Decades-old agreement threatens community gardens in city’s poorest neighborhoods

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Nearly 50 years ago, Naomi Smith and her neighbors on Viola Street in the East Parkside section of West Philadelphia hauled bricks and debris from a vacant lot on their block to plan a community garden.

Today, the garden is still going strong, with everything from collard greens to peonies blooming between rows of houses.

“It’s like therapy for me,” said Smith, who, at 86 years old, still tends to her plot.

Community gardens and side yards maintained by residents in Philadelphia’s poorest neighborhoods are increasingly under threat from development due to private bank liens stemming from a 1997 city agreement, advocates say.

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