HOUSING Feed

Historical Society opens archives

Cu sonderskov historical societyVolunteer Shirley Hanson was on hand to greet visitors at the Chestnut Hill Historical Society on their first Saturday of the month open house. The Society’s archives house some 20,000 historical items including photos, many available digitally online.

Your correspondent asked about the history of his house. Volunteer Meredith Sonderskov located a 1916 newspaper illustration of the newly built twin houses on the 200 block of East Highland Avenue featuring then modern amenities – refrigerator rooms, trunk rooms and set-in tub bathrooms. The garage and 14 foot driveway would accommodate  the popular Ford Model T and nearly 100 years later are more than enough room for your correspondent’s machine. Watch video here.


City implodes Queen Lane Apartments

Neighbors and former residents of the 16-story Queen Lane Apartment building in the Germantown section of Philadelphia  were happy to see the structure deliberately collapsed the morning of September 13, 2014, in a scene eerily reminiscent of the collapse of the World Trade Center towers in a terrorist attack 13 years ago, practically to the day.

Once sparkling new and desirable, over time the apartment complex became  beset by drugs, crime and disrepair and sat vacant the last few years. The remaining residents were relocated and the playground fenced off.

At 7:25 am,  a succession several large bangs from ignited caches of dynamite strategically planted on the 1st 4th and 10th floors, preceded the collapse of the building and it was over within 15 seconds

Bystanders outside the cordoned off evacuation and dust zones  cheered as a large cloud of brown dust billowed up from the rubble, paving the way for the Philadelphia Housing Authority to construct some 50 rental apartments surrounding a green space.

Watch video here.


Taking a step away from homelessness

image from www.flickr.comOn 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.

 

 


Empty Bowl Dinner fights hunger and homelessness

Diners get to pick out a hand made bowl

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.

Watch video here.

The Baez family found shelter with the Northwest Philadelphia Interfaith Hospitality Network


Installing the new RF smart electric meter

Installs smart RF electric meter

PECO is replacing the existing electric meters in the neighborhood with new remote controlled smart meters using Radio Frequency (RF) transmission. Installer Peter Paige stopped by one morning, as scheduled, to make the 15 to 20 minute switch-out.

This is the process: Wearing fire resistant clothing, Paige first dons personal protective equipment: a hood, helmet and goggles to guard against a flash which might occur should he touch a live spot inside the box. He credits the protective gear with saving him on more than one occasion!

Paige then records the old meter number and reading and the new meter number and reading on a multifunctional, handheld electronic device. Then pulling off the old meter, the lights in our utility room and house go out. With a helmet-mounted lamp lighting the box, he tests the voltage. Trilling sounds indicate it’s OK. He snaps in the new meter and attaches a seal; its thin gauge wire can be cut but if it is discovered so, will indicate tampering.

With the handheld, Paige then takes photos of the old meter. Melting, burning or char on the plastic back of the old meter will indicate an electrical problem that a special PECO team will follow up on. And lastly he beams a red light at the meter to activate it. And it’s on to the next job. Paige says his appointment team can do up to 15 or 20 or more on a good day.

The smart meter allows PECO to turn it off in case of either emergency or delinquency. The new meter also has a sensor that detects overheating, surges or other improper conditions, can signal PECO and can shut itself down. Soon, a website will be available for customers to monitor and analyze their electric usage and achieve savings.

A “New Metering Technology” handout Paige provides explains that the new meters are being installed in accordance with the requirements of Pennsylvania Act 129 of 2008. In addition to the quick detection and correction of problems, the new technology is expected to provide the basis for new products and services. The handout also addresses consumer concerns about the level of Radio Frequency (RF) emitted by the meter and potential concerns about the privacy and security of the information captured.

Watch video of interview and installation here.


Travelers Aid Kiosk offers some help

travelers aid kiosk 30th street station philly

Chris Levey, a saturnine looking yet pleasant 3-day a week volunteer at the barren- looking Travelers Aide kiosk at 30th Street Station in Philadelphia says that Travelers Aide doesn’t offer all that much.  The most common question is where the bathroom is followed by where the BOLT bus location is.  People also ask about tourist destinations and Levey directs them to the Independence Hall area and offers a map.

Not infrequently Levey gets approached by people who don’t have money and need a place to stay. Men he sends to the Roosevelt Darby Center, women to the House of Passage, emergency housing shelters. They relate all kinds of stories, he says. A guy the week before said he had come for a job interview, didn’t get the job and had no money to get home.  Levey supplies these down-on-their-luckers with a token to get to the shelter.

Watch video interview here.


Living in Princeton U's 1860s President McCosh's House

Living in the house of 1860s Princeton University President James McCosh

David Meadow leads a short tour through his home, known to the Princeton NJ community as “the McCosh house” because it was the residence of the James   McCosh, president of Princeton University from 1868 -1888.  

In recent years, the mansion had been divided into two large condominium units and last year, Meadow and his wife Lisa Mirin have taken up residence in the larger side.

Meadow relates that McCosh had built the structure in 1887 as his retirement home. Before it was moved to its present location on Princeton’s main street, Nassau Street, in 1906, it was originally situated on Prospect street, where it had housed a student eating club [the “Quadrangle” of which novelist and Princetonian F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote about in “This Side of Paradise.”] 

On Nassau it sat on a large tract of land and its owner in 1980, Architect Robert Hillier sought to tear it down for a townhouse development. The Historical Society and the community waged a battle in the local newspapers to preserve the historical house. Hillier relented, and was able to comply with regulations concerning the housing development by moving the house once again, but this time only 20 feet closer to the street.

Meadow points out the elaborate, original stained glass work, woodwork, and scrollwork in the main entrance area and along the grand stairway to the second floor. 

When the house was moved in 1980, some of the original stucco was uncovered a curious feature was revealed: The year “1888” and McCosh’s initials where McCosh presumably had scratched them into the wet stucco.

Watch video interview and tour here.


Why Thoreau went to the woods

walden pond

On a walk around Walden Pond in Concord, Massachusetts we stopped at the site where Thoreau had built his cabin. I asked another tourist if she might not read aloud the quote from Thoreau carved on a sign. "I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived." Watch video here.

I went to the woods because..." Thoreau at Walden


Three days on roof, survived Hurricane Katrina

NOTE: INFORMATION HAS BEEN RECEIVED ON 4/21/13 WHICH CALLS THE VERACITY OF THIS ACCOUNT INTO QUESTION.

Mount Airy resident survived Hurrican Katrina

Watch video interview here

Jo Quasney is a survivor of Hurricane Katrina. Of French Creole heritage, Quasney is a native of New Orleans who was living alone in her house in the eighth ward when the hurricane struck on August 29, 2005.  Quasney bred birds and had no way of transporting or finding shelter for the birds when New Orleans residents were advised to evacuate so she stuck it out. Her neighborhood began to flood after she heard an explosion that she attributes to a Halliburton company oil barge breaking through a levee. (For a discussion on the cause of the breech, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ING_4727)

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