On June 12, 2012, Eastwick residents and the Heinz Refuge won a victory in their fight to have a voice in the future planning and environmental health of their community. At 4:30pm, after about four hours of hearing testimony, Councilman Kenyatta Johnson held the bill that would have rezoned a 35 acre parcel from single family to multi-family, preventing it from going to a committee vote. Following the hearing, Councilman Johnson stated to the press that his decision was grounded in the need to make sure the community is fully informed.
The councilman made the decision to hold the bill after the committee called for testimony by an attorney for the Department of Aviation. The attorney testified to a link between the rezoning bill, a settlement agreement between Korman and the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority, and a transfer of 93 additional acres from the PRA to the airport. This linkage not been previously been discussed with the committee or in testimony. There is a hearing scheduled for June 13th on the bill to transfer that 93 acre parcel from the PRA to the City for use by the airport.
Over twenty residents and environmentalists, including the Law Center’s Amy Laura Cahn, testified against the bill, raising questions about the flooding and environmental impacts of the planned development. It became clear in the hearings that no environmental studies have, yet, been done. Early in the hearings, Councilwomen Blondell Reynolds Brown and Marion Tasco asked very pointed questions of the representative from the Philadelphia Water Department about what has been done to address flooding and foundation subsistence in Eastwick. They suggested to Councilman Johnson that one of the benefits of the proposed development would be to find funds to mitigate existing flooding.