With friends like these. . .
Imagine my surprise after having been treated with the utmost respect and
courtesy by both KYW 1060 and the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society
marketing department when our community garden won free tickets and a
lovely garden tea at yesterday's Philadelphia Flower Show to pick up the
Philadelphia Inquirer this morning and read *this* by the current head of
Philadelphia Green. Check out the text printed in red (emphasis
mine) as to see why I am so steamed.
Dorene Pasekoff, Coordinator
St. John's United Church of Christ Organic Community Garden
A mission of
St. John's United Church of Christ, 315 Gay Street, Phoenixville,
A simple plan to greener, cleaner urban lots
Philadelphia Green will use the $1 million raised at the Flower Show
to help clear and reclaim blighted land.
By Matthew P. Blanchard
Inquirer Staff Writer
The mind of Mike Groman left the Philadelphia Flower Show for a
moment yesterday and traveled a short distance to the city's wasted
Not so far from these lush plant displays, he said, Philadelphia has
31,000 vacant lots heaped with trash and despair. This land must be
reclaimed if the city is to prosper, he said. Every ticket bought at the
Flower Show last week will help him do it.
Groman, 46, heads a program called Philadelphia Green, which is the sole
beneficiary of the $1 million raised by ticket sales at the Flower Show.
The show ended yesterday after drawing an estimated 250,000 to the
Now Groman's real work begins. During the spring planting season,
Philadelphia Green will reclaim 1,000 urban lots with a strategy that is
strikingly simple and oddly suburban.
The program, part of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, which runs
the flower show, won a $4 million contract last year from Mayor Street's
anti-blight Neighborhood Transformation Initiative to clean and seed
about one million square feet of land in targeted
The massive task requires a whole new approach to
urban greening, Groman said. The community "pocket" parks of
the 1960s and '70s were too expensive and rarely maintained. Community
gardens are nice but require too much attention.
Philadelphia Green's answer is simple and cheap. It clears lots,
plants grass, and stabs a few tree saplings around the perimeter. Lucky
lots get split-rail fences. It has the naked, barren look of a new
suburban development. But in the city, it works. Neighbors buy the lots
as side yards. Developers suddenly see the site has potential. The total
cost is around $2 per square foot.
"We learned that to prevent dumping on these lots, a basic level of
gardening is better than chain-link fencing or Jersey barriers,"
said Patricia Smith, director of the anti-blight initiative. It's cheaper
The work began in the fall planting season, when Philadelphia Green
cleared 700,000 square feet. Next week, the spring work will focus on six
neighborhoods: Frankford; East Mount Airy; West Philadelphia (north of
Market Street); the American Street corridor (borders North
Philadelphia); and two sections of North Philadelphia, one near Temple
University and another just north of Girard Avenue.
Such simple interventions can have a huge impact on a neighborhood,
Groman said, because they affect the mind.
He has seen it happen. Some years ago, Philadelphia Green cleaned a strip
of JFK Boulevard near 30th Street Station where people used to
Now they picnic on the grass. From his fifth-floor office window on Arch
Street, Groman watches people act out their altered perception of the
"Sometimes newspapers and trash will blow onto it," he said.
"We've seen people reach down and pick up the newspaper and put it
in the trash, which they would never have done."
Gardening, he said, is a force for good.
Contact staff writer Matt Blanchard at 610-313-3132 or