South Philadelphia’s FDR park is the proposed site for a new “Olympic caliber velodrome.” The proposal (Project 250 Alternative Analysis) has roused passions on both sides (e.g., “yea” from from Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia, or “nay” from Philadelphia Parks Alliance) and has brought an important debate to the table: whether or not the City of Philadelphia should be giving away public land to private businesses. Tonight, December 17, 2014, a meeting will be held at the American Swedish Historical Museum in FDR Park at 6:00pm to discuss the future of the project.
As a city resident and environmental scientist, I took an interest in the proposal and read carefully through the documents provided by the city. One of the major targets of Mayor Nutter’s Greenworks initiative is to “Manage Stormwater to Meet Federal Standards” (Target 8, p.17). The site of the proposed velodrome (Property A) was appraised by Binswanger for Philip J. Senechal, CEO of Project 250. The appraisal shows the property to be coded “Zone X” on the Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM), which means that it falls outside of the boundaries of the 100-year flood inundation zones. However, that map was created with old data (2007).
FEMA published an updated FIRM with the most recent data on February 20, 2014. The 2014 map clearly shows that the flood boundaries have shifted since 2007 and Property A is now located in “Zone AE” — the Special Flood Hazard Area. Installing a large impermeable surface (i.e., a Velodrome) in a flood hazard zone is a terrible idea for obvious reasons. I STRONGLY ADVISE the Philadelphia Parks and Recreation Commission and the City Council to reject this proposal.