Kensington is Tired of the City’s Failure to Act on the Terrible Conditions in the Neighborhood

Councilmember Maria Quinones Sanchez held the hearing with community stakeholders and city officials to highlight Kensington’s significant problems. It was organized by City Council’s Committee on Public Health and Human Services. One city official was missing though — Mayor Jim Kenney.

Sanchez said that that while the things that Kensington deals with are a citywide issue, state issue, and an issue in the country, nowhere else, other than Kensington, has this been allowed the happen.

“We’re here to demand that the residents of Kensington get their lives and their quality of life restored.

Eduardo Esquivel, president of the Kensington Neighborhood Association

Councilmember Maria Quinones Sanchez held the hearing with community stakeholders and city officials to highlight Kensington’s significant problems. It was organized by City Council’s Committee on Public Health and Human Services. One city official was missing though — Mayor Jim Kenney.

Sanchez said that that while the things that Kensington deals with are a citywide issue, state issue, and an issue in the country, nowhere else, other than Kensington, has this been allowed the happen.

“We’re here to demand that the residents of Kensington get their lives and their quality of life restored.

Roz Pichardo, Operation Save Our City

August 18th marks a deadline for encampments of homeless and those in addiction to disperse. What that means for the neighborhood is anyone’s guess, as a plan doesn’t seem to be in place.

Multitudes of residents and stakeholders testified at the hearing. Eduardo Esquivel jumped right into it, telling how drug dealers attempted to murder him, his wife, and his mother in May of 2018. He thought that would be the peak of problems in Kensington, and that those in charge would see what has gone terribly wrong in the neighborhood. He was mistaken. “More than three years later, I have watched my community subjected to evermore unspeakable and evermore regular violence,” he said.

Darlene Abner-Burton, Harrowgate resident

Esquivel’s testimony was stunning. He was attacked again this year and a man threatened to bash him in the head with a brick when Esquivel asked him not to shoot-up in the playground at McPherson Square Park.

“This is Kensington. A place forsaken because its residents’ lives do not matter to this City,” he said. “Residents and people experiencing homelessness, and young men and older who have been lured into drug sales here are attacked and murdered with shocking regularity.”

Some streets of Kensington are lined with trash, syringes, and feces. Violence that once ruled the night, is common any time of day. The encampment areas have become increasingly dangerous for neighborhood residents.

“I don’t live in Philadelphia,” Esquivel told city officials at the hearing. “I live in a hellscape created by your indifference and the indifference of Mayor Kenney.

Residents and community leaders have been asking for help for years. Shannon Farrell, president of the Harrowgate Civic Association, said that four years ago she begged and pleaded for help. A day before the hearing, two men were shot in McPherson Square Park, and a man was shot and killed on the 2000 block of Glenwood Avenue in her neighborhood. She’d like to see Mayor Kenney visit the neighborhood to see what residents are dealing with. “He won’t come here,” she said. “We’ve invited the mayor over and over again, and he will not come here, because he simply doesn’t care.” While conditions are intolerable in Kensington and Harrowgate, Farrell said that Mayor Kenney will not come to listen to residents and help them.

Casey O’Donnell, CEO of Impact Services which provides many services to the neighborhood, took note that the people in the room come with vastly different perspectives. He said that every person there deserves safety, compassion, treatment if needed, housing, and a clean environment where kids can live and play.

The amazing lack of direction can be found everywhere in City leadership. O’Donnell said that a police leader in the room told him that the police need clear direction from the City so that they know what to do, and what not to do. “The police aren’t even sure what they can do for this neighborhood,” exclaimed O’Donnell.

The issues are talked about at meetings …. many meetings …. and nothing seems to get done. O’Donnell has been to so many meetings that he said he’s not even sure words matter anymore.

(Front, Left – right) Shannon Farrell, president of the Harrowgate Civic Association; Casey O’Donnell, CEO of Impact Services; Eduardo Esquivel, president of the Kensington Neighborhood Association — all who gave testimony in front of City Council.

Five weeks ago, O’Donnell and others told the City that tensions in the neighborhood are too high and that they need to do something immediately or someone is going to get hurt. Within a week, a man (a block captain) was walking home from Walgreens and while passing the encampment on the 3200 block of Kensington Avenue, was jumped and beaten, resulting in a broken arm where the bone pierced through his skin.

A week following another meeting, at which he said the City didn’t listen last time and someone is going to die,  two men were shot in McPherson Square Park.

Many more testified at the 3-hour hearing. O’Donnell said that Kenney needs to stand with the people of the neighborhood and maybe he should open his own backyard to stand with the people in their suffering who live in the tents.

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