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North Philly Peace Park Gardeners Take a Stand

Kirtrina Baxter, our Garden Justice Legal Initiative community organizer, is helping the garden stave off threats of development.

Photo: North Philly Peace Park Facebook page

Photo: North Philly Peace Park Facebook page

North Philly Peace Park is a community-driven garden in North Philadelphia. It sits across from the Blumberg housing project, on a site that the Philadelphia Housing Authority (PHA) is planning to develop.

For three years it has provided the neighborhood with free, organic produce, allowed children a place to learn, and given the elders who live in the center across the street a place of belonging and a connection with the children in their community. These inter-generational relationships have been a key component of developing the park.

At a community meeting last December, PHA said there would be a place for the Peace Park in its new development plan but did not provide any concrete solutions. Then in the beginning of 2015, the Peace Park received an email that soil drilling and testing was to be carried out at the site of the garden.

This greatly concerned residents, who were under the impression their garden was safe from demolition and did not want the drilling and testing to disrupt the organic soil they’d worked for years to cultivate. They contacted the Law Center for help. With support from Kirtrina, neighbors and gardeners rallied together and sent out messages in the community and on social media. One snowy Tuesday morning, the scheduled day for drilling, 12 people showed up at 7:30 a.m. to stop the testing. When PHA finally arrived on the scene and saw the organized group, staff agreed that no testing would be done at Peace Park.

In addition, the park secured support from City Council. Throughout this process, residents made many calls to Councilman Darrell Clarke’s office. Clarke’s office now says that moving forward they would support the Peace Park in their negotiations with PHA!

This is just one example of how we support community gardens and market farms in Philadelphia. Click here to learn more about the work the Law Center has been doing with Philadelphia gardens through the Garden Justice Legal Initiative.