Nilda Ruiz, standing at a park in her East North Philadelphia neighborhood, can’t stop smiling.
Born and raised in the area, sometimes even she can’t believe the transformation, much of which has been painted green.
Some see going green as a luxury of the well-to-do. But Ruiz, head of the community development group Asociacion Puertorriquenos en Marcha, leveraged public and private dollars, with some North Philly determination, to transform her once-severely-blighted neighborhood.
Seven years ago, the park where’s standing in was a trash dump, filled with old tires and broken bottles.
"It wasn't a safe place to walk," says Ruiz. "To look at it now..."
Now it’s a beautiful, wide open space, with a welcoming wood fence, trees and grass. More so, it’s a storm water management system. Throughout Ruiz’ community are lush trees, flower gardens, vegetable gardens, and pervious paving to get a higher use from rain water. And in two weeks, on nearby Sheridan Street, contractors will start building 13 green, affordable homes that include green vegetable roofs, solar panels, recycled materials, and sun shades.
The community’s efforts were highlighted in a press conference at the park today, where the mayor unveiled the city’s first annual report card on becoming the greenest city in the nation.
Ruiz argues that her neighborhood is on its way to becoming the greenest in the city.
"You feel enormously proud," she says of the community effort, "and this sense of satisfaction that you are making an impact and a difference, that you're making the world a better place than you left it."