On Saturday, as neighborhood groups around the city organized spring clean-ups, about 60 neighborhood activists, residents, and city and Conrail workers got down to (the beginning of) the dirty work of cleaning the drug-riddled, trash-strewn, long-neglected Conrail railroad bed that runs from the Delaware River through Port Richmond, Kensington, and North Philly and that was the subject of our cover story, “The Wasteland.”
Neighborhood groups, including the Hispanic Association of Contractors and Enterprises(H.A.C.E.), the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary church, Arch Diocese Office of Community Development, and New Kensington CDC have said that if the city and the railroad’s owner, federal entity Conrail, are willing to help clean out and maintain the railroad, they’ll do their part to keep the streets around the railroad cleaner, too.
The cleanup is part of a effort by these groups to find a solution to the criminal and trash problems the railroad causes those who live near it. Encouraging the railroad to practice better upkeep by making a good faith effort to help is one part of that equation.
H.A.C.E.’s Willie Gonzalez says of Saturday that it “was a good gesture on the part of Conrail.”
Residents of the unfortunate clock of 300 Tusculum street — who live facing a giant, gaping hole in the 50-year-old fence, and who see a steady flow of drug users, police, and violent, drug-fueled chaos past their houses — watched Conrail bulldoze swaths of accumulated garbage with mixed reactions.
Theresa Lugo, whose children were held up at gunpoint in front of the tracks and who says she fears to let them leave the house, said “it’s good to see them moving. It’s good to see them doing something.”
But without fixing the fencing (there were no signs of that), she questioned the efficacy of the cleanup.
“I don’t mean to sound ungrateful,” she lamented, “But if they don’t fix the major situation — which is covering entrance into there, it’s pointless.”