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The site of a proposed McDonald's remains empty at 43rd and Market streets while community groups protest the construction process in court. [Scott Hong/The Daily Pennsylvanian]

Both those with a hankering for hamburgers and those with a hatred of them are still awaiting a court decision regarding the cleanup of pollutants on the site of a planned McDonald's at 43rd and Market streets. Construction of the fast food restaurant was originally supposed to be completed in fall 2001, but has been postponed several years due to community resistance, which began soon after McDonald's bought the property in October 1999. The project's continued delay stems from a legal battle between the corporation and West Philadelphia activist group Neighbors Against McPenntrification, whose claims that a chemical removal process the company was using is detrimental to the health of the community halted plans for decontamination of the area and construction. In spring 2001, it was discovered that the soil on the site was contaminated with tetrachloroethylene, commonly known as TTE, left over from the dry cleaning store that previously occupied the spot. The process that McDonald's used to clean up the TTE, vapor extraction, involves the eventual release of the carcinogenic chemical into the surrounding environs. In order to stop the vapor extraction process from continuing past a test run, NAM petitioned the Philadelphia Board of License and Inspection Review in order to revoke the fast food restaurant's license to clean the soil by extraction. It called for the corporation's use of a thermal desorption process, an allegedly safer, yet costly, method. Though NAM won its initial case when its appeal was granted last spring, McDonald's appealed that decision and won. Currently, NAM and McDonald's are still expecting an overdue decision from the court involving NAM's latest appeal, which was scheduled to have been made by Oct. 30. But controversy over the construction of the restaurant precedes the current legal battle. "We fought the McDonald's from the very beginning," explained Rev. Larry Falcon, a member of Neighbors Against McPenntrification. He said the organization saw the proposed fast food restaurant as one step in the systematic displacement of indigenous community members by the University. Falcon referred to a market study released by the University City District in July 1999, which stated that the UCD should either "encourage McDonald's to update and upgrade the appearance of its store at 40th and Walnut streets, which appears not to have been renovated in many years" or "work with McDonald's to relocate their store to a suitable nearby location, and then redevelop this prime parcel into a higher and better use than the current one-story fast food restaurant." Alison Kelsey, the marketing director for the UCD, feels that the continued referral to the study by NAM is silly, since it is currently almost four years old, and much has changed in the ensuing years. Meanwhile, both McDonald's and NAM are simply waiting for the court to make a ruling, according Larry Norton, marketing manager for the Philadelphia Region McDonald's. At present, neither can predict when that may happen. Elisa Sneed, a spokesperson for Councilwoman Janine Blackwell's office, explained that the judge is still trying to work out a solution that will be agreeable to both NAM and McDonald's, and is presently at a standstill. "At this point its just going to remain a vacant lot with a fence until something can be worked out," Sneed said. As NAM waits, Falcon asserted, the situation in the neighborhood is not getting any better. He explained that when it rains, contaminated soil from the exposed site runs into surrounding lawns and streets. "If you just see what they did to our gardens and our backyards, it's just terrible," Falcon said. Kelsey said that the UCD has no jurisdiction or influence over the current situation. "Once again, we have nothing to do with it," she said. "McDonald's franchises are independently owned and operated --- whatever goes in goes in." And so, the waiting game on 43rd and Market streets continues.

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