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48th Street Greenway: Spring 2024 Newsletter

A lot has happened since we last checked in, so the 48th Street Greenway initiative has put together this Spring Newsletter, hosted by GCCA. There are things to celebrate, causes for concern, and actions to be taken. We can all do our part to cultivate a healthy human ecosystem.

Traffic Safety Project Update – and an Indego Station!

At a February community meeting attended by a few hundred neighbors at Saint Francis De Sales, the City of Philadelphia Streets Department presented a proposed redesign for 48th Street from Kingsessing Avenue to Market Street, which it is prepared to implement this spring.


This project is the result of two years of advocacy by members of the Walnut Hill Community Association, Garden Court Community Association, and Cedar Park Neighbors to make our street safer, greener, and more joyful. A 2022 petition for a 48th Street Greenway drew over 500 signatures and a followup survey of over 300 neighbors found that 75% are concerned about traffic safety and at least 85% "LOVE" the idea of traffic calming, safer bike lanes, and planting trees. After repaving 48th Street in the spring of 2023, the City convened two community meetings in September to share two possible options for striping - dubbed 'small changes' and 'complete streets' which nearly 400 neighbors participated in. The 'complete streets' option was preferred by a substantial majority of neighbors, scoring an average of 3.7 stars in the first meeting at 4.0 at the second, compared to 2.8 and 2.8 for 'small changes' at each. Traffic safety of the existing condition was rated 1.7 and 1.8 stars by participants in each meeting, respectively.


The design proposed by the City reflects the community preference summarized above to discourage the aggressive driving that is common today, and support greener travel options. Under this design, 48th Street would remain a 2-way street with parking on both sides, but its excess width would be re-organized to create substantially shorter crosswalks and a northbound bicycle lane fully separated from vehicular traffic. Changes to 47th Street, however, are still under consideration and NOT part of this proposal for implementation this spring. The City will continue community conversations about 47th Street, which is scheduled for paving in 2025. Click the link below to review materials presented by the city at the February meeting.

It remains unclear whether the project has yet been given the “green light” by city leadership or exactly when it will be implemented. If you would like to thank them for the proposal and encourage them to implement it as soon as possible, you may email our councilperson, Jamie Gauthier, at and/or Mike Carroll, Deputy Managing Director for Transportation, Infrastructure, and Sustainability, at


Finally – and this just in! – we hear through the grapevine that a new Indego bikeshare station is coming to 48th and Baltimore at the Calvary Center later this spring. This is very exciting, and will pair well with separated bike lanes that should soon be on 48th Street.



Earth Day: Let's Plant Trees Together

Our 2022 Greenway survey found that tree canopy is one of neighbors favorite features of 48th Street and that planting more trees was a priority for many. Earth day is coming up next month and they say that while the best time to plant a tree was fifty years ago, the next best time to do so is today. Once or twice a year, we make a trip to a nursery to pick up trees for neighbors to plant together. Everybody covers their own costs, we split the cost of the truck, and help eachother get them in the ground. The goal of this initiative is maximizing sidewalk shade and supporting local ecosystems, so we only pickup trees that will grow tall, with a preference for native species. This year’s pickup and planting will be on April 20th. If you’re interested in getting a tree planted in front of your home, email We can answer questions you might have, and recommend some great species to choose from, and give you tips on how to ensure healthy growth.



LED Street lights: the good, the bad, and what you can do

You may have noticed the hazy orange glow of high-pressure sodium street lights have been replaced with bright white LEDs. This is a part of a Streets Department initiative to reduce energy costs while also providing better lighting. In fact, the city will save so much energy, that the cost savings make the upgrade effectively pay for itself! That’s wonderful news. All 130,000 street lights in the city will ultimately be replaced, but the initial focus on streets with higher crime or traffic crashes. Additionally, the fuller spectrum light provides much better visibility at night on streets and sidewalks, which is promising for real and perceived safety. Finally, at 3000 Kelvin, the fixtures successfully avoid the disorienting blue-ish hue you sometimes get with LEDs. Bravo.


However, while energy savings and light quality are major improvements, the new fixtures are shockingly bright – compared to an operating room or a UFO landing. Recommendations for street lights in residential settings range from 3,000 to 15,000 lumens. As of this post, the Streets Department has not answered our inquiry of how bright the lights are shining; using a light meter and some physics, however, we estimate that the recently installed fixtures are projecting onto our street at somewhere between 30,000 and 50,000 lumens. That may be appropriate for Interstate-95, but not a human-scale street where people live. In many cases, the lack of any shield on the fixtures results in light shining directly onto porches and front rooms, and into 2nd floor bedrooms like a spot light. When our eyes are exposed to excessively bright lights, unlit areas on the street appear even darker than they otherwise would. Anecdotally, we’ve seen and heard motorists tearing down 48th Street more frequently than before, presumably because it is now so brightly lit; speed kills, and we should not be encouraging speed with runway-style lighting. Not only all that, but the street lights are lit at full blast from dusk until about 7am, eliminating any natural sense of dawn. The benefits of improved lighting can be had without "turning it up to eleven."


In a recent Grid Magazine article covering frustrations residents have had where the LEDs were put in earlier, Deputy Streets Commissioner Richard Montanez said his "job is not to light up people’s bedrooms, [...]Our job is to light up the roadway and the sidewalks. [...] we’re getting ready to come back and fix some of these issues, […] you’re going to see the lights dim.” So, let's make sure we keep him at his word; if you would like to have lights on your block adjusted, we recommend getting some neighbors on your block together and contacting the Philly Street Light Improvement project at or 215-871-0400 (CC Richard Montanez at and so we can help hold officials accountable). We suggest asking the following:

  1. Install shields on the fixtures to direct the light away from porches, front rooms, bedrooms and gardens;

  2. Reduce the output of each light to 10,000 lumens, and;

  3. Modify the hours of illumination such that they are turned down even lower or even completely off as dawn approaches.



Save-the-Date: Plant Swap and Herb Giveaway on May 18th, 11am-4pm

Last year, we held a little plant swap with some neighbors on a rainy April day. It was great fun. This year, our friends at the Garden Court Community Garden are kicking it up a notch and planning a plant swap and herb giveaway as part of Family Fun Day at the tennis courts at 47th and Spruce. There will also be outdoor games an sidewalk chalk for kids. If you would like to volunteer at Family Fun Day, you can email Liz Campion at; if you want to learn more about the plant swap, you can email Nancy Geryk at Otherwise, stay tuned for details.



Red Alert: Unsafe artificial turf planned for Kingsessing Rec Center

Kingsessing Recreation Center is in the midst of a $25M renovation. It is a transformational renovation project by city government and our councilperson, Jamie Gauthier, has said “No rebuild site in my councilmanic district is more beloved and complicated, and central to the community than Kingsessing Rec.” Indeed; when the project is done, it has potential to be be a jewel of Kingsessing and beyond. In fact, safe access to improved facilities at Kingsessing Rec is among the reasons we began advocating for a 48th Street Greenway.


There is, however, one glaring problem: the renovation includes installation of a synthetic turf for a multi-sport field, supported by a $250,000 grant from the Philadelphia Eagles. These fields are made of plastic "grass" on a base of crumb rubber often made from discarded tires, which are full of volatile compounds that are then easily inhaled. As noted in a recent Philadelphia Inquirer Editorial calling for a ban on synthetic turf in city parks and the paper's investigative reporting, the materials in synthetic turf include arsenic, benzine, heavy metals, and PFAS “forever chemicals” which have been linked to cancer, asthma and other health issues; children are especially vulnerable because their endocrine, reproductive, and nervous systems are still developing. Not only that, but higher rates of injury on synthetic turf compared to natural grass have led the NFL Players Association to advocate for restoring playing surfaces to natural grass, and many teams are now beginning to do so. After a former US Environmental Protection Agency official says city officials were "bamboozled" by a company claiming its product was free of forever chemicals, the Inquirer is calling for a field in South Philly to be removed; it is not too late to avoid the same mistake on our side of the Schuylkill.


The argument in favor of synthetic turf in cash-strapped cities is usually about the maintenance needs of natural grass, but not only do synthetic fields also need to be maintained; they inevitably need to be fully replaced in 10-15 years of regularly use. Even if we ignore the health and safety risks, do we really think the city is going to put in another brand new field in 2040? Or will we be left with a patch pile of rubber and plastic instead? The health and safety of our children is not worth the supposed savings in maintenance costs pitched by synthetic turf salespeople. Generations of environmental injustice should not be continued in city parks today.


We think that it is time to mobilize and demand the city change course on Kingsessing Rec, install natural grass instead of synthetic turf, and commit to investing in the green jobs that will maintain our fields for future generations. If you would like to help organize an effort like this, please email us at


Thanks to everybody who makes 48th Street safer, greener, and more joyful. If you'd like to be added to the Greenway Initiatives email distribution or if there's an initiative you'd like to take on, drop us a line at


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