By mid-afternoon Tuesday, most businesses along the Germantown Avenue business corridor (excluding some of the vacant ones ) had been securely boarded up in the wake of widespread protests and looting elsewhere in the city. The Weavers Way Coop market, which has a wide expanse of windows, was a notable exception. (The Coop's General Manager, Jon Roesser, explains its decision not to board up below.) When asked why he was boarding up the Wells Fargo Bank a workman replied "It's a job. Do you think I like doing this? It's sad."
Joe Pie of McNally's Tavern, was putting a new coat of dark green paint on the entrance door (No boarding up to do because the tavern hasn't had windows on the narrow facade for more than fifty years.) He said that businesses along the Avenue had been "cased" the day before and was very alarmed should any photos be posted on social media. Bohemian Pink owner Monika Schermer said her store was boarded up based on the advice of the Chestnut Hill Business Association and the 14th District Philadelphia Police. Schermer directed questions to the Business Association. Its Executive Director Phil Dawson could not be reached for comment.
Outside the Fresh Market at 7 pm, a market employee stood outside watching two workmen prepare to board up the doors. He relayed that the CVS, farther down the street, had been broken into. Talking on the phone, one of these workers could be heard saying he would be back at the store in the morning to take the boards off so the store could open for business. "Hopefully I'm going to be putting these boards on and off for a couple days."
Large, delicately lettered chalk messages have already appeared on some of the boards. "Love lives here" on one and "Community" on another. Hillary O'Carroll proprietress of Isabella Sparrow, captured in a photo in the below tweet, is behind the heartwarming words. She says she wanted to add non-political messages of love and home by writing on the the boards. The one shown above "Black Lives Matter - donate: NAACP.ORG & phillybailfund.org" she attributes to an employee of Caleb Meyer.
On the Tailored Home store, O'Carroll's message is simply "This is home"
Comments of John Roesser, GM of Weavers Way Cooperative Association
Driving down Gtown Ave this morning, it seems we're part of a vanishing minority of businesses who've chosen not to board up; lumber yards must be rejoicing.
For starters, please know I don't question the motives of other business owners. Whatever drove them to decide to board up, I'm sure it made sense for them. I understand PPD recommends boarding up businesses as a precaution. PPD would have no reason to recommend anything different. And they are busy and hard pressed and I'm sure not just a little tired by now.
Our principal reason for not boarding up was consideration of our staff and customers. Still in the midst of the pandemic, grocery shopping is already a stressful activity (working in a grocery store is even worse). The masks and the hand sanitizer and the social distancing and the 15 person customer cap, it's all disconcerting enough. Boarding up our windows would aggravate the stress. Our Chestnut Hill store is small. Boarding up the windows would block out the natural light and make it feel even smaller. Who wants to work in a plywood box?
In making this decision I had 100% support from the Co-op's management team and 100% support from our Chestnut Hill employees (at least the 25 or so with whom I spoke on Sunday and Monday). Last night I received 100% affirmation of the decision from our board of directors who, as you know, are democratically elected by the Co-op's 10,000 member households.
Having spent much of yesterday in Chestnut Hill chatting with customers (masked and 6 feet apart!) I received thumbs up from all of them. Many expressed dismay at the acres of plywood along the avenue. One out of four households in Chestnut Hill are member-owners of the Co-op. They patronize other businesses on the avenue too.
Yesterday's demonstrations were largely peaceful. Things could change but the folks who are out protesting the murder of George Floyd and demanding the end of institutional racism are not vandals or looters. PPD is as always hard at work tracking down the bad actors who are taking advantage of the demonstrations (and undermining the demonstrator's message) by causing mayhem. It is too early to say but we can perhaps be hopeful that the worst of the looting is over.
I have to say, again not questioning the motives - or the politics - of other business owners, the sight of all those boarded up buildings along the avenue is unnerving. And it can't be good for business. I do hope the other businesses along the avenue will consider taking the boards down sooner rather than later.
It will take one hooligan, armed with a brick and a strong arm, to make us look like fools. Maybe we are fools. "
Your correspondent is helping out with "Witness for Prosecution," the Agatha Christie play at the Stagecrafters Theater in Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia running November 22nd through December 8th. He cornered a few actors who indulged him by delivering their favorite lines. The clip below features Jaime Roanne Schwartz as Greta, Mark Sherlock as Leonard Vole, John Pinto as Justice Wainwright, Tom Tansey as Sir Wilfred, Tom Libonate as Mr. Myers,and Leah O'Hara as Romaine.NOTE: CONTAINS POTENTIAL SPOILERS
OCTOBER 3, 2019 UPDATE: SUBSTANTIAL DELAYS IN PROJECT, DETAILS TO FOLLOW
Bradley Maule, pictured above reports:
"As yet, there is nothing new to report. The mural and trail are both still going to happen, but we don't have a precise timeline yet. The funding has to come from several sources, and some of the grants that we'll be applying to go in annual cycles. The mural will need to happen concurrently to the construction of the trail on the trestle so as to minimize disruption on Germantown Avenue (so likely overnight). We'll hopefully have a clearer view of both projects in the coming months, at which time we'll issue a statement. Thanks for checking in."
Mural Arts Jane Golden and Cathy Harris have yet to respond to the question posed October 3, 2019 "Will you open the call for artists again since it will soon be be nearly two years since the call went out (February 26, 2018)? "
5/21/2018 UPDATE: According to Brad Maule of Mt Airy USA, the selection committee is seeking additional submissions but anyone visiting the official website for the project http://mtairyusa.org/cresheimproject/ would not know that the deadline of April 13 for artist submissions has been extended.
Before a couple dozen community members at the newly renovated Lovett Library this past Monday evening, Cathy Harris of Philadelphia Mural Arts issues a call for artists to design a mural for the rusted abandoned railway trestle over Germantown Avenue below Cresheim Valley Drive. First envisioned fifteen years ago, the project is being relaunched now that the City of Philadelphia is acquiring the former Pennsylvania Railroad trestle from PECO. Brad Maule of Mt Airy USA, a project partner, provided historical information on the structure and Mural Arts founder Jane Golden encouraged attendees to "spread the word" to artists to answer the "Call for Submissions." The Deadline for submissions is April 13, 2018. Your correspondent has posted a PDF of the "Cresheim Trail Mural Project Call for Submissions" here until it becomes available online from the collaborative which also includes the Trolley Car Diner, Friends of the Cresheim Trail (FoCT), Elfant Wissahickon Realtors, Chestnut Hill Rotary, the Mount Airy Learning Tree and ChestnutHIllPa. The abandoned railroad is being converted to a trail linking Mount Airy and Chestnut Hill with Springfield Township. See reporter Sue Ann Rybak's coverage in the January 18, 2018 Chestnut Hill Local The mural’s completion is intended to coincide with the opening of the extension to the existing trail which begins at Allens Lane and Lincoln Drive. In June the public is welcomed to vote "in several community locations" to choose a winner from among a handful of proposals narrowed down by Mural Arts. After the meeting, I approached Sam Hanna who had been intently taking notes during the presentations. As a business account manager for the Center for Employment Opportunities, Hanna planned to relay what he had learned to a client. While in prison for twenty years, that client began to do art. And after getting out last year at the time of the Monday evening meeting, was at a job he had just started. Things are looking up.
(In the photo left to right -standing: Brad Maule of Mt Airy USA, Jane Golden and Cathy Harris of Mural Arts Philadelphia, seated 2nd from left- Sam Hanna of CEO and Judy Weinstein of MALT)
Your correspondent, a reliably strident protester of former candidate – now President Donald Trump, signed an online petition earlier this year calling for Trump's impeachment. This past week I received an email invitation from Tom Steyer at "Need to Impeach" inviting me to "and [sic] impeachment party", space permitting. The invite didn’t explain at all what would happen at the party but I sniffed free food. Sure, I would "stand with Tom" as other emails asked me to do. Steyer turns out to be a billionaire former hedge fund manager turned born-again environmental activist and Democratic Party candidate funder and fundraiser. I adhere to the credo that “behind every great fortune is a crime,” so it didn’t take long to find an academic critique of hedge funds that concludes they provide no social value and while they provide returns on investments no better than average they do make some managers extraordinarily wealthy.
In a subsequent email we were instructed to arrive at the Liberty View Ballroom at the Independence Visitor Center in downtown Philadelphia with photo ID. We arrived. The other partygoers were mostly middle aged and white like us but much better dressed. We were ushered into a room with waiters walking about offering hors d'oeuvres and an open bar! I schmoozed and conducted some interviews
I engaged Paul Shrader, a tall man with an “impeach trump” t-shirt, the only one I spotted sporting political attire. He was an ATF-Explosives certified military man who felt it wasn’t appropriate to continue service in an administration where 130 people in leadership positions do not, according to him, have security clearances. Working with the enemy? he asked disbelievingly. That’s the number one thing you don’t do and that the administration has been doing.
I also interviewed Lindy Li and Rich Lazer, both young idealistic Democratic candidates for Pennsylvania’s First Congressional District. The map was redrawn just today by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to correct court found Republican Party gerrymandering. Li, who came to the US from China when she was 5 years old, was propelled into politics when a shooter killed children at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown Connecticut on December 14, 2012. The date happened to coincide with her birthday and, in her words, damaged her “eternally.” She is vehement about diminishing the influence of the NRA in gun control matters and big oil on environment, climate change matters. Lazer had just resigned his position as labor liaison for Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney and opposes Trump‘s measures clamping down on sanctuary cities and calls for Trump’s impeachment for obstruction of justice in the FBI’s investigation of Russian state operatives’ interference in the 2016 presidential campaign and possible collusion with the Trump campaign. I also saw candidate Nina Ahmad who smartly drew attention to herself with a sign with her name on it.
Steyer eventually took a high seat at the front of the room alongside Pennsylvania State Representative Donna Bullock who spoke about how her constituents were being damaged by both Trumps policies and his manner. Seated at her right was Baltimore psychologist John Gartner who has been making the case that Donald Trump suffers from deteriorating pre-dementia and malignant narcissistic personality disorder. He speculated Trump might find relief, vindication and perverse pleasure in starting a nuclear war.
Steyer followed with remarks abut the need to energize college students to participate in the midterm elections. When he couched the situation as one of "absolute" right versus wrong, your correspondent impolitely rose before the third and final question that had been chosen from ones earlier submitted by attendees, to question Steyer about his extraordinary wealth. Steyer promised to be transparent. Considering how unrevealing he was in the party invitation, that’s a good thing.
Your correspondent took his wife’s car to Dr. Ralph’s Automotive Services Center in Roxborough after she discovered one morning that it had been bashed overnight. While a technician was dusting off the last traces of the repair job, body shop manager John Klimowicz began explaining the business. While high strength steel is still used in car construction, thermoset plastics are becoming more common. To point out the strength of the repair work, Klimowicz relates that the same epoxies used to weld airplane panels are employed for car panel bonding repairs. If repaired properly, according to manufacturer specifications, “you can hit it with a sledge hammer and it will not break.” As to a future when driverless cars are expected to reduce collisions? “That remains to be seen.” In the meantime, Klimowicz believes there is plenty of work for Dr. Ralph’s and for the other nine or so car repair shops tightly spaced alongside this industrial stretch of Umbria Avenue. Watch video interview here.
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.
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.
On Tuesday, May 21st, at the home of Mary Moorhouse and Angela Griffiths on the corner of Ardleigh and Meade Streets in Chestnut Hill, Nena Eskridge and Fairleigh Dickinson University students began shooting an independent feature length film called “Stray.”
“Stray is a dark psycho/thriller about a killer who decides to give up a life of crime to settle down in a small town to start a family. But first she has to find the right guy to help make it happen – whether he wants to or not.” This, according to the production’s Kickstarter fundraising page which shows 133 donors have already pledged $50,400 surpassing the $50,000 goal.
“Stray” features actress Michele Page (who played a punk girl in a bank “Miss Congeniality 2”) as the lead Jennifer Davis and also tv and screen actors Annie Corley and Aaron Lustig.
A flier left some weeks ago through your correspondent’s mail slot alerted us that filming would begin today and continue through June 10th. The crew will shoot scenes along Germantown Avenue, at the Mermaid Inn and one on June 6th at the back of 213 E Meade Street, Eskridge’s house (on the alley behind our house.) Everyone is welcome to “stop by and watch. Just remember everyone has to be quiet “
When Joanne Thompson arrived at the Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill, she was taken by the display of hundreds of t-shirts mounted on wooden crosses, flapping in the wind. From someone coming out the church door she learned that each shirt bore the name and age of each of the 312 people killed by a gun in Philadelphia in 2012. She pointed out a sign at the sidewalk calling for Mayor Nutter to take action. Although Thompson, personally, has not been affected by gun violence, “it’s horrible”, she says and affects the whole community: everyone has to fear for his or her own safety or that of a child. The display is being mounted by an organization called, “Heeding God’s Call.” www.heedinggodscall.org/
Manuel Lorenzo (left) and Carmello
Oquendo (right) were patrolling Chestnut Hill along Highland Avenue astride
their mounts. Lorenzo was riding
Ruben, a black coated Dutch warmblood and former dressage horse and Oquendo was
riding Ranger, a rescued Belgian draft
who had been pulling farm carriages. The policemen are two of the 12
officers riding horses from a stable of 15. They patrol throughout the City,
says Oquendo, and could be in
Chestnut Hill one day and in Old
City, the next. Although there were a couple hundred in the unit in the 1950s
and 60s, the hope is for the unit, re-introduced in 2010, to build back up to a
more recent level of 30 riders. Although the officers can perform all regular
police functions, their main purpose is deterrence and the officers equate a
mounted duo’s effectiveness to that of 20 officers walking a beat. The horses are trained to deal with
different conditions, disturbances and people. Ruben and Ranger were receptive to pats on the neck and the
officers say they are good for community relations - the public loves them. The
Philadelphia Police Foundation website accepts donations at http://www.phillypolicefoundation.org/projects/mountedunit/ to rebuild
the mounted patrol. Watch short video here.