North Philly gardeners challenge PHA plans

A group of North Philly residents are up in arms after the Philadelphia Housing Authority erected a fence around the North Philly Peace Park, claiming they’ve lost access to a garden where they grew fresh vegetables for the neighborhood.

“We came in, cleaned it up, planted food in the ground,” said Pili X, an organizer at the Peace Park, which is located at 24th and Bolton streets, between Oxford and Jefferson streets.

Broccoli, spinach, squash, collard greens and peppers are among the crops that local volunteers planted last week in anticipation of the spring. X said the produce is given away for free to neighbors.

“This community is definitely one of the worst neighborhoods as far as a food desert is concerned,” he said.

But the PHA said they need the land to build 57 units of affordable housing as part of the planned Blumberg-Sharswood housing project.

The North Philly Peace Park was set up on a vacant trash-strewn lot three years ago.

The gardeners say that if they will give up their garden, they want PHA to guarantee them an equal or larger amount of green space to what they currently are using to garden.

The PHA offered the gardeners two parcels for gardening around the corner, and are in talks with the community gardeners about offering them green space in the housing project’s final design, according to a PHA spokeswoman.

The Philadelphia Housing Authority is working with the Peace Park to establish a new location for the park,” PHA said in a statement. “This is the place of the first phase of PHA’s Sharswood/Blumburg revitalization efforts. The construction is scheduled to begin early summer.”