A tall chain-link fence recently appeared dividing the narrow walkway between two buildings on Germantown Avenue in the posh Chestnut Hill shopping district in northwest Philadelphia. And now, next to it a sign that reads "Snowden's Spite Fence." George Hobe says the fence went up between his antiques store and a building owned by Richard Snowden/ Bowman Properties after Hobe refused to sell his building to Snowden. Hobe maintains the walkway has long been a public thoroughfare, that the fence is illegal and that the Philadelphia Department of Licenses and Inspections has not addressed complaints against the fence. During our interview Hobe retrieved a working Monopoly boardgame from inside his store called "The Game of Chestnut Hill." Snowden, who owns a large and ever growing proportion of the properties along the corridor, is presumably the inspiration for the unique Chestnut Hill version of Monopoly. Watch video interview here.
Your correspondent interviewed candidates and poll workers at the Grace Epiphany Church polling site in the Mount Airy section of Philadelphia, home to 3 voting divisions. Video playlist here.
Juvenile Court Master now Judicial candidate Betsy Wahl has the support of some kids who she has helped straighten out their lives after landing in juvenile delinquency court.
Eric Dickerson earned $100 for working the polls in three separate locations for successfuly Democratic primary Mayoral candidate Jim Kenney. Dickerson, who spent 22 years in jail lives in a recovery house and through research, which he learned to do in prison, believes Kenney is supportive of recovery houses to address the city's drug problem. Kenney faces an insignificant challenge from Republican Melissa Bailey in the fall general elections.
In the Mount Airy section of Philadelphia on primary election day, Tuesday, May 19, 2015, campaign pollworkers, who appear to outnumber those who have come to vote, make pitches for their candidates and hand out palm cards. Candidates are running for Philadelphia Mayor, Philadelphia City Council and Judges on Pennsylvania trial courts and the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. Watch video here.
Candidate for Philadelphia Mayor in Democratic primary criticizes outside money in election. May 19, 2015. Watch video here.
Suspended lawyer will likely soon hold Court. Watch video here.
Andrew, a Scotsman who has been out of the country for the past few years, says he probably would have voted in favor of independence from Great Britain in the recent referendum were he home to vote. In hindsight, with the vote split 55 to 45% against independence, he thinks that it’s best that Scotland is not independent just yet because if the vote were reversed with 55% in favor of independence, he does not believe that would be enough of a consensus. Watch video interview here.
Family members chanted outside the Presidential Palace in Quito, Ecuador calling on the government and President Rafael Correa to take action in locating loved ones who have been disappeared. (Kidnappers have been reported to force their victims into the sex trade or hold them for ransom) Watch video here.
Eighty-seven year old Pat Sellers, laid off from the Philadelphia Cricket Club three years ago, has started doing what she has seen young people doing to try to make ends meet. Since July she has been busking on the street. She serenades passersby on her electric keyboard with show tunes and old time favorites outside Kilian Hardware, with electricity provided by the store, in the hope they will put money in her donation bag. On a recent Sunday, the musician, striking in her poofy, coifed silver hair and smart blue and white pants outfit, tapped out songs from Les Mis and Nat King Cole. Watch video and interview here.
Victoria Carrillo solicits memberships and petition signatures door-to-door in Chestnut Hill for the Clean Air Council of Philadelphia. The long established organization advocates for recyclling, bike trails, fracking restrictions and such to combat air pollution and its serious effects like widespread childhood asthma. Watch video interview here.
Driving my daughter from Chestnut Hill to her job in Roxborough Saturday morning, we passed a man making his way on foot down the steep and treacherously narrow, icy shoulder of Bells Mill Road. When I again passed him on my return trip twenty minutes later, now on his ascent from Forbidden Drive, I had to offer him a lift. Robert Mongeluzzi’s car tire had been flattened by a pothole the day before and, after spending the night in Chestnut Hill, he was hoping to somehow connect with a bus and make it to his home in Merion Station. He offered to top off my gas tank as thanks but I settled for the story of his work as a trial attorney representing victims and families of the Market Street Salvation Army building collapse and other, similarly notorious and catastrophic incidents.
On the eve before Christmas Eve, Paul Rossetti was standing in the rain at the corner of Highland and Germantown Avenues hawking “One Step Away” newspapers for a $1 each. (small photo at right) And he has been working this and other corners in the city throughout January despite the bitter cold and light pedestrian traffic. (above photo)
Rossetti grew up around the Pottstown area and got involved in drinking and drugs through the influence of peer pressure. DUIs (driving under the influence convictions) landed him time in jail. He’s now living at the Germantown Y men’s home.
According to its website, “One Step Away is Philadelphia's first street paper aimed at raising awareness of homelessness and providing employment to those in need. With each dollar received, 75¢ goes directly to the vendor. The other 25¢ covers the printing costs. The vendors are people experiencing homelessness or joblessness. While the vast majority of One Step Away vendors are living on the street or in temporary shelters when they start with the project, most are able to use the money earned by distributing One Step Away to secure their own housing.” http://osaphilly.com/
Rossetti says he’s going to NA and AA meetings and trying to stay on his feet and keep busy. Rules at the Y are strict; if he should come back high or drunk, he would be given 15 minutes to vacate his room. With janitorial and construction experience, Rossetti hopes to find work and secure an apartment of his own. Eventually he would like go into business for himself.
The name, “One Step Away” is meant to highlight how so many people in society are close to becoming homeless through unforeseen financial and personal crises. At the same time, the name honors the major step the formerly homeless individuals who are producing and distributing the paper have taken away from a life on the street.
It appeared that Rabbi Yitzchok Gurevitz’s faith in the accuracy of the weather forecast was rewarded last evening. Skies cleared just before the public lighting of a large Hanukah menorah at 6:30 pm on a grassy area beside Chestnut Hill Plaza at the bottom Germantown Avenue above Cresheim Drive.
Twenty some people such as Norm and Leah Schwartz of Mount Airy who brought their granddaughter, braved the near freezing temperatures and driving winds which had blown out the afternoon’s rain and sleet, to celebrate the first night of Hanukah. As Gurevitz, leader of Chabad-Lubavitch of Northwest Philadelphia, lit an oil wick candle, they sang prayers to mark the beginning of the eight-day Jewish holiday that commemorates the successful revolt of the Jews against the Syrian king Antiochus in 165 BCE in Judea and the rededication of the Temple that had been desecrated at his orders.
Hanukah is a special holiday, Gurevitz explained, because Jews are called upon to observe it not just in the home but outside with the community at large. (In 2002, the U.S. Supreme Court got involved in the national Chabad movement practice of lighting menorahs in public places made controversial by the constitutional mandate of separation of church and state, when it allowed a public display in Fountain Square, Cincinnati)
Referring to the case, Gurevitz emphasized the menorah as a symbol of freedom for all people and interprets the freedom message at a personal level- “the freedom to be the best that we can be, the freedom to be the most we can be.”
At the conclusion of the ceremony, a celebrant placed a large boom box atop his car parked in the adjoining driveway and broadcast festive Chanukah music as those gathered huddled against the cold, schmoozed, and enjoyed latkes (traditional potato pancakes) with hot cider.
For the next week, one additional electric candle will be lit every day in reenactment of the Chanukah story that oil found in the reclaimed Temple, sufficient for only one day, miraculously lasted eight days. Electric current is coming courtesy of Yu Hsiang Garden restaurant next door.
Twenty five percent of Philadelphians live below the poverty level. This somber statistic was delivered last night to hundreds of diners, along with delicious soups and breads donated by dozens of restaurants and caterers, at the Northwest Philadelphia Interfaith Hospitality Network’s 15th annual “Empty Bowl Dinner” held at the Lutheran Theological Seminary.
Through a large network of religious congregations and volunteers, the Network (“NPIHN”) provides emergency and transitional housing and support services to families facing homelessness, like the Baez family, now “alumni”, who recounted their continuing personal struggle to support themselves and stay together as a family.