Jenkintown EAC Meeting to discuss a pocket park on Cedar Street

Last night’s meeting of Jenkintown’s Environmental Affairs Committee was described as a “visioning meeting,” which in simpler terms means brainstorming session. We’ve discussed these exercises in the past, specifically with regards to the Jenkintown 2035 project. We regard them as well-meaning, but largely ineffectual, feel-good events designed to apply a veneer of public input to something that will ultimately be decided by people who may or may not know better than us.

We apologize for the poor audio for the first fifteen minutes of this video, but during this process the facilitators established ground rules for the meeting, one of which precluded any discussion of cost.

Attendees then viewed examples on slides of other pocket parks. We should note at this point that except for two parks in Abington, every other example came from either Manhattan or Philadelphia — places that otherwise have very little greenspace. The areas around those parks had few if any residential back yarks or easy access to a very large school yard.

Also, the Borough continues to push a false narrative about the process of acquisition and the hit to the tax base this park will render. They keep saying $9,000, when in fact, it will be a minimum of $12,000 per year for just the first few years. The $9,000 number does not take into account the loss of tax revenue to the Borough, only the School District. This is a number that will only rise as time goes on (when was the last time your taxes went down?) This cost is only the start.

They also claimed that a developer that originally approached the owner planned to build five units of “dense” housing. We just want to point out something else here: The Borough’s continued pejorative use of the term “dense.” Like it or not, we live in a densely developed community, and in fact, that density contributes to the charm that we proudly cite when we describe our town.

Secondly, don’t assume that the Borough would rubber stamp the permits for such a development. We have planning boards for exactly this reason. If the developer did build five units, then that brings maybe another 15 people close to the commercial district. The Borough overlooks the number one priority of the Jenkintown 2035 plan: Our commercial district, which does not succeed without people, and the best method to ensure a viable commercial district is to treat it like a neighborhood.

The discussion did bring up a number of excellent points, however. For instance, lighting. In our previous post about this, we did not consider the cost of lighting and security for this park. Will this park have a fence and a secure gate to keep people out after dark? Who will take responsibility for locking things up? For maintaining the landscaping? Emptying the trash?

We can tell you from experience and observation that a park that no one uses will get used by people you rather didn’t. You follow? Parks and property not properly maintained quickly becomes a haven for those with bad intentions.

This video ends as the gathering broke off into smaller groups to decide by committee what will work best for our community. As we want to see these properties sold off and the profits distributed back to the tax base, we thought it best to leave.

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