Protecting public spaces, expanding infrastructure improvements focus of Driscoll’s public hearing

Phila. Aug. 10 – Open green spaces, waterways, and broadband investments often get left behind in infrastructure conversations, but state Rep. Mike Driscoll partnered with Philadelphia City Councilman Bobby Henon and the House Democratic Policy Committee to have a comprehensive conversation about how they must be considered when making investments.

Driscoll welcomed Committee Chairman Ryan Bizzarro and members of the committee for the hearing where coordination amongst efforts was a key part of investment efforts. The hearing included robust conversation from City of Philadelphia officials including Michael A. Carroll, deputy managing director, Anthony Bocchicchio, director of operations for Parks and Recreation and Councilman Bobby Henon.

“If the last 18 months has proven anything, it is that our public spaces are a necessary investment that our state must make,” said state Rep. Mike Driscoll, D-Phila. “Our trails, parks, outdoor rec spaces have been utilized during this shutdown caused by the pandemic and it is very apparent that the use of these places will not end. Our tax dollars are meant, in part, to provide funding for our leisure enjoyment and well-being. Today’s hearing and those testifying provided information that proves the enormous worth of these facilities and locations to the commonwealth.”

 

“I want to especially thank Holy Family University for hosting this hearing on their beautiful campus and for the use of their facilities. I am proud to show my colleagues this gem in the 173rd District.”

Rachel Reyna, section chief, PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources; and Cara Ferrentino, Program Officer, Great Public Spaces, William Penn Foundation shared valuable information about the environmental values of green infrastructure and how using such approaches can help with creating environmental protections and community gardens. Ferrentino highlighted that well-maintained spaces can improve property values, but also shared its important that we address the underserved communities who truly need this investment without pricing people out of those very communities.

“There is potential for great infrastructure investment, whether that’s through federal funding, or a National Infrastructure Bank. We can expand green spaces, improve public transit, expand broadband, and more,” Chairman Bizzarro said. “These efforts provide a gateway to good paying jobs, and community revitalization in suburban, rural and urban communities across the state.”

The economic impact of transportation and SEPTA on the region were highlighted by Robert Lund, Deputy General Manager, SEPTA; and Barry Seymour, executive director of the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission.

Stephanie Phillips, executive director, Riverfront North Partnership; and Linde Lauff, president of Friends of Pennypack Park shared a perspective from local parks. Lauff shared the unfortunate fate of Friends of Pennypack Park, which dissolved as a result of frivolous lawsuits. Rep. Driscoll has introduced House Bill 1694 that would amend the recreational use of land and water act to provide protections to volunteers and organizations who help preserve public parks.

At the conclusion of the hearing, news broke that the United States Senate passed the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill by a vote.

Hearing testimony will be available at www.pahouse.com/policy.