By Matt Jackson
As a new resident of Bustleton, I am excited at the new beginning moving to a different neighborhood the city has to offer. I’m just about settled in. Since I moved here in the beginning of November, I’ve had an opportunity to get to know the area. While I’m still excited about this new beginning, I am flabbergasted at the unwillingness of local officials to acknowledge and stand behind the opposition of residents to the warehouse UPS is planning for 1 Red Lion Road.
The former Budd site has quite a history, but its environmental issues are deeply concerning. I am beyond disgusted at how our district councilperson is treating the issue. For an elected representative to tell his constituents that they need to have leverage with their opposition to development that is clearly an overuse and is incompatible with the surrounding residential area is outrageous.
I applaud and thank Chris Bordelon from Somerton Civic Association for his op-ed stating his belief that there is still time to stop the warehouse. That is the spirit we need to fight this unwanted development. His discussion about a change to the zoning is right-minded. As Bordelon states, it is possible if “any councilmember cares to do so.” What the heck is wrong with Brian O’Neill? Whatever happened to, “when people want to ruin neighborhoods, I don’t take to them kindly?” There is leverage.
Despite its unpopularity, in this case, this is where councilmanic prerogative comes into play and is supposed to save neighborhoods from unwanted development. In the overview of a report by Pew Charitable Trusts, it says that “by using prerogative, councilmembers can stop or alter projects that are not good fits for neighborhoods, make quality developments even better, and in some instances, secure funding for neighborhood organizations or initiatives.” Also in the overview is a great statement by Council President Darrell Clarke, who said, “Nobody knows a community better than the district council person that represents it.”
UPS’ plan is not a good fit for the neighborhood. The fact that the parcel of land is zoned industrial is outdated. It became obsolete when the residential area sprouted up around it. The zoning needs to change to reflect the neighborhood around it. I don’t believe Brian O’Neill when he says there is no leverage. In fact, it is a total slap in the face for him to say that he will support the community, but can’t support them for asking something impossible. Nothing is impossible. In O’Neill’s case, he needs to stand up in City Council and use his prerogative to stop a project that is not good for the neighborhood because he does not take kindly to those who want to ruin neighborhoods.
Let’s talk for a moment about environmental issues. Why are we not looking into why Bustleton and Somerton have the highest incidence of cancer in the city of Philadelphia as noted by the city Department of Public Health and Drexel University’s Urban Health Collaborative? The Summer 2019 report on “The Health of Philadelphia’s Neighborhoods” should be top priority. Are we really supposed to feel better about the dirt pile referred to as Mt. Somerton being spread throughout the property? Clearly it is meant to suppress the toxic nature of what lies underground. Some might say it is the best thing for us, but we must determine why Bustleton and Somerton have the highest cancer rates in the city. It is reckless to continue to ignore the barrels of PCBs buried in various places on the property. On the subject of the environmental concerns surrounding 1 Red Lion Road, I believe the PA Department of Environmental Protection needs to investigate the property for continued remediation. That’s where we need our friends from the state to step in. It would pose a further risk to public health to construct a warehouse that will bring with it more exhaust due to the increased traffic from more trucks and vans barreling through our residential streets.
To top it off, Red Lion Road is a major artery in Northeast Philadelphia. Many may recall a study from State Farm when it identified Red Lion and the Boulevard as the second-most dangerous intersection in the United States. If this warehouse project comes to fruition, that would be a sure way to make Red Lion and the Boulevard the most dangerous intersection in the United States. As a new resident of Bustleton, I implore our city and state officials to stop this monstrosity. ••