Residents on the 900 block of Harrison Street say they are fed up with what they consider a lack of maintenance of Northwood Park by the city. Their chief complaints center around the large branches that have been cut down but not removed from the park, large underbrush that is building up along the sides of the old railroad viaduct cutting through the park and the burned down garage that is facing Rutland Street seemingly abandoned. On Veterans Day, I met Larry Norton, a 9 year resident of Northwood who lives across the street from the park, as he talked about Northwood Park’s role in the neighborhood and how’s it’s neglect threatens the area’s stability.
Larry considers the park being across the street from him a huge asset. “It’s like being out in the country, you don’t get this everywhere else in Philadelphia” he says. He fears that further neglect will begin damaging his neighborhood.
The sidewalk across the street from the park presents a much prettier picture, with residents diligently keeping up on their properties. And that’s one of Larry’s complaints. There are people here using the park and wanting it in the best condition possible. Larry says he has complained repeatedly to the city about the underbrush that is building up along the sides of the old railroad viaduct that runs through park. His frustration has grown as he’s called 311 numerous times and has been given confirmation numbers to track the issue but has never received any followups. Larry beleives that the underbrush not being cleared out is hurting the residents enjoyment of the park. He says it’s become a haven for those seeking to do drugs and drink out of view, and that, in turn, keeps residents from using the area.
He notes that he’s seen the city send three workmen to empty the trash can in the tennis court but no one has showed up to remove any overgrowth that has accumulated over the years. He doesn’t think it’s a hard job, “maybe twice a year” they could come out.
Larry points to the tennis courts that sit on the southeast corner of the park and wonders why they can’t have the tennis nets all the time like the courts on City Line and up on Cottman Ave. He says that the tennis camps bring their own and take them down when they’re done. He recalls that at one time they left the nets up but the skate boarders took them down and put them in the corner. Then they one day they just disappeared entirely. Larry believes that leaving them up would encourage more tennis players to use the park and help spiral productive uses in general.
Tom McHugh, a 28 year resident across the street, says the park is in the worst condition he’s ever seen. He says sees kids playing in the burned out remains of the garages at the edge of the park on Northwood Street weekly. It’s only a matter of time before it gets set on fire again.
Joe Krause, the Northwood Civic president, notes that the abandoned building is another problem entirely. “With that you can’t just go demolish it. It’s still private property, we know who owns it and where they’re at, but getting them to do anything about it is another story.”
Joe also notes that the city rarely takes any action it’s own. You really need a community group to start handling the project from which the area’s politicians can jump in and support, as is the case with the wildly successful Friends of Overington Park.
The residents are hoping that spotlighting the condition will highlight the issue and hopefully create lasting change. The notice for the upcoming Northwood Civic meeting shows the park on the agenda for this Tuesday. Interested parties are encouraged to attend.