Dear Managing Director Tumar Alexander,
Welcome to your new role as Managing Director. Resolve Philly was a proud partner of Philadelphia Department of Parks and Recreation and Mural Arts Program on the 2020 Summer Playstreets program. Our partnership focused on public health messaging, community-generated art, and information access. Since early summer, Resolve Philly has been building relationships with Playstreet supervisors — the people who made this program come alive, block by block, all over the city.
Towards the end of August, we sent Playstreet supervisors a few questions via our Equal Info line, a text-based service that provides Philadelphians with the information they need to survive and thrive during the time of COVID-19. We asked them what they would tell you in your capacity as Philadelphia’s new Managing Director — and the administrator with oversight of the departments intersecting with Playstreets — about their block. Over 40 Playstreet supervisors responded, from Strawberry Mansion to Kingsessing to Fern Rock. They had some really beautiful insights to share, along with many challenges. Here’s what they wanted you know:
Playstreets was deeply appreciated. Supervisors were eager to chime in with the best parts of their days, such as smiling kids playing outside while eating healthy lunches.
“The kids are enjoying having the space to ride their bikes, play football, play basketball and get wet with the fire hydrant because the block is closed… I will guarantee that it will continue as long as I am block captain.”
“I would like to thank whomever for the books and summer activity games for the children. This program is good for family, neighbors, and friends that are down on their living situation.”
Free and healthy lunches are key, especially this year. Due to the impact of COVID-19, many families have been out of work and the summer lunches provided by Playstreets helped keep kids fed, several supervisors told us.
“This is my first time doing Playstreets and it is such a beautiful experience for the children. What is important to me on my block is that the children have a nutritious meal to look forward to on a daily basis and that these children are safe.”
“It’s a lot of grandmothers around here raising their grandchildren on a fixed income. I was very proud to be a part of helping them feed their grandchildren.”
“Playstreet is the one thing keeping kids on our street safe and engaged during the pandemic. I have several families that have been out of work due to the pandemic and summer lunches have kept their kids fed.”
Many supervisors liked the improvements this year as compared to previous programs.
“What’s important to me is being able to keep the kids cool in the hot summer – especially those streets that have few to no trees, which the water play this year was great. We never had that before!”
There were also challenges. Supervisors in some neighborhoods shared Playstreets was not the safe haven it felt like it should be for the kids. Drivers often took down the block banners and drove through the street while children were playing, which made the set-up feel unsafe. Trash and dumping also took its toll on the program.
“My main problem is the lack of respect that the children get when they are on Playstreets. The cars break the block offs and speed through the block while the children are playing.”
“My biggest concerns are the abandoned houses, people dumping trash, drugs and crime. Children aren’t safe outside to play so the parents aren’t allowing their children to play on Playstreet.”
Indeed, Resolve’s team visited sites throughout the summer and it was not uncommon to see only one or two children playing outside. The supervisors told our engagement team that with the spike in gun violence, combined with dumping, parents were not allowing their children to outside at all.
There were plenty of suggestions for improvement, though, including more prominent signage and street parking regulations for residents. Others suggested street barricades, and suggestions for street safety practices, like speed bumps and car removal during the Playstreet hours. A city-initiated clean-up day was offered up as a solution, with Parks and Rec providing brooms and bags to clean up the blocks. Supervisor Cheryl Hall also told us of their desire to make sure that all streets have working water plugs with sprinklers, as it would help children stay outdoors during the summer heat, truly making it a “play” street.
Thanks for your attention to their thoughts, concerns, and suggestions. We also want to express our appreciation and gratitude for Playstreet supervisors across the city of Philadelphia for their tireless efforts in providing care and support to young people on their respective blocks (not just through the summer months) and for being open to engaging with Resolve Philly as we work to ensure that all Philadelphians have equal access to the information they need to survive and thrive in our community.
Resolve Philly, on behalf of Playstreet Supervisors:
Ryan R. Keller
Sylvia P. Simms