PHA conducts Queen Lane Apartments pre-implosion canvassing effort

 Brenda Jessie lives across the street from the Queen Lane Apartments tower. She says change in the neighborhood is long overdue. (Brad Larrison/for NewsWorks)

Brenda Jessie lives across the street from the Queen Lane Apartments tower. She says change in the neighborhood is long overdue. (Brad Larrison/for NewsWorks)

Over six days in August, the Philadelphia Housing Authority’s Queen Lane Information Team canvassed the neighborhood surrounding this upcoming weekend’s high-rise implosion site with surveys that reviewed demolition-day information.

Nichole Tillman of the PHA said that team members spoke with “at least one resident” at each of the 79 occupied properties in the evacuation zone.

By the numbers

In addition, the team hand delivered materials to 539 properties in the dust zone, an area within a greater three-block radius of the Queen Lane Apartments bordered by Hansberry Street, McKean Avenue, West Coulter Street and Wayne Avenue.

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An estimated 200 people told PHA canvassers that they did not have family or friends who could host them on Saturday.

Those neighbors (and their pets) were directed to PHA’s “comfort shelter” at Cook-Wissahickon Elementary School in Roxborough. Shuttles will leave from 245 W. Queen Lane and the 300 block of W. Penn St. at 5 a.m. Saturday.

Authorities estimate that residents will need to remain away from their homes for six to eight hours after the implosion as clean-up crews clear the streets and health officials monitor air quality.

‘Ample opportunities’ to get details

Corliss Gray, president of the Queen Lane Tenant Council and a resident since 1959, said that neighbors “have had ample opportunities” to learn about the demolition schedule.

In addition to the advance team’s work, PHA has sent two mailings throughout the affected neighborhoods and, for the past three years, the Mount Moriah Baptist Church on Pulaski Avenue has hosted community meetings where PHA and demolition officials have outlined the process.

Although she feels “very good” about Saturday’s plans, Gray has been surprised that some neighbors have voiced “protest” at more recent gatherings.

“We thought we had satisfied all the questions,” she said.

At an Aug. 14 meeting, for example, locals asked about asbestos and clean-up procedures, specifically wondering how clean-up crews would get to dust enclosed in back lots, whether dust-covered garden vegetables will still be edible and whether trucks moving building debris will cause more sinkholes on downtrodden streets.

Two neighbors’ takes

Nathan Hasty, reverend at Mount Moriah for 17 years, has been a consulting party for the Queen Lane project.

He said the building has been “a blight for the community” that needs to go and is pleased with PHA’s lines of communication and commitment to low-income housing, disability accommodations and Section 3, which requires contractors to make a “best effort” to hire 30 percent of its workforce from the neighborhood.

“This is change. We need change in this area,” said Brenda Jessie, a long-time resident who lives across the street from the building. “If you don’t have anything to spark interest, the community is going to die.”

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