The East Kensington Neighbors Association (EKNA) partnered with the Philadelphia Department of Parks and Recreation to work together to renew East Kensington through new and protected green spaces. Since East Kensington has about 6K people and no public green space (1 in 5 lots are vacant,), an effort this significant in developing unused land is quite an improvement. “Out of ruins, residents created parks, sculpture gardens, orchards, flower beds, kitchen gardens, and other expressions of beauty and defiance in the abandoned lands where buildings once stood,” says Amy Miller and Jeff Carpineta of the EKNA. But a ton of East Kensington’s abandoned textile mills and massive buildings (like the CAVCO window factory that burned in 2010) are perfect spots for redevelopment, if only there was more money.
Positive Space, an arts nonprofit, is one of the many organizations working with their own budget to help clean up East Kensington. The fact that many of these green spaces don’t have a name, isn’t helping Positive Space. “Letterly Green, Circle Garden, and Fire Park are unofficial green spaces that are all either entirely or primarily owned by public agencies, and which are currently used by residents as de facto parks,” says Miller and Carpineta concerning how the lack of a formal name discredits the efforts of these lots. What would help East Kensington, says EKNA, is if there was a cohesive City policy for land management in that area. That and perhaps some investment by The Department of Public Property to keep some of the “green spaces” out of Sheriff’s sale, or at least support the community efforts that are maintaining the vacant land help by public agencies. —Caitlin Connors