Do you know the only park in Philadelphia owned and operated by the neighborhood?

Kenny Grono
Favorite Spot: Liberty Lands
Neighborhood: Northern Liberties
Address: 926 N American St, Philadelphia, PA 19123

I Am: Owner of a small remodeling company who lives in Northern Liberties with my wife, daughter, dog and two cats.
Years in Philly: 15
Current Home: Northern Liberties

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My Love Note

Dear Liberty Lands,

When I bought my first house in Northern Liberties 15 years ago you were here, though you were more dream then reality. The lands were there – what had been a tannery, and thus a superfund site had been cleared instead of becoming housing – and the idea to have some green in the only zipcode in Penn’s Greene Country Towne with none, was heard. The liberty in Liberty Lands was the freedom that you have in a place where there seems to be more space than anyone would ever want.

Wandering through what is now the Piazza then, I saw people sleeping in old Schmidts garages with slightly ajar doors and fields of shoulder high weeds. We loved Northern Liberties when we arrived and and why wouldn’t we? With the meager budget we had for a house, we got great neighbors, (one in a log cabin), we could walk into Center City, and we got more house than we needed. The house’s yard backed up to an alley, lovingly curated over the years by a neighbor on 5th st, complete with a variety of interesting trees and boulders, peregrine falcons and homeless men smoking crack. At 21, a dream home.

As we matured and our wish list grew to include a grocery store we could walk to, the neighborhood changed as well. Mostly, a lot of people showed up. But for all the hype, I believe the character of NL stayed the same (and we eventually got a grocery store). This is a testament to the strong neighborhood personalities like Janet and Larry whose laissez faire style manage to guide this place effectively and consistently. To me, Liberty Lands is the perfect example of this. It is not one of William Penn’s squares. It is not a grand arboretum bequeathed by some wealthy family. It is not a department of rec outdoor bureaucracy. What it is constantly evolves but at its base it is the only park in Philadelphia owned and operated by the neighborhood. Volunteers put in 10’s of thousands of man hours planting, weeding, building, and running this space almost a city block in size. In the past it was a weekly presence in my life. My wife and I would sit on a bench, drink a beer and read a book. We always included the community garden in our spring walks to see what flowers and vegetables were coming up, and we caught a couple movies there over the years. Now though, with a 2 year old daughter, Liberty Lands is everything. We are there twice a day sometimes. Its where we “do the slide”, dig in the dirt, smell every plant, watch concerts, run around and talk with friends.

Though to my daughter Esther Liberty Lands is just “different playground”, I hope her first memory is walking through the flowers on a windy salvaged brick path in Janet’s garden.

Love,
Kenny

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Posted on by Emma Fried-Cassorla in Northern Liberties Leave a comment

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