Uncertainty continues to surround Mayor Jim Kenney’s promise to resurrect Philadelphia’s citywide street sweeping program by 2023.
Kenney pledged the program’s return to every neighborhood in Philadelphia in addition to increased enforcement of illegal dumping in his second term inauguration speech on Jan. 6. Kenney is implementing these programs to address the city’s pervasive litter problem.
“Yes, you heard that right, every neighborhood, which will even require folks to move their cars,” Kenney said in his speech, according to a transcript released by the city.
Different neighborhoods’ needs will be met individually with cleaning on a weekly or monthly basis, Brian Abernathy, the city’s managing director, said in a press briefing on Jan. 4.
City officials have said that plans for the street sweeping program will be developed based on data from the city’s pilot street sweeping program, the city’s Litter Index, resident feedback and budgeting, WHYY reported.
Some neighborhoods will receive more frequent sweeping based on need. Officials plan to have the program fully implemented throughout the entire city by 2023, Mayor Kenney stated in his inaugural speech.
The city currently does not have a plan for on- or off-campus street sweeping in the Temple area, Abernathy wrote.
Some North Central Philadelphia community members are concerned that this plan will not tackle the larger issues attached to the city’s notorious trash problem.
If one does come up in the upcoming report, concerns about parking may become a more pressing issue for student car owners, said Joan Briley, president of the North Central Special Services District, a Temple-funded community organization. They may have to move their cars from off-campus parking spots, depending on what streets will be swept, said Briley, who lives on 15th and Norris Streets.
However, Abernathy does not foresee challenges for car owners looking for parking.
“In neighborhoods where we determine the need for temporary parking restrictions, residents will be given proper notice with signage per our normal procedures,” Abernathy wrote.
Philadelphia’s previous street sweeping program was thrown out in 2008 due to budget issues, according to a 2019 release from the city. The city started a pilot street cleaning program that targeted the neighborhoods which ranked highest on its litter index in April 2019, according to the release.
The pilot allowed car owners to avoid having to move their cars and combined street sweeping efforts with patrols of Philadelphia Streets Department workers armed with brooms and backpack blowers, according to the release. The program, however, was quickly met with complaints from 5th Square, a Philadelphia Public Action Committee, about the noise and effect on air quality from the dust kicked up by the blowers, Billy Penn reported.
The city’s street sweeping plan has been met with mixed reactions by community residents.
Janet King, who lives near 15th and Diamond Streets, is worried about possible delays in scheduled street sweeping days due to holidays or sweeping worker strikes, she said.
“I don’t think it’s gonna help me at all,” said King. “I don’t like trash near my home so I’m gonna clean anyway.”
“Once folks start depending on it, I think they’re gonna litter more because someone’s going to come by and sweep it anyway,” King added.
Briley is glad to see more effort put into cleaning the streets.
“I agree with it,” Briley said. “I’m glad that [Mayor Kenney] is coming out and stepping up to do a little bit more,”
“The Council President supports a citywide street sweeping effort that cleans every neighborhood,” Joe Grace, spokesman for City Council President Darrell Clarke whose District 5 encompasses Main Campus, said.
Jackie Wiggins, who lives near 20th and Diamond Streets, said that there needs to be an inclusion of community members’ voices, a balance of needs in the street sweeping revival plans and an effort from the city to take responsibility for issues that may be exacerbating the litter problem. These problems include the lack of environmental and public health education or unavailability of public trash receptacles, Wiggins said.
“There needs to be a plan, there needs to be a system and people are wanting to be informed,” said Wiggins, who is a leader of Stadium Stompers, a local advocacy organization that opposes the construction of an on-campus football stadium.
Wiggins would like to see more comprehensive plans that educate citizens about litter, engage the community in those plans and place more trash cans in litter heavy neighborhoods, she said.
“We are still a city in real poverty in some areas and we’re also a city where that’s not so. So how do you find balance and common ground with respects to what people need?” Wiggins asked.
Dan Ju, a junior majoring in facilities management and car-owner, is not concerned about the street sweeping program, he said.
“The city cleaning the streets doesn’t really bother me,” Ju, who lives on Fontain and 15th Streets, said. “I mean, it’s kind of an inconvenience but for maybe a day. If they’re cleaning the streets, I’m all for it.”
The Managing Director’s Office will release more details about the 2020 street sweeping program once they publish the 2019 Street Sweeping Pilot Report in February, Abernathy wrote.