On May 7th Councilwoman Joan Krajewski introduced a bill that would have opened Fairmount Park to private real estate developers. Though since withdrawn, Councilwoman Krajewski’s bill has raised some serious concerns over the future of Philadelphia’s beloved Fairmount Park. As Alex Bonavitacola, vice president of the outgoing Fairmount Park Commission, wondered, “Is it an omen or a preview of things to come?” It will certainly come as a pleasant surprise if this is the last we hear about selling and developing Park land, but we fear that the May 7th bill is merely City Council’s first attempt at testing the waters of what is and isn’t doable with the Park’s 11,000-plus acres.
Even more worrisome than Krajewski’s bill, however, is a fact that appeared in Stephan Salisbury’s front-page article last Thursday (May 21st): “The advisory parks and recreation commission will have no power to block sales or development.” This doesn’t just put the Park at risk. It puts the majority of real power directly in the hands of the Mayor and City Council, neither of whom should have, or were ever meant to have, so much control over the Park. The Park Commission was established to avoid just this type of situation, and has a 142-year record of protecting the Park. But City Council seems to have waited for just the right time—during a global economic crisis—and used just the right tactics—cleverly packaging the dissolution of the Park Commission as a way to improve Fairmount Park and wrest control from a secretive body of white elitists. Unfortunately, the people were bamboozled.
The Park now faces a potentially fatal combination of (popularly elected) government control and political/economic pressure.
If you’d like to help preserve Fairmount Park for future generations, please SIGN OUR PETITION! We are urging City Council to pass a bill that would forever ban any development in the Park. You can also contact your district’s Councilperson and voice your displeasure directly.
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(Photo credit: PhillyH2O.)