Community members hoping to voice their opinion regarding the future of FDR Park finally had their chance to speak during a much-anticipated public meeting held Thursday.
Or so they thought.
The meeting was abruptly stopped following protests outside the Grand Yesha Ballroom after community members were denied entry. The long-awaited community meeting was the first public meeting since the announcement of the FDR Master Plan— outlining the pending development of the meadow land greenery at FDR Park in South Philadelphia—and comes after months of small organizing efforts to preserve what’s left of the Meadows at FDR Park.
Save The Meadows is an environmental activist group dedicated to preserving South Philadelphia’s FDR Meadows.
In 2019, FDR Golf Course closed due to frequent flooding and a decline in sales. When this took place, there was no entity that desired to possess the unclaimed land. From the lush greenery and open space, emerged the public meadows. It became a natural outdoor space where the community members of South Philly and beyond could congregate and enjoy the outdoors, especially during the height of COVID-19.
Relatively soon after the golf course closed, Philadelphia Parks & Recreation announced a Master Plan to convert the public meadows into a new development, to build a $100 million sports complex. In August 2022, 70 acres of mature tree canopy and habitat were razed to the ground in the name of growth.
“This habitat destruction is just the beginning of the land grab,” said Kendon.
The Meadows organizers believe the FDR Master Plan is wrong in many ways for Philadelphia, its communities, and the environment. They say the Parks & Recreation Department would clearcut public parkland to build the sports complex with artificial turf fields, stadium lighting, and parking lots.
Meadows organizer Kendon also relayed that artificial turf fields including those with plant-based infill, are toxic and linked to cancer. She emphasized that the Master Plan would destroy South Philadelphia’s largest tree canopy, habitat and migration zone. The green space also protects South Philadelphia neighborhoods from stormwater flooding, increasingly hot summers and pollutants.
Lastly, according to the organizers at Save the Meadows, the Master Plan was developed behind closed doors without allowing for community input in any significant way.
“The developers have changed the plan a number of times already, behind closed doors and without involvement or representation from the public, so we know the plan can be changed,” said Harrison Mace, Save The Meadows activist. “Why all the secrecy? Why the closed doors?”
Organizers of the Save the Meadows movement are demanding municipal figures to be inclusive of the voice of the community and stop ignoring activists and neighbors.
Moving forward, Save The Meadows is hoping for transparency, accountability and authenticity between developers, community members and government. The group believes that trust has been broken between the community and government, but they’re hoping it can be restored through resolution.
“We want the funds Mayor Kenney’s administration promised to FDR Park to go to local neighborhoods and actually benefit youth and community members,” said Mace.
“And the community still wants a town hall meeting where their questions can be answered,” added Kendon.