Wednesday’s meeting of the Philadelphia Parks & Recreation Commission at Hawthorne Recreation Center saw the announcement of some triumphant news and some administrative changes.
Chair Nancy Goldenberg began by announcing a unanimous vote by the City Council Appropriations Committee to increase the Department’s budget by $2.675 million. There is “absolutely no question that this will pass,” Goldenberg said. She also mentioned that Council’s Rules Committee had okayed a citywide 50-foot stream buffer, a move she called a “nice compromise.”
Goldenberg then briefly ran through other parks- and rec-related news, including the recently unveiled Schuylkill River Connector Bridge, a pilot tot-oriented program, Grow Up Green, in place at two rec centers (Shepard and Mallery/Rumph), groundbreaking on Franklin’s Paine skate park and the reopening of the Tarken Rec Center ice skating rink, this weekend’s Love Your Park cleanups and Philadelphia Marathon, and an upcoming Philadelphia Parks Alliance fundraiser.
Goldenberg also presented some thoughts on the Commission’s year-long focus on safety — which culminated in an all-day working session on Oct. 24. She summed up park users’ feedbacks on safety as having to do with the absences of lighting, maintenance, respect for rules, and programming.
Deputy Mayor Michael DiBerardinis picked up that thread, saying that the Department had gotten the message. “There are a number of things within our reach that we can respond to,” he said, citing lighting and programming. As for video cameras, he added, some 35 will be installed at rec centers within the next few months.
DiBerardinis next expanded on the new monies which will be transferred from the city’s general fund to the Department, saying “this is really big” because it signals that the “we’re worthy of investment.”
The money comes with some strings, he added, namely that much of it should be slated for maintenance. When Commissioner Jeffrey Hackett asked if there’d be any chance of hiring more park guards for after-hours, DiBerardinis said it was “not a bad idea,” but he’d have to get a clearer understanding of how to best fulfill the maintenance obligations.
DiBerardinis also presented an update on the Department’s plans to create a riverfront trail leading to and from Bartram’s Garden. Commissioner Sarah Clark Stuart asked for clarification on how much setback from the river was included in the parcels acquired by the Department. DiBerardinis responded that this was still open to negotiation, adding that the trail’s ultimate design would be the driving force. Parks and Rec has mandated 100 feet of open space, beginning at the base of the bulkhead, be included in the land acquired north and south of Bartram’s Garden. It is not yet clear how future development will impact that swath.
Goldenberg next turned to Committee reports, mentioning that the Commission now included five standing committees. Each chair then briefly introduced the missions and members of their committees.
Commissioner Debra Wolf Goldstein returns as chair of the Land Use, Planning, and Design Committee (a slight name change). She announced that Temple University has submitted plans to build a new boathouse on Boathouse Row — the first relevant project to be subject to the Commission’s recently enacted land protection ordinance. Wolf Goldstein said the case would be heard at the Commission’s next meeting in January.
Goldenberg announced that absentee Commissioner Leslie Anne Miller will replace Alexander (Pete) Hoskins, who is no longer on the Commission, as chair of the Revenue Enhancement Committee.
Two new Commissioners have also been named Committee chairs. Commissioner Andrew Denison now heads the Communications committee and Commissioner Matthew Perks now chairs the newly-created Public Safety committee. (Perks also replaces Wolf Goldstein as the Commission’s member on the Philadelphia Art Commission.)
Finally, Hackett was introduced as the chair of another new committee, one dedicated to Programming.
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