Pilot program brings 24-hour cleaning crews to Kensington Avenue corridor

Kensington cleaning
Crews clean streets in Kensington as part of a new pilot program.
Jack Tomczuk

Sanitation trucks on Monday morning swept the streets of Kensington as a SEPTA worker sprayed off the steps leading to the Market-Frankford Line’s Allegheny Station.

The efforts are part of a 24-hour pilot program launched last month aimed at cleaning up one of Philadelphia’s most challenged neighborhoods, where people camp out on sidewalks and openly use drugs.

Conwell Middle School Principal Erica Green speaks Monday, Oct. 16, at a news conference about a cleaning pilot program in Kensington.Jack Tomczuk

Cleaning crews are focusing on the Kensington Avenue business corridor, McPherson Square Park and outside school buildings, those involved in the initiative said. Multiple city departments, SEPTA and local nonprofits are participating.

“This avenue was not always in the state that it is in or that sometimes we see it in,” said City Councilmember Quetcy Lozada, who represents the area and is spearheading the program. “Plenty of residents can tell you about when this was a thriving business community.”

“We need to be proud of this community and treat the streets with respect and care,” she added. “Kensington Avenue has all of the tools to be one of the city’s best commercial areas.”

Lozada said the enhanced cleaning covers the blocks between Jasper and L streets from Tioga to Lehigh avenues, and she expects the pilot to continue for at least a year.

Police clear a small encampment Monday, Oct. 16, on Kensington Avenue.Jack Tomczuk

Since the program began, in early September, the Department of Streets has collected more than 140 tons of garbage, Commissioner Carlton Williams said.

Between 4 a.m. and 4 p.m., sanitation workers operating street sweepers and sidewalk cleaners patrol the area, while trash trucks search for illegally dumped materials, said Troy Cooper, the Streets Department supervisor overseeing the Kensington pilot. Officials said partner agencies take over during off-hours.

Lozada said the initiative took inspiration from the comments young people made at a July hearing at Conwell Middle School that focused on issues affecting Kensington.

“I understand that people are struggling with addiction,” Conwell Principal Erica Green said Monday. “But we have to be very clear that we need to protect children, and we need to do what’s right by them at all times.”

“Children are being inconvenienced in this neighborhood,” she continued. “There are encampments at each corner of the school.”

City Councilmember Quetcy Lozada speaks to pawn shop owner John Friedman on Monday, Oct. 16, during a tour of Kensington Avenue.Jack Tomczuk

Lozada, following a news conference at Conwell, led a walking tour through the neighborhood with city officials and representatives from nonprofit organizations. At times, the group ventured into the street to avoid encampments along Kensington Avenue.

The council member visited Allegheny Station, McPherson Square and spoke with business owners, including Amarilis Amancio, owner of a dollar store at Kensington Avenue and Clearfield Street.

“We just want the neighborhood to be a normal neighborhood where people come and shop,” Amancio told Lozada.