#Civil Rights
United States of America

On Tuesday morning, June 20th, a 7-alarm fire consumed an abandoned warehouse in our Kensington neighborhood in Philadelphia. The Simple Way Community Center at 3200 Potter Street was destroyed as well as at least eight of our neighbors' homes.

Over 100 people were evacuated from their homes, and 400 families are currently without power. Despite this developing tragedy, we are incredibly thankful to share that all of our community members and every one of our neighbors is safely out of harm's way.

This fire will forever change the fabric of our community. Eight families are currently homeless, and in many cases have lost their vehicles as well as their homes. One of our neighbors, the Mahaias Family, lost their three cars as well as the equipment one family member uses for her massage therapy business. Teenager Brian Mahaias is devastated not because he has lost his belongings, but because he fears that this fire will force him to move away from this neighborhood that is his family as well as his home.

The Simple Way has lost a community center that was home to two of our community members, as well as our Yes! And... afterschool program, community arts center, and Cottage Printworks t-shirt micro-business.

Yet, we are thankful that we are able to help each other during this time of need, and are forming a neighborhood coalition to work toward rebuilding amidst this disaster. A primary focus of discussion in the neighborhood has been the dreams that we have for the block where the abandoned warehouse had loomed for over a decade.

We desire that this rare open space be given to the community and restored into a recreational green space. Transforming this once desolate space is an opportunity to bring healing in a neighborhood much in need of hope and new life.

We need much support that we may together claim the right to a better quality of life.

Given the tremendous hardship endured by the neighborhood surrounding the factory fire of June 20th, we the undersigned want to urge city officials and all parties involved to honor the pain and suffering of residents by listening to the voices emerging from the neighborhood itself.

Specifically we ask that this abandoned space, which has been a scar on the neighborhood for many years, be given to the newly formed community coalition in order that it might be restored into a recreational space.

We recognize that there is a need for housing, particularly for those whose homes were destroyed in the fire, and hope the rebuilding of our neighborhood includes construction of new housing on H Street as well as the renovation of other vacant houses in the area.

However, given the scarcity of open, green space in the densely-populated, primarily concrete environment, we firmly believe that the best of use of this newly available lot is to invest in a recreational green space that restores dignity and quality of life to this Kensington community.

The Kensington Factory Petition petition to everyone was written by TSW and is in the category Civil Rights at GoPetition.