Meeting for Guerin Rec Center shows neighborhood split over green space

UPDATE: According to the Newbold Civic Association, 84% of the comment cards submitted at the meeting were in favor of the green space.

As we told you last week, the plans for the green space in the parking lot of Guerin Recreation Center at 2201 S. 16th St. have been a bit delayed.

The new plan for this green space.

When the project was presented at past meetings, it was mostly favored by the community. Now based on the community reaction at last night’s meeting at the recreation center, there is a split in the neighborhood, mostly based on the South Philly hot-topic issues of parking and dog poop.

At the last meeting in 2014, two plans were presented for different locations for the green space through the Philadelphia Water Department’s Green Cities, Clean Waters program. Now due to the “petroleum odor” that was detected in the originally planned location, plans have now been shifted to place this green space in a 50-60 ft. wide by 75 ft. long space next to the current plaza area at the recreation center.

The community was pretty outspoken and heated about this potential green space last night. The small meeting room at the recreation center was packed with 60 people, in addition to 20 or 30 more waiting in the hallway. Those in opposition of the project mostly cited the loss of parking spaces and the potential for this green space to just become another dog park as two of the main issues here. Many of the opposers were seniors who use the parking weekly when they play bocce at the center and those who have grown up with Guerin.

Those in favor mostly expressed the positives of having additional green space here. Since the parking lot at the recreation center is not full the majority of the time, some believe this is a great use of the space. A few neighbors expressed that despite their proximity to Guerin, they still travel to parks that are farther away because of the quality of the current park space here. “Why can’t this be a better park?,” one neighbor said. Most of the community did agree that the recreation center could use improvements and a better outdoor space.

Many of the concerns of the community surrounded the upkeep of this green space once it opens. Will dog poop be a problem in the park? Will the area be regularly cleaned? These were a few of the general questions that arose.

So what does this neighborhood split mean for the project? The representatives from the Philadelphia Water Department said that they’ve never seen a project like this become completely scrapped. So despite last night’s heated meeting with a split of the old and the new in the neighborhood, there’s still a chance for this project to move forward. 

6 thoughts on “Meeting for Guerin Rec Center shows neighborhood split over green space

  • October 27, 2015 at 9:15 am

    I was at the meeting and I find this to be a very fair description of the proceedings. I could not have been this magnanimous if I was writing about it.

    The people FOR the green space had one message: we want some grass, however much we can get.

    The people AGAINST the green space said things like this:

    -grass will bring crime
    -grass will encourage people to do drugs and smoke more (on the grass, I guess?)
    -grass will encourage more dogs and more dog poop (even more than there is now)
    – grass will bring homeless people (I think that’s what was implied)
    – a few people expressed passionate desire for a hockey rink (what?)
    – One man shouted, “If you want grass, move to the suburbs!”
    -The core group of seniors who voted against the green space DO NOT LIVE WITHIN WALKING DISTANCE OF THE PARK and they drive to bocce league. (Do they need 40+ parking spaces?)
    – They don’t want grass because kids play football on the cement (Cement, the Official Urban Surface(R) of the Philadelphia Eagles)
    – The best reason against the green space was from the guy sitting next to me, who said in the winter they put all the snow in the parking lot (and somehow this cannot be done if a small portion is converted to grass?)
    – When I complained that I took my son to other parks that are farther away because this one is always empty, someone shouted, “He should be in school!” (He is 1.)

    There were a few longtime residents who saw the value of the green space and spoke up, and I am grateful for them. It seems the pro-green group outnumbered the people against. But there was a clear and uncomfortable locals vs. gentrifiers vibe to the whole thing and I think that’s what caused a lot of the anger.

    Props to the guy who I heard, while walking out, saying: “I have never seen so many people fight against higher real estate values.”

  • October 27, 2015 at 9:47 am

    I had a feeling that the person asking about other water department opposition was writing for passyunk post!

    It’s frustrating, and sad, because I feel like the opposition from the long time residents isn’t really a reaction to green space, but instead a reaction to the economic and cultural change they see coming to their neighborhood.

    • October 27, 2015 at 10:00 am


    • October 27, 2015 at 10:46 am

      How very true. Only in South Philly would the long-time residents oppose the TINY bit of grass being proposed as a “compromise” between old and new residents. The entire cement lot should be a real park with real grass and, yes, even trees! If one square yard was being proposed, and a meeting called about it, that too would be met with anger and rejection. This was very much an old vs. “yous” (screamed at during meeting) reaction. However, new residents will continue to move to “this side of Broad” and their voices will be heard.

  • October 28, 2015 at 1:21 pm

    I couldn’t make it to the meeting but thankful for all who could make it and for this recap.

    I did an aerial photo comparison between Guerin and 7 nearby rec centers (Vare, Chew, Hawthorne, Marian Anderson, Murphy, Palumbo, and Shot Tower). 6 out of 7 had green space and in every case, it is a large playing field. Hawthorne was the exception. All of these rec centers have no parking lot on their sites. From my experience at Marian Anderson and Chew, their green space is used a lot by every group imaginable and it is an asset to the programming at the rec center.

    I would ask that our rec center receive the same facilities as many of our other Philly rec centers.

    Let’s be happy to get some green space for now and work to eventually get the green space increased in the coming years.

  • November 6, 2015 at 9:22 am

    well said Andrew.

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