Crews begin to dismantle Ben Franklin Parkway encampment after leaders reach deal with city

Saturday, October 17, 2020
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Heavy machinery descended on what will soon be the former site of the homeless encampment along the Ben Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia.

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Heavy machinery descended on the homeless encampment along the Ben Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia Friday morning to begin dismantling the site after a deal was reached between leaders and the city.

Police also escorted crews to clear trash from a baseball field in the park.

"It's a really sensitive situation," said Jennifer Bennetech of OccupyPHA, which has spoken out on behalf of the encampment in negotiations with the city. "People want to get the houses. People are proud of what they've accomplished by being out here all summer, but people are also afraid."

RELATED: City of Philadelphia, Ben Franklin Parkway encampment leaders reach agreement

One of the encampment's demands was to give the people living there housing by turning over abandoned buildings. Philadelphia has agreed to do that by signing over 50 properties to a land trust established by the encampment.

They aim to turn the buildings into permanent housing. Under the agreement, everyone should be moved out of the encampment by the end of the week.

RELATED: PHA, protesters reach deal to end encampment on Ridge Avenue

Some residents in the area are ready to see the encampment come to a close.

"I'm glad to see it resolved in a positive manner," said Keith Leitner. "It was an issue. I think they got their point across,"

"I've seen a lot worse stuff happen in that park than just people living in tents," said area resident Jashan Nirmul.

City officials said they will have staff on-site Saturday to help people connect to housing resources.

Neighbors remain skeptical that the deadline will be met.

"That's the third time they've struck a deal, so we'll see how it goes," said Greg Schaible of Fairmount.

Mayor Jim Kenney says the park will be restored once the encampment has been cleared.