Stories about life in Liddonfield housing project and its impact on the Northeast Philadelphia neighborhood of Upper Holmesburg. These true stories reveal how government policy affected the lives of real people, from the project residents to area homeowners during the 5 decades of Liddonfield’s existence. Stories and articles are written by a former resident of the project.


Rosemary Reeves, Blogger, standing on Philadelphia Skyline

Feb 13, 2013

Part 3 of Liddonfield: One Neighborhood's Struggle With Public Housing

by Rosemary Reeves

This series includes factors influencing the decline of Liddonfield Homes Public Housing Development and some of the heroic steps that were taken by determined homeowners and tenants of the project in an attempt to rid themselves of drug dealers in a neighborhood deemed “low priority.”

Part 3:  The Housing Authority Lessens Security

If you missed the first two parts of this series click on the links below:

Part One:  A Politician's Legacy, An Architect's Vision 

For thirty years, Liddonfield proved that public housing had the potential to be a success.  One of the earliest low-income housing developments built in Philadelphia, Liddonfield was hailed as a model housing project by the former President of the Northeast Federation of Civic Associations, Joan Ferriera, as late as 1987 for being well maintained and having far less serious crime that most.  Other than reports of minor vandalism by Liddonfield kids, the neighborhood of Upper Holmesburg remained virtually untouched by the public housing development in its midst.  

Those who lived in Liddonfield’s low-rise apartments attended churches and schools in Philadelphia’s Far Northeast with the working-class and middle-class people from the neighborhood, some of whom looked down upon them and some of whom befriended them.  

Philadelphia Housing Authority (PHA) police regularly patrolled the project but PHA officials decided to remove them from Liddonfield so they could patrol other projects with higher incidents of crime.  This was a cost-saving measure according to PHA Director of Security, Eugene O’Neill.  

In his 1987 interview with Philadelphia Inquirer reporter Lini Kadaba, for the Where Project Isn’t a Dirty Word article, O’Neill called the Liddonfield patrols “a luxury we could no longer afford.”  The housing authority now put the burden on Philadelphia police officers to respond to incidents of crime at Liddonfield instead of using PHA police patrols as a preventive measure.  This decision resulted in a lack of housing project security in a neighborhood with a small police force, a recipe for disaster.  Soon, Liddonfield would drastically change from a model public housing development into a neighborhood’s nightmare, earning a notorious reputation for being crime-ridden and dangerous.

Within four months of O’Neill’s statement confirming removal of security patrols at Liddonfield, project management began receiving complaints from the low-income tenants that people were dealing drugs at a Liddonfield apartment on Ditman Street.  With no housing authority police to patrol, Liddonfield management could do little but pass the complaints onto the housing authority, which passed them onto the local police force.  However, the short-staffed 8th district police department needed probable cause and a warrant.  There would have to be an investigation and that took time, money and undercover manpower, all of which were hard to come by for cops in Philly’s Far Northeast. 

It was in the late 1980s that a new and highly addictive drug known as crack cocaine was introduced into poor, mostly urban, neighborhoods across the United States.  The drug insidiously made its way into Liddonfield just as the housing authority lessened security at the Upper Holmesburg housing project.  Liddonfield tenant Carl Daniels decided to make fast and easy money by allowing a Jamaican drug gang to use his Ditman Street apartment for drug dealing.  The gang sent two teenage recruits to sell the crack cocaine at Daniels’ Liddonfield address.  The two young recruits were 16-year-old Jameral Williams and 15-year-old Derrick Allen, both of West Oak Lane.  Law-abiding Liddonfield tenants noticed suspicious activity at that location, which they diligently reported to the housing authority and the 8th district police department over the course of several months.  On July 10, 1988 Daniels and two other men decided to rob the two teenagers of their drugs.  They forced the young recruits into a closet, ordered them to kneel and shot them in the head.  

Part 4 of this series will be posted next week.

Sources:  Philadelphia Inquirer, Feb. 1, 1987, Where Project Isn’t a Dirty Word by reporter Lini S. Kadaba; Philadelphia Inquirer, July 13, 1988, Police:  Slain Teens Served Drug Gang by reporters Robert J. Terry, Thomas J. Gibbons, Jr. and Michael B. Coakley

 Video showing the decline of Liddonfield

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