Philly activists call for halt of FDR Park's $250M renovation despite judge's opposing ruling

Workers have started cutting trees in FDR Park in South Philly days after a judge cleared the way for park renovations and activists took their battle to Commonwealth Court.

A large tree lies on its side just inside a fence now encircling much of the western half of South Philly’s FDR Park. Nearby, other trees are felled, and activists chant their anger. "Stop the cutting, save our park," they yelled.

Some 20 South Philly residents and activists gathered in the park this morning to sharply criticize the city and the Fairmount Park Conservancy for the cutting of what it calls "heritage trees" valued for their history, age, or size.

Lady Danni Morinich, who opposes the plan, said, "it’s a shame these trees cannot be profitized because if they could, then Fairmount Park Conservancy would keep them."

In video posted online, the activists from the group "Save The Meadows" said the cutting began Friday, one day after a city judge ruled she had no jurisdiction to stop Philadelphia’s $250 million renovation of the park, and they rushed to court to appeal. 

Avigail Milder, also opposes to the city’s plan, said the appeal "seemed to really motivate them to create new facts on the ground basically destroy these Keystone Heritage trees we’re trying to protect."

The plan calls for multiple, artificial turf athletic fields, along with a storm water management system, to be built in the western side. City Parks and Rec. said it will provide "equitable recreation opportunities" for nearby communities.

Police stood in the park Monday while workers stretched more fencing. 

Activists, hoping to quiet the chain saws in court, appealed directly to the mayor.


Harrison Mace of South Philadelphia said, "We want to work with you. We want to work for you. Instead, you ignore the very voice of the people that elected you for destruction."

The city's Parks and Recreation Center sent the following statement to FOX 29 Monday on the matter:

"The City and Fairmount Park Conservancy went through the proper channels to remove trees in FDR Park. After two court procedures significantly delayed the start of work, the recent decision of the Orphans Court to remove the stay means the City could proceed with removing the trees as planned. Removing the trees is a necessary first step for the Picnic & Play phase of revitalizing FDR Park. This is a crucial element of the FDR Park Plan, which will resolve the persistent flooding that threatens to take over the park in a matter of decades and will also address the serious inequity of playable fields in Philadelphia. FDR Park’s size and location offer a unique opportunity to redefine what an urban park can be, by further integrating recreation with natural lands, planting tens of thousands of native trees and plants, and giving park users a wealth of activities and amenities all in one place. This reimagining of FDR Park is part of Mayor Cherelle L. Parker’s vision for a safer, cleaner, greener Philadelphia with access to economic opportunity for all."