Councilmember Maria Quiñones-Sánchez unveils effort to Restore Kensington in 2021
“No neighborhood in the city of Philadelphia should be a containment neighborhood, and Kensington should not continue to be a containment neighborhood.”
Councilmember Maria Quiñones- Sánchez started off her virtual press conference on Feb. 16 with a somber tone.
“For many of us in the city government in particular there’s always a level of frustration, in how hard we work, it’s never going to be enough,” she said.
The 7th District Councilmember, joined by Council member Mark Squilla of the 1st district and other city officials announced “Restore Kensington” on Feb. 16, a slate of new public safety and quality of life investments in the Kensington neighborhood, which Quiñones-Sanchez signaled has been a collaborative effort years in the making, especially on the tail end of a global pandemic.
“We know that this is really about a political will to do and think outside the box and really marshall resources in an equitable way,” Quiñones Sánchez said, adding that even pre-Covid, city officials and community leaders gathered to ask what that equity even feels and looks like, and most importantly — “how do we restore the faith in the community folks?”
The Restore Kensington effort has been outlined as a new multi-faceted approach to improve public safety and the quality of life in the neighborhood.
“There’s a lot of moving parts,” Quiñonez Sánchez said. “We are going to have better success if we continue to work together and continue to challenge the departments and everyone involved in this work.”
Those involved include the aforementioned councilmembers, Tumar Alexander, the city’s Managing Director, Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw, Prevention Point, and Philadelphia’s Opioid Response Unit.
The goal is to implement a series of strategies and investments, ranging from increased police presence to addressing growing issues like addiction and homelessness.
The Philadelphia Police Department opened the neighborhood’s own police district last month.
“The district has its own command structure and a staff of several dozen police officers on bicycle and on foot,” said Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw. “It’s not only a reflection of our pinpoint crime fighting strategy, but also a key component for the city’s opioid response unit and public safety strategy.”
Eva Gladstein, Deputy Managing Director of Health and Human Services outlined how the Restore Kensington initiative would also work to improve housing conditions, saying it will work to manage a series of resident home repairs for about 100 owner-occupied properties.
This will address issues ranging from broken doors, windows, lighting, and gate repairs for Kensington inhabitants.
Gladstein added the Office of Homeless Services is putting together an encampment resolution team in partnership with One Day at a Time.
To combat the opioid crisis, the city will work with Prevention Point to address the opioid crisis by means of tracking the distribution of syringes in Kensington and working to ensure equity. Gladstein said these are syringes that are being distributed currently, but not reaching the hands of Kensington residents. The improved system would combat this by collecting zip codes to ensure they’re going to their intended recipients.
Amid the outlining of the plan, Quiñones Sanchez made one thing clear: That the issue of Kensington should not be approached as an isolated circumstance, and though it is seeing the increased attention via the “Restore Kensington” initiative, the whole of the City of Philadelphia needs similar attentions to combat the inequities that lead to heightened violence and homelessness.
“No neighborhood in the city of Philadelphia should be a containment neighborhood, and Kensington should not continue to be a containment neighborhood. This is a city-wide problem, and the administration is really committed to making sure that city-wide, all hands are on-board to address the needs of all of the residents of the city.”