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Alvaro Drake-Cortes

I learned from folks who shared their ideas through CPI.


July 3, 2019


Bella Vista


Fall 2018

I learned from folks who shared their ideas through CPI. I applied these learnings to Bardascino Park, where we targeted three tables to install lights – with the goal of minimizing misuse of the park.

Cortes (formally, Alvaro Drake-Cortes) is a graduate of the Fall 2018 class of the Citizens Planning Institute. He is also a member of the Friends of Bardascino Park. Cortes’ CPI project was about lighting in and around the park. He was concerned about safety and thought lights would help.

Cortes heard praise from community members after the installation of the lights. He also noticed families with their children using the park later into the night.

The lights turned out to be a beautiful thing. We had an immediate impact and people in the community wanted to hang out.

After the success of this project, Cortes embarked on his next mission. His goal was to unite the diverse communities who resided in the areas around the park. These include African-American, Latino, Asian, and White populations. Cortes planned many events in the park with the help of a grant from the Fairmount Park Conservancy. For example, Cortes organized a World Cup Series viewing party in the park. He brought his own television to use as the viewing screen, but also recruited the support of neighbors and community members to get involved.

Cortes, along with the Friends of Bardascino group, organized a park cleanup for Love Your Park Week in 2019. He also planned a series of “Dinner at the Park” events.

Kids sit and draw on the ground in a park.
A man and a boy hold plates of food.
People are seated at a concert in a park.

We invited everyone to come and have dinner with families in the park while we played world music.

Cortes also partnered with the Free Library of Philadelphia on a cultural awareness  event. The event, called “World Traveling Trunks,” emphasized learning about different cultures. There were three trunks of children’s books and artifacts from different continents. Children were able to play with and learn about the objects in the trunks.

My goal was to get people from different communities to attend…Fifteen children showed up to learn about the different cultures. They came from ours, and other neighborhoods in Philadelphia!

Cortes has planned to host more events at the park. He will screen movies at the park over the summer and continue his “Dinner at the Park” events. He is also producing the Women’s World Cup at the Park! viewing series every weekend between June 8th – July 7th.

Through CPI, I learned that in order to make anything happen, I need buy-in from the community. Also understanding what resources or allies you have, how the City works…I was not aware of these resources before CPI.