A community meeting was held last night at Mount Moriah Baptist Church on 5333 W. Pulaski Ave with the Philadelphia Housing Authority officials and Germantown residents to address concerns about the future of the Queen Lane Apartments.
Residents came to get answers about the demolition of the apartments as well as limited parking, property safety and the elimination of a playground space for children in the neighborhood.
Portia Carter, a board member of the Queen Lane Tenant Council, came to see if a solid plan was in place.
“I’m here to see if it’s new developments or anything new they can give us like a positive date on starting the project because I am for the development,” Carter said. “I live three doors down.”
The PHA has plans to demolish the old and vacant Queen Lane Apartments, which were built in 1955. The construction of a 55-unit apartment complex is to be built by the PHA in place of the abandoned 19-story building that sits on the corner of Pulaski Avenue and Queen Lane.
Potter’s Field is an old historic burial ground that lies beneath the former Queen Lane Apartments and encompasses the Wissahickon playground. It was originally a burial place for African-American slaves and used between 1755 and 1915.
“They didn’t care where they put anything when it came to Potter’s Field,” said Barry Le Land, a nearby resident of West Winona Street. “The people did not matter, they were only a fourth of a human being when they put the building there.”
Before contractors can demolish the building, a review process by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development must be completed before construction. This is to ensure the PHA does not build on top of Potter’s Field.
“We want to respect any remnants of the Potter’s Field that we find and we want to make sure that the community is comfortable with what we’re doing and how we are doing it,” said Mary Tinsman, director of historic preservation at Cultural Heritage Research Services Incorporated.
Kimberly Mathis, a member of the board of directors for the Habitat for Humanity, in Philadelphia came on behalf of her 5300 block of Priscilla Street.
“Our concern as homeowners is that we deal with the quality of life and we want families to know whatever PHA wants to do as long as it is families in there and they are monitoring the drugs in the neighborhood,” said Mathis. “We just want quality, safe and standard homes for families, that’s all we want.”
Michael Johns, the acting deputy executive director of operations for the PHA, expressed his interest in properly discovering what lies beneath the apartments.
“We are doing an assessment of the entire block to determine in fact what’s there,” Johns said. We have to go through this 106 process to determine what in fact is underground here.”
John Waterford, a neighbor of the closed apartments, lives on 5200 block of Pulaski Avenue.
“My concerns of the demolition are what kind of liability is this project going to take in regards to my property if it gets damaged. That’s my number one priority,” Waterford said.
Ricci J Hausley, a retired commercial builder and a minister at Eagles Nest Christian Fellowship, on 501 W. King St., has had a sinkhole issue and draining problems in front of his church. He wanted the PHA to address the Philadelphia Water Department on the sewage issue before the demolition occurs .
“This is an old area. If you go behind my church, water runs behind my church consistently, and some of it is ground water and some of it is domestic water,” Hausley said. When they demolish that building, there’s no way in the world its not going to effect the sewers surrounding this area.”
Waterford has been attending the meetings about Potter’s Field since last December and said his concerns still remain the same.
“In the end, what kind of guarantees are we going be given so that are property is not going to be damaged?”