Mayor Parker’s Kensington Crackdown Begins

Plus, a Main Line dad wins a Pulitzer.

a homeless encampment in the Kensington neighborhood of philadelphia

A homeless encampment in the Kensington neighborhood of Philadelphia in 2023, months before Mayor Cherelle Parker would send teams in to clear out the encampments (Getty Images)

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Philadelphia Mayor Cherelle Parker’s Kensington Crackdown Begins

Previous Philadelphia mayor Jim Kenney basically did nothing about Kensington, just as he basically did nothing about lots of other problems during the latter part of his tenure. But our new mayor, Cherelle Parker, is clearly determined to make changes and to address the Kensington issue. Police and other officials have been doing a little bit here and there over the last few months. But Wednesday morning brought about the biggest action we’ve seen yet.

We originally heard that the city would be clearing one of the main homeless encampments in Kensington — the one on Kensington Avenue from notorious McPherson Square up to Allegheny Avenue — beginning on Wednesday morning around 8:30 a.m. But it seems they took action sooner, since no one appeared to be living on the block as early as 7 a.m.

It’s a little unclear where all those people went, or where others the city forces to move will go. Officials in Montgomery County have expressed concern that the city might relocate people from Kensington to Montgomery County towns, the way that some southern states have taken those who have crossed into the country illegally and sent them to northern cities, including Philadelphia. “We don’t need an influx of outsiders,” Pottstown’s mayor told WHYY. It’s also unclear whether these concerns are based in reality or just some good old suburban paranoia.

What is clear is that somebody needs to do something about Kensington. But not everybody is convinced that Mayor Parker is taking the right approach. Some on social media have compared her law-and-orderness to the tenure of Frank Rizzo. And then there’s this incendiary (and let’s be honest, hyperbolic and unfair) poster that sprung up on the streets, declaring that Mayor Parker wants drug users dead.

The situation in Kensington is a developing one, and we’ll get you more when we have it.

By the Numbers

200+: Charges filed against Scott Grondin, 42, the alleged ringleader of a major gun- and drug-trafficking gang. I think that’s one charge per face tattoo.

8 feet: Height of a cowboy boot that has popped up on the sidewalk in the Italian Market, becoming a weird little tourist attraction. Fortunately, we have Stephanie Farr of the Inquirer to help us get to the bottom of this.

5: Speaking of the Inquirer, that’s the number of staff members just laid off by management. And it sounds like the union representing Inquirer employees is pretty fired up about it.

Local Talent

Big congrats are in order for Wynnewood resident Tyshawn Sorey, who just won the Pultizer Prize in Music for his composition “Adagio (For Wadada Leo Smith).” What? It’s not on your playlist? You can listen to it here.

Sorey, a father of two and Penn prof, has described the song as an “anti-concerto” for saxophone and orchestra. It’s very, very soft. And it’s very, very slow. As in 36 beats-per-minute slow. The folks who give out the Pulitzers praised the work as a “introspective saxophone concerto with a wide range of textures presented in a slow tempo, a beautiful homage that’s quietly intense, treasuring intimacy rather than spectacle.” If you’re wondering what makes this an anti-concerto, concertos are usually very much spectacles with lots of razzle-dazzle and pizazz. This is certainly not that. Check out this New York Times piece on Sorey for more.

Philly is doing alright in the Pulitzer department. You may remember that South Philly playwright James Ijames won the 2022 Pulitzer Prize in Drama for his play Fat Ham, which enjoyed a stint on Broadway last year followed by a sold-out run at the Wilma. (You can read my interview with Ijames here.) So what’s Ijames up to these days? The Public Theater in New York presents his play Good Bones this fall. And next year, he directs August Wilson’s King Hedley II at the Arden.

If you know of more talented Philly folk I should be writing about, send them my way.

Reader Mail

Speaking of local talent, I had some negative things to say on Tuesday about Kevin Hart’s fumbling of the host job at the Tom Brady roast, which you can watch on Netflix, should you want to waste three hours of your life. And as I often do when I voice my own opinion, I asked readers to weigh in with their thoughts. I’d say those thoughts came in at about 75 percent in favor of Hart being the funniest thing on earth and 25 percent siding with me.

This person, who humorously signed the email Kevin Hart and sent it from, definitely wasn’t a fan of what I had to say:

Kevin Hart was fucking hilarious during the roast. Everyone I’ve spoken to about it agreed. He made it so much better by just being loose and having fun with it. Have you ever watched a roast? The man made Kraft and Belichick take a shot together. Do you have any inclination how funny that is in the professional football world? Assuming your sense of humor is the Office reruns or New Girl, I’ll guess not, d!ckhead.

I admit to enjoying Office reruns!

And From the Are-We-Having-Fun-Yet? Sports Desk …

Cristopher Sánchez was on the mound for the Phils in the opening round of their series with the Blue Jays last night, and though he allowed a lead-off single, he promptly racked up three straight outs. In the home team’s half of the first, José Berríos gave up a single to Bryce Harper and a double to Nick Castellanos that scored Harper, but Nick then got picked off second base for the third out. Sánchez had a one-two-three second inning before Bryson Stott singled and stole second and a Kody Clemens homer made it 3-0 Phils.

The fourth inning was interesting. With one out, Edmundo Sosa was hit by a pitch, Clemens tripled him in — guess he likes the big leagues! — Garrett Stubbs walked, Kyle Schwarber was also hit by a pitch, Whit Merrifield struck out, and — quick, who’s on first? — Bryce Harper did this.

That made it 8-0 Phils, and they weren’t done yet, though the Jays did pick up a run in the seventh, before Spencer Turnbull came in for Sánchez for the final two frames.

In the eighth, Stott singled, Sosa tripled to score Stott and then scored on a Clemens ground-out, and it was 10-1 Phils for the final — the team’s 11th straight home win, tying the CBP record.

They’ll face off again this afternoon, with a 1:05 start.

All Philly Today sports coverage is provided by Sandy Hingston.