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Students Take Action On Vacant Lots Plaguing Philadelphia

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By Oren Liebermann

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The cleanup took two days, but the vacant lot at 34th and Clearfield has become the city’s newest green space.

“Together with people, you can do anything,” said Chante Smith. “You can accomplish anything.”

A group of about 30 students, most from North Philly, cleaned up the lot as part of a summer program. But vacant lots still plague the city.

“If we can all come out here and clean up a vacant lot and make it look beautiful, then that will motivate others to do that in their neighborhood,” said teenager Reginald Coleman.

There are about 40,000 vacant lots in Philadelphia according to the city, most of them privately owned. And when they are not kept up, they become receptacles for trash and raccoons. Some have weeds more than six feet high.

“We just shouldn’t be living like this,” said Candus Thomas, who lives across the street from a vacant lot that she says is home to raccoons and opossums. “Can you imagine what we’re going through when it’s hot and the wind is blowing? It’s horrible.”

On nearby Cumberland Street, neighbors say the vacant lot is ugly and even dangerous.

“We’re scared to go to the store once it gets dark,” says Violet Lee. “You don’t know what’s going on over there.”

A UPenn study shows rehabbing vacant lots can reduce some gun crimes and make neighbors feel safer while increasing property value.

“A bunch of weeds way up like this, it didn’t look too good,” said Rose Cooper, standing next to the recently-rehabbed vacant lot near her home. “Now, it’s beautiful.”

If you have a vacant lot near your house that you would like to report to the city, call the 311 hotline or visit the website here.

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