July 12, 2002
Editor, South Philadelphia Review
Re: No Garden Party, June 27, 2002, by Lorraine Gennaro
I would like to thank you for covering this very important community issue. This garden debacle is the classic scenario of how those with money and power can sometimes run right over the little guys in the community. Bringing this issue to the neighborhood’s attention is important to all the other community gardeners. They could potentially face this fate if they do not research, document, and manage their land usage properly. Unfortunately, we are gardeners at heart, without the legal advice, financing, or the wherewithal to compete with professional developers. And even, as in this particular case, when we thought we had made the appropriate arrangements and documentation, our worst nightmare occurred.
There are, however, several issues mentioned in the article for which I would like to set the record straight:
We, as a community on the 2100 block of Fitzwater Street are not against development. We are for smart development, planned development, development that is in harmony with the people who live there, pay taxes, and maintain a viable quality of life for the neighborhood. We think that development should occur hand in hand with the community’s ideas, their needs and wishes. We think that green space in an urban environment is an important quality of life issue.
Many of Mr. DeMarcos’ quotes in the article are not only inaccurate, but also inflammatory, maligning, and slanderous. For example, there was no "bluffing" on my part concerning the stop work order, as Mr. DeMarco alleges. I had no conversation with Mr. DeMarco. I spoke with the police and the laborer on the site representing Oxford. The police do not take their orders from me. I absolutely knew there was no legal order because I spent virtually the entire day on the telephone trying to get pro bono legal assistance in an attempt to get a legal restraining order issued by a judge. The facts were clear to me, so I don’t know where Brown and DeMarco got their information. I suggested to the writer, Ms. Gennaro that she check her facts on this.
I’m not sure how Ms. Gennaro got the information that Mr. Rosenberg had "no legal obligation" to notify the gardeners. In fact, we had a written agreement with Mr. Rosenberg that was in effect until we were notified in writing of any change in the terms. We were never notified. We have obtained Legal Counsel, Alexander Z. Talmadge, Attorney at Law, working pro bono for the community, and he contends that this document is a valid contract, and as such, our legal rights were violated when we were not put on notice of the sale of the property, so we could remove our plants and other items.
In all, from my perspective, the article has a definite and unfair slant in favor of Oxford Consultanting, LLC, the owner and developer of the property. Several key facts were not brought to light in the article.
I asked the developer the first time we made contact and again, several days later to please work with the community on an alternate resolution.
A local developer who lives in the neighborhood and has rehabbed property on our block, offered to purchase the property from Oxford and allow its continued use as a garden. He understands the garden’s importance for the community at hand and in attracting further development.
Oxford reneged on an agreement between the Ward Leader, Terry Gillen, and DeMarco that destruction would not occur until after a scheduled community meeting. The meeting was scheduled for Wednesday evening June 19. The bulldozer arrived Wednesday the 19th at 8:30 AM.
Again, thank you for bringing this issue to light in our community. In many cases, the media is the only voice the citizens have to right a wrong. I continue to be optimistic that Oxford Consulting will work through this problem with the community and repair their damaged reputation in a neighborhood where much development will occur in the near future.
2100 Block Fitzwater St.
[GARDEN AT RISK]