Squilla visits ORCA to discuss clean and green plan

City coun­cil­man Mark Squilla (D-1st dist.) vis­ited last week’s meet­ing of the Olde Rich­mond Civic As­so­ci­ation to dis­cuss his plans to help im­prove the neigh­bor­hood with the sup­port of loc­al res­id­ents.

Re­cently elec­ted City Coun­cil­man Mark Squilla met with mem­bers of the Olde Rich­mond Civic As­so­ci­ation on Feb. 28 to dis­cuss his of­fice’s on­go­ing ef­forts to clean and green the com­munity.

The ses­sion, held at the Cione Re­cre­ation Cen­ter, at­trac­ted about 30 people who wanted to bring some is­sues to Squilla’s at­ten­tion.

“We are here to work with you. I work for you,” Squilla (D-1st dist.) said, as he fielded com­ments from the res­id­ents.

In ad­di­tion to dis­cuss­ing his clean-and-green mis­sion, Squilla offered his views on the Delaware River Wa­ter­front Corp.’s mas­ter plan for the cent­ral river­front.

His own ini­ti­at­ives to ad­dress the needs of his dis­trict start with re­cog­niz­ing the im­port­ance of parks and play­grounds, he said. He re­gards them as ne­ces­sary for chil­dren who want to play, seni­ors who want to re­lax and read books, or pet lov­ers who want to walk their dogs.

Squilla hopes to re­cruit a num­ber of loc­al groups to help main­tain these in­teg­ral city spaces.

He is­sued a chal­lenge to the Olde Rich­mond or­gan­iz­a­tion and oth­er com­munity groups to ap­ply for grants from his of­fice that could be used for neigh­bor­hood cleanups and pro­jects like plant­ing trees or re­mov­ing graf­fiti.

“The dis­trict needs the people in the com­munit­ies to get in­volved,” Squilla said, dangling the $1,000 grants as a car­rot.

One per­son ex­pressed con­cern that this ad­di­tion­al grant op­por­tun­ity could cause groups to lose oth­er fund­ing they may re­ceive, but Squilla said it was a need­less con­cern.

He also noted that beau­ti­fic­a­tion and eco­nom­ic-de­vel­op­ment ef­forts are already un­der­way throughout the first dis­tinct, as the re­vital­iz­a­tion of the wa­ter­front con­tin­ues.

Squilla also said he has a fa­vor­able opin­ion of the mas­ter plan for the cent­ral Delaware river­front. The an­ti­cip­ated $770 mil­lion de­vel­op­ment pro­ject would tar­get areas between I-95 and the river — span­ning the six-mile-long river­front from Ore­gon Av­en­ue to Al­legheny Av­en­ue — for im­prove­ments to al­low Phil­adelphia res­id­ents great­er ac­cess to the Delaware River.

But he also dis­cussed hurdles faced by the city and the Delaware River Wa­ter­front Corp. as they ex­pand the pro­ject in­to the North­east — such as bal­an­cing pub­lic use of land with the fact that private de­velopers own much of the 1,100 acres tar­geted by the mas­ter plan.

“City (owned) par­cels will be easy to con­vert to parks,” Squilla stated.

But he sug­ges­ted that private landown­ers, who ac­count for about 90 per­cent of the wa­ter­front land, may need in­cent­ives to get on board with the vis­ion of the mas­ter plan.

Those en­tice­ments likely will re­quire brain­storm­ing, Squilla ad­ded, but he re­mains op­tim­ist­ic and even sug­ges­ted that the blue­print with­in the mas­ter plan could be com­pleted in a short­er time than the 25-year peri­od sug­ges­ted by DRWC.

“I think it’s go­ing to be a suc­cess, in closer to fif­teen years,” he stated. 

Dur­ing the meet­ing, Olde Rich­mond mem­bers re­joiced about suc­cess­ful neigh­bor­hood cleanup pro­jects but re­minded the city coun­cil­man that the area’s high rate of va­cant prop­er­ties is a con­stant con­cern.

Squilla said he’s ad­dress­ing this con­cern, and in par­tic­u­lar sup­ports the move­ment to ag­gress­ively com­bat blighted prop­er­ties by re­ly­ing on a land bank.

In early Feb­ru­ary, City Coun­cil mem­bers Maria Quiñones-Sánchez (D-7th dist.) and Bill Green (D-at large) in­tro­duced a bill that would cre­ate a city-op­er­ated land bank. The city would ac­quire and re­hab­il­it­ate va­cant prop­er­ties and make them avail­able to re­li­able buy­ers, thus put­ting those prop­er­ties back on the tax rolls. Squilla said that land-bank­ing of­fers a lot of ad­vant­ages.

But he’d look to tweak the bill to in­clude some re­stric­tions and en­sure that prop­er­ties don’t fall back in­to the hands of un­eth­ic­al landown­ers and slum­lords. ••



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