Nestled between the Philadelphia International Airport and Darby Township in southwestern Philadelphia, the Eastwick section of the city is surprisingly quiet and green.
At the edge of the neighborhood, on South 86th Street, row homes and small apartment buildings abut 128 vacant acres, much of it wild overgrowth.
Longtime resident Terry Williams said he doesn’t want to lose the “picturesque” and “pristine” green space if a 722-unit, 51-building apartment complex proposed by Korman Residential were built on part of the parcel.
But his main concern is the possibility of more floods in an area that has been plagued by them for decades.
“With all that concrete, where’s the water going to go?” Williams said.
About a mile away, on the banks of Darby Creek, resident Sheila Gladden has the same concern.
“I’ve watched one flood after another after another devastate this community, and no one seems to care,” Gladden said. “We’re just back here, like, forgotten.”
Gladden said her first-floor living room has flooded eight times since 1999. She has the water lines on her walls to prove it.
“Each and every time that there’s a heavy rain or there’s a storm or some hurricane is coming on the East Coast, I’m sitting on pins and needles, wondering what devastation is going to be next,” Gladden said.
Eastwick residents, many of them organized under the group Eastwick Friends and Neighbors Coalition, will air their concerns about the persistent flooding at a City Council committee meeting Tuesday. The hearing is partly in response to the uproar at a June meeting concerning the proposed Korman development. Community members said they did not have enough input.
In response to residents’ testimony about flooding concerns, the Philadelphia Water Department has been distributing surveys to community members to determine if anything can be done to prevent the flooding.
Exploring flood-control options
Philadelphia water commissioner Howard Neukrug said city officials want to work with the federal government to build a berm on Cobbs Creek to help reduce overflow. And they have pledged to work with neighbors to ensure faulty drainage systems don’t cause flooding nearby.
But Neukrug said because the proposed development site is slightly higher than the rest of the neighborhood, it should actually help reduce flooding in the area, not make it worse, as many residents fear.
“Because the land is elevated now, most likely most of the rainfall is running off of that land and going into the streets and into areas near there,” Neukrug said. “So by doing any kind of development, which requires stormwater management to take place on that site, we will be able to capture more of the water.”
Neukrug acknowledges the worst flooding events in the low-lying area cannot be controlled by any one development, but required stormwater controls could lessen their severity.
Korman is not yet far enough along in the development process to be required to submit those stormwater-management plans for approval.
A zoning change would still be required to allow apartment buildings, instead of single-family homes, to be developed on the property.