Up or down, let's get greening

Here is a view, courtesy of viaductgreene.org, showing that there are fascinating portions of the old train line in town that could benefit from the "green" overhaul.

There have been some interesting twists and turns recently in the Reading Viaduct project, something that could push Philly a long way toward being the literal "Greenest City in America."

The Daily News today chronicles a successful NIMBY campaign to stop a "Neighborhood Improvement District" that would have hiked taxes in return for improvements that were tied to the project.

[The NID] was seen as a precursor to converting the abandoned Reading Viaduct train trestle that runs through the neighborhood into a park modeled after New York's successful High Line.

But Maria Yuen said that the additional tax was too big a burden.

"Everybody agrees we all want to live in a beautiful place with clean streets and green parks," Maria Yuen said. "But with this economy, the priority has to be jobs. People need to put food on the table."

Meanwhile, with Mayor Nutter confirming his commitment to the overall project, a City Paper article points out that while we're all wrangling over the hometown High Line portion, we could be getting started on the nearly 3-mile stretch that runs below the city's ground level.

Paul Van Meter, a landscape architect, and Liz Maille began the initiative with an eye to the Viaduct's history. Van Meter had been researching the old rail line, and he and Maille decided to walk around and search for the entrance, hidden in the woods off Pennsylvania Avenue. Instead of darkness and rubble, says Van Meter, they saw "Philadelphia's next great civic space."

"We realized that it was almost a three-mile right of way, and that, wow, this is a fabulous opportunity for Philadelphia. It connects so many diverse neighborhoods," Maille says. Plus, unlike the elevated branch, "We thought there's a lot more opportunity to make this happen fast."

This is a big project with many interested constituencies, so we can't expect it to happen overnight. On the other hand, this proposal has been kicked around for years now, and as we get closer to actually implementing any portion, it seems that turf wars are intensifying.

Come on, folks. We really don't need a polarized "elevated first" or "submerged first" argument, but rather, look toward that greener Philadelphia and see how we can move forward without overrunning - or undercutting - anybody.