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Kensington residents and nonprofits mobilize to protest SEPTA station closure

March 24, 2021 Category: FeaturedMediumPurpose
Over 200 people from Kensington-based community development corporations, nonprofits, civic associations and neighborhood residents marched last evening in protest of SEPTA’s decision to close the Market-Frankford Line (MFL) station at Somerset Street.

The event was promoted as a “March for Safety and Solutions.” Protestors met outside of the Somerset station at 5:30 p.m., and at 5:45 began walking up Kensington Avenue to the MFL station at Allegheny Avenue to illustrate the complexities of the alternative route given to utilize the MFL and to highlight the issues that led to the station closing.

New Kensington Community Development Corporation (NKCDC), a community development corporation with offices a block away from Somerset Station, spearheaded the event.

Dr. Bill McKinney.

“The purpose of the march was to raise awareness to bring together a broad group of stakeholders, to apply pressure to the immediate situation of the closure of the Somerset station and to begin working towards solutions to the causes of the closure,” said NKCDC Executive Director Dr. Bill McKinney.

Next they will “adapt and adjust based on what we have learned to this point through who has engaged and how,” McKinney said. “We will continue applying pressure until this station is reopened and until residents are properly at the table with decision-making power about the future of this community.”

Roxy Rivera has lived in Kensington for 30 years. She used the Somerset station to commute to and from work in Center City. Rivera said many of her neighbors do the same; some are disabled, and some do not own cars.

Rivera added that it is not possible to expect commuters to take the bus under the El, especially in the dark —“the area is not safe during the day,” she said — and there is not enough capacity for these commuters to pack onto the bus daily. Social distancing on the bus would not be possible, and we’re still in the pandemic, she added.

55-year-old Carlos Miti used the Somerset station to get to his medical appointments and his specialized pharmacy on 13th and Locust. Due to health conditions, it is impossible for him to walk to the closest station. Miti’s spouse is confined to a wheelchair; his pharmacy is also in Center City. He wonders how they will be able to pick up their medication and get to doctor appointments.

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Miti said the Somerset station’s elevators have not worked in several years, and that calls and pleas to SEPTA have gone unanswered.

How should things be?

McKinney referred to a column he recently wrote for Generocity on the 5 principles of community-driven development, as those should be the guide in addressing not only the train closure but the housing crisis, the unsheltered population, the opioid epidemic, the workforce strategies, and more challenges the community and city faces.

NKCDC wants to work with old partners and new partners who are looking to implement new solutions.

“We want to work with funders, politicians, non-profits, institutions, etc. that aren’t just paying lip service to the idea of community led solutions, are sincerely committed to being anti displacement and solution oriented and are ready to invest in those concepts,” McKinney said. “We are ready to move forward towards grand solutions.”

HACE, Impact Services, Somerset Neighbors for Better Living, Harrowgate Civic Association, Kensington Neighbors Association, South Port Richmond Civic Association, and the We CAN (Change & Action Now) Collaborative signed on to support the walk, and invited all Kensington and Fairhill neighbors to join.

A joint statement from NKCDC, HACE and Impact Services calls for a specific date for the reopening of the station.

It also calls for safe conditions for SEPTA workers, increased bus and shuttle service along Kensington Avenue, a community advisory board to make decisions and set long-term solutions, increased services for unsheltered people and those suffering from addiction, and support for businesses impacted by the closure.

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