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‘The community knows what’s good for the community.’

Melissa Kucherich
Melissa Kucherich, an employee at New Kensington Community Development Corporation (NKCDC) prepares to march from Somerset Station to Allegheny Station, in protest of the Somerset Station’s temporary closing on March 23, 2021. Kucherich says public transportation is essential to help people travel to places for work, healthcare, or personal needs. (Photo by Claire Wolters)

Melissa Kucherich

Resident and employee with New Kensington Community Development Corporation

1. How does the closure of Somerset Station affect you and people in the neighborhood? What challenges may you face in accessing transportation now?

One, it pits people against each other. There’s a lot of blame going around [toward] the SEPTA workers, or [people experiencing homelessness], or the people with addiction. Everyone’s kind of getting pitted against each other. There’s already a lot of division in this neighborhood, so it continually fuels that.

There’s a lot of misconceptions going around about why the station is being closed. The blanket reason is safety. And so the immediate reaction to that is — when you look at people either using drugs, or if they are houseless and don’t have anywhere to go — it kind of puts this negative stigma on those folks, instead of [looking for] a larger solution, or looking at, in terms of like symptoms, why are these people here? Are people actually just using this station for transportation? Or are they getting connected to services at New Kensington, or the community, or food pantries, or Porch Light?

I think it pits people against each other in terms of why the station is closing, and then furthers the stigma of those people.

2. What are the conditions like at Somerset Station and on the Market-Frankford Line? How do they affect you?

Current conditions are pretty much a lot of traffic … there’s a lot of neglect. There’s a lot of trash. There’s a lot of needles. There’s a lot of unsafe conditions. 

It’s unsettling. You want to get from Point A to Point B, and you don’t want to have to go through a bunch of people or a bunch of needles to get there. And it speaks to this larger issue of neglect, I would say. Because there’s other parts of the city that get cleaned that do have personnel manning it.

3. What kinds of solutions could be implemented to create safe and reliable transportation in Kensington?

More city funding for cleaning and support. Whether that’s public safety, people you can go to, or those [emergency] buttons that you can push to [alert public safety officials] about conditions or if you’re feeling [unsafe]. 

Also, just like in general, [this closing] speaks to bigger issues, like people needing jobs. And we’re in a pandemic! So people are hanging out because they might not have anywhere to go. It just speaks to a larger issue in terms of income, job access, all of the things.

I’m hesitant to say that police are needed because this area is already disproportionately affected by the police and racism. So I always hate to say that police are part of the solution. But an interim situation is a question mark for me. I don’t know what that can look like besides community agencies stepping up as police alternatives, like more social workers and things like that. 

4. Should there be a community-led advisory board, made up of stakeholders like the City, SEPTA, Kensington residents, civic associations, nonprofits, and businesses, that comes up with a plan for reopening the Somerset Station and provides long term solutions to the problems that led to its closure?

Absolutely. I think the community knows what’s good for the community. There’s a lot of outside opinions, whether it be citywide, and the community knows about the community. So I think that absolutely makes sense.

If you would like to participate in future community responses, send us an email at editors@kensingtonvoice.com.

Editors: Zari Tarazona, Claire Wolters / Designer: Henry Savage

To read more community responses, click here.

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