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Alexandra McFadden has a plan for revitalizing the Philadelphia neighborhood where she grew up. Too bad it’s totally illegal.

McFadden was raised in the East Parkside section of the city in the 1980s. Back then it was a tight-knit community where people took pride in their colorful Victorian row houses and tree-lined sidewalks. The neighborhood, which dates to the 1870s and sits alongside Fairmount Park and the Schuylkill River, always struck her as a peaceful pocket in a bustling city. “There were entire blocks of well-maintained houses, with little front yards and elderly ladies who peered out at the kids playing,” she says. “They’d shout, ‘Don’t toss that ball into my yard!’” 

Things are different these days, though. One in three residents live in poverty, nearly half of the original housing stock sits vacant, and empty lots attract litter and commercial dumping. “There are junk cars and barrels full of mysterious stuff,” McFadden says. “It leads to runoff, and we have no idea what chemicals are going into the soil.” 

McFadden returned to East Parkside a few years ago and is now board president for Centennial Park... Read more

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