neigh­bor­hoods.

“The people in this dis­trict and in this city want to be proud of where they live,” he said. “If we have parks and play­grounds that are clean and safe, in­stead of va­cant lots and houses, then that makes people want to move in­to the neigh­bor­hoods. It will help re­duce crime, be­cause it is a proven fact that where you see trash and graf­fiti, you see crime. If people buy in­to the pro­cess of clean­ing these com­munit­ies, then they will buy in­to the idea of safer neigh­bor­hoods.”

The city, however, can’t clean up every com­munity by it­self, he ad­ded. He called on com­munity groups and civic as­so­ci­ations to work even harder with city of­fi­cials and politi­cians to help see res­ults in par­tic­u­larly blighted areas.

Squilla said his re­cent at­tend­ance at the Port Rich­mond West CAN meet­ing was en­light­en­ing for him.

ldquo;That meet­ing was ac­tu­ally one of the things that helped spur this ini­ti­at­ive on,” Squilla said. “It’s a dis­trict-wide cam­paign, so al­though we’re an­noun­cing it in South Philly, it per­tains to every­where from Cen­ter City to Port Rich­mond to Kens­ing­ton, and all the way up the north­ern end as far as we can go. Trash, graf­fiti and va­cant prop­er­ties add to the blight of these neigh­bor­hoods, and that’s no stranger to the people that live there. Now, it’s time to work to­geth­er to see res­ults.”

Squilla urged res­id­ents to join neigh­bor­hood groups, or to help start them. He said his of­fice is present­ing a con­test that will re­ward any group that ap­plies for an activ­it­ies grant with $1,000 to help with re­sources for neigh­bor­hood cleanup.

Res­id­ents simply have to prove they already have star­ted cleanups of their areas — be it pic­tures of bags filled with cleanup trash or pho­tos of graf­fiti re­mov­al.

If groups sub­mit that doc­u­ment­a­tion with their grant ap­plic­a­tions, they will be re­war­ded, the coun­cil­man said.

ldquo;If you’re not part of the pro­cess to help, then nobody is go­ing to pay at­ten­tion to you,” Squilla said. “If you don’t have a group, then start one. Port Rich­mond West CAN is a per­fect ex­ample — they got in­volved and we’ve no­ticed … that’s what gives you a voice in this pro­cess. The city doesn’t have the re­sources to do it them­selves, but we do want to work with people com­mit­ted to hav­ing an or­gan­ized ef­fort to make things hap­pen. Neigh­bor­hoods get gal­van­ized by want­ing to help — it’s con­ta­gious.” ••

Re­port­er Ed Mor­rone can be reached at Ed­ward.mor­rone@gmail.com

You can reach at emorrone@bsmphilly.com.

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