Community Garden and Tennis Courts Response to WHYY/PlanPhilly Affordable Housing Op-Ed




In a 27 January Opinion Piece in WHYY/PlanPhilly, Leonard Bonarek suggests that in light of Penn's proposed investment and support for the Lea School and concerns about displacement, the City of Philadelphia should consider redeveloping the Tennis Courts and Community Garden at 47th and Spruce as "as a new mixed-income, mixed-use building that will better address community needs." This blog post offers a response from Nancy Geryk, President of the Garden Court Community Garden and Tennis Courts.

Replacing the garden and tennis courts at 47th & Spruce with mixed income housing

will not prevent gentrification of the neighborhood around the Lea School. We do need

more affordable housing in this neighborhood, but gentrification is a lot more

complicated than that. Our community needs to take a multi-faceted approach to

prevent gentrification from continuing in this neighborhood.


The Garden and Tennis Courts were created in 1988 by a group of neighbors who

wanted to see green spaces and have opportunities to interact with their neighbors.

Because the garden and tennis courts are currently zoned for park and recreational use

according to the 2035 Plan for Philadelphia they are a protected and necessary green

space for this neighborhood. They are a valuable neighborhood asset providing low cost

and free tennis instruction, gardening space in a neighborhood where many people are

apartment dwellers, and food donations to the Community Fridge and food pantries. We

are currently developing a native plant and pollinator garden around the perimeter of the

tennis courts. We hope to make this an educational space teaching the benefits of

native plants and insects.


Penn support of the Lea School presents both an opportunity and a challenge. For the

diverse population at Lea School to receive a quality education is a wonderful

opportunity both for the students and society as a whole. The challenge is to prevent the

loss of diversification of the Lea Catchment area . We are going to need both a

structural and individual approach. The neighborhood needs to become more active in

promoting affordable housing. There are other schools in the neighborhood that would

benefit from Penn’s support: GLA/Huey, Harrington, Comegys and Locke.


The neighborhood also needs to support families already here so that they can remain

in their current housing. We will need to corral a coalition of existing city agencies;

non-profits, and advocacy groups to help with maintenance, advocate for tax breaks for

existing homeowners to stay in their homes and be a resource to those who don’t know

where to go for help. Finally, we shouldn’t pit two public benefits (housing and green

space) against each other, but see how they both contribute to making a stronger

community.


Nancy Geryk

President Garden Court Community Garden and Tennis Courts

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