East Kensington Neighbors Association looks forward

During the East Kensington Neighbors Association’s membership meeting last week at the Philadelphia Brewing Company at 2439 Amber St., 40 residents discussed how to keep the ball rolling on plans to help grow and develop their neighborhood.

Those plans include a potential memorial park honoring the two firefighters who died in April during the Buck Hosiery fire.

“Something we are really excited about is the possibility of a large scale commons park dedicated to Lt. [Robert] Neary and Firefighter [Daniel] Sweeney who died on April 9, and to all the firefighters who saved the western edge of our neighborhood from complete destruction,” EKNA president Jeff Carpineta said.

The memory of the Buck Hosiery factory fire still hangs over the community, and was obvious in neighbors’ concerns about the mostly vacant factory at York and Jasper streets.

“If the 40 miles per hour stream of fire embers was blowing south on April 9, the building would have burned down,” Carpineta said of the factory at York and Jasper. “It would risk destroying a whole other section of the neighborhood as well shutting the El down for days or weeks. We’ve been extremely nervous about the place.”

At the meeting, attendees heard that the factory on the 1800 block of York Street has been purchased by a new owner with plans to revitalize the place. However, Carpineta pointed out, there were also plans to bring the Buck Hosiery factory back to life that never had a chance to be realized.

EKNA is also waiting to hear back about an application for funding from a local foundation to help plan and execute the redesign of the Hagert Street Playground. Early plans include a mass tree planting, inviting the Mural Arts Program to design a mural, and adding more greenery.

“The work at Hagert Playground and the Memorial Park project promise to connect old and new residents, young and old,” Carpineta said.

Members at the EKNA meeting also heard from representatives of Catholic Health Care Services, which has proposed a senior housing project development on Emerald Street between Hagert and Letterly streets. While still in its infancy, if the vacant lot in question can be re-zoned, and if the project moves forward, it would bring in 40 units of senior housing for residents 62 and up, with an income of $32,000 or less.

Other EKNA plans under discussion at the meeting included organizing neighbor-to-neighbor phone trees for crime reporting, and holding education and advocacy classes on property tax reform for residents.

Nearer on the horizon are a slew of beautification projects, like the fall clean-up and barbecue on Oct. 13, held in conjunction with the Old Richmond Civic Association and the Fishtown Neighbors Association.

From Oct. 6 to 14, the Young Involved Philadelphia group will be holding a sustainability walking tour in Kensington to see how green technology and sustainable practices have benefited the neighborhood.

A fall community picnic is planned at Emerald Park at the end of October.

Another idea that was tossed around at the meeting was setting up an artistic mini-golf park in the neighborhood, a proposal being circulated by Pete Angevine, a co-founder of Little Baby’s ice Cream, and other EKNA leaders.

“The idea is that a healthy neighborhood needs fun things to do,” Carpineta said about the idea. “Just as programs, initiatives and development are all important in rebuilding a neighborhood, so too are the things that capture the hearts of the young and old — things like pizza, ice cream, a movie theater and mini-golf.”

“East Kensington has the most amazing collection of artists and makers anywhere in the city,” he went on to say, “And we can’t wait to see what they dream in the next two years.”

Reporter Sam Newhouse can be reached at snewhouse@bsmphilly.com.