PRESS RELEASE: FDR Park Meadows Destruction Rife with Safety Hazards and Broken Promises, Community
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: August 25, 2022
FDR Park Meadows Destruction Rife with Safety Hazards and Broken Promises, Community Calls to Pause Work to Address Safety and Community Concerns
Community members enjoying the park endangered as trees fell around them with no perimeter secured, safety protocols violated
SOUTH PHILADELPHIA—As destruction of the FDR Park Meadows began this week, despite community outcry and multiple petitions with more than 5,200 signatures to conserve the wild natural area, safety violations endangered people walking in the Meadows with pets and family. They saw decades-old trees fall around them. No perimeter was secured around the construction zone, and the park did not adequately communicate the start of work onsite.
Local residents rallying together around the cry to “Save the Meadows,” are calling on FDR Park, Parks and Rec, and the City of Philadelphia to halt the destruction immediately to keep community members safe and give them an opportunity to make their voices heard.
This initial phase of destruction is being funded by the Philadelphia International Airport, based on its obligation to create wetlands for every acre removed by the cargo expansion project that puts the already flood-prone Eastwick community at greater risk. However, the portion of the Meadows that is being destroyed in this phase already features wetlands, as well as a mature tree canopy. It will still be a net loss. Enormous amounts of excavated material will be dumped in a “permanent soil mound” of nearly equal area, destroying another large section of the Meadows in preparation for playing fields that are not yet funded.
Since the announcement that large swaths of the beloved Meadows would be destroyed, the local community has called to “Save the Meadows” in light of the community’s changed relationship to the Meadows during and after the pandemic. A broad coalition of community organizations has demanded a halt to the work, greater transparency, and a new "people's plan" based on community input. To that end, an open letter was sent in June to Mayor Kenney, Parks Commissioner Kathryn Ott Lovell, and members of City Council. Community members have written opinion pieces for the Philadelphia Inquirer, called City leaders to halt the destruction and listen to community concerns, and showed up at the Meadows to make signs notifying park goers of impending destruction.
As a local parent commented, children need safe play options close to where they live, “I don’t need fields at the farthest southern point in Philly,” she told the Citizen. “There is a soccer field that is currently permanently locked two blocks away from my house. Sports fields and playgrounds belong in neighborhoods unlocked and maintained.”
Senator Nikil Saval tweeted that he could not support the new plan including the destruction of the Meadows: “Despite public outcry, this design still calls for a substantial portion of the Meadows to be razed. I cannot, and will not, defend the destruction of a public space so beloved by my constituents.”
Philadelphia Councilmember Helen Gym today voiced her support for the City to revisit its plan: “Those who know FDR Park understand that the Meadows are an integral part of FDR since they were opened to the public,” Gym said. “I have supported the diverse coalition of thousands of community members who have called upon the City to revisit the FDR Park Master Plan to protect the Meadows, particularly as we seek to improve representation and voice for people of color and immigrant communities and neighbors. That is why I join many constituents who are upset that large-scale construction began this week that will radically change the park's landscape.”
A recent update to the FDR Park plan still fails to meet residents’ core demand to protect and conserve the Meadows. Parks and Rec and FDR Park leadership has refused to meet with concerned neighbors to address these concerns.
Lady Danni Morinich, a local resident, forager, and natural educator who frequents the Meadows said: “Destruction of the Meadows began this week, a huge surprise and safety hazard to all of us who know and love the park, without clear communication from those in charge. The lack of communication puts lives in danger.
“People who were out enjoying the meadows yelled to make themselves seen by workers, as trees fell around them, as there was no safety perimeter secured. Stunned wildlife, including deer, stood among the wreckage as their habitat was destroyed. Destruction of the Meadows must immediately stop to keep park goers safe, and to address community concerns about the razing of our beloved and wild green space.
“The city’s plan for FDR Park was developed before the pandemic, before our relationship with the outdoors changed dramatically, and before residents discovered the beauty of the Meadows as a quiet and safe oasis. The pandemic changed everything, and the FDR Park plan must change too.
“We’re asking for FDR and Parks and Rec leadership to pause this plan and meet with the community to hear and address these concerns, so we can establish a park plan that truly works for all of us.”
The Coalition for a People’s Plan for FDR Park (PP4FDR) is a group of 24 community organizations who support creation of an updated plan for the park that reflects the current needs and interests of South Philly communities, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, and in the face of a changing climate.
Save the Meadows is a campaign of everyday people to protect FDR Park’s Meadows, one of the largest forests in Philadelphia, accessible to all residents by foot, public transportation, and bike.