PHILADELPHIA (WTXF) - One of Philadelphia's worst-looking areas should soon be looking a whole lot better.
That's because there's a new agreement between Philadelphia and Conrail to clean and secure the Conrail property in the city's Fairhill-Kensington neighborhood.
According to the agreement, Conrail and the city will begin the cleanup work as soon as possible, but no later than the end of next month.
Conrail's job will be to remove the vegetation to create clear sight lines from street level; remove the trash and debris; and secure the railroad property to deter trespassing and illegal dumping.
The city will provide housing and drug-addiction services to those living in the encampment, as well additional services to address ongoing quality of life issues to the surrounding neighborhood.
Mayor Jim Kenney said at a Thursday morning news conference, "I'd be remiss if I didn't say that, for them, this announcement is long overdue. They deserved faster action from all of us standing up here today. Over the years, thousands of addicts and drug dealers have used this property as an open-air drug market, and the community has been subjected to the public health problems, crime and negative impact to quality of life. That said, I am glad that we are here, and that we can take this very important first step towards helping the community take back their neighborhood."
A community meeting to discuss the agreement and next steps will be held June 20 at 5:30 p.m. at the Iglesias del Barrio, 240 E Cambria Street.
The city says, in the past year, it launched a coordinated interdepartmental effort to address serious quality of life issues. L&I has spent more than of $600,000 to demolish and seal dozens of vacant buildings. The Streets Department has invested more than $230,000 upgrading street lighting in the surrounding neighborhood. CLIP abated 21 vacant lots, facilitated more than a dozen beautification projects, and cleaned thousands of graffiti tags. Also, monthly, the city removed 30-40 tons of illegally dumped trash from the areas near the railroad.
To prepare for the cleanup, area Health and Human Services outreach efforts were increased in early May to five days a week, and making drug treatment available to anyone willing to accept it.