Author Archives: rocklandstreet

Redevelopment of Germantown’s YWCA about more than just one building

The shuttered YWCA.

The shuttered YWCA.

UPDATED: 4:30 PM February 17, 2015

Local media turned it’s attention to development in Northwest Philadelphia’s Germantown neighborhood this week as journalists reported on the fate of the historic YWCA building. Set on the 5800 block of Germantown Avenue, the building frames the northern side of leafy Vernon Park and fronts the commercial corridor. The week’s tales of woe, much of which centered on whether the building would face demolition or redevelopment, left me feeling very sad about Germantown as a neighborhood and place I call home, frustrated but not at a loss for words.

Here’s my letter to The Inquirer in response to architecture critic Inga Saffron’s take in her Changing Skyline column, published in the Tuesday, February 17th Opinion section (glad it’s back to two pages of commentary):

Promising neighborhood deserves better

TEXT: When it comes to planning and development, the Germantown community is feeling its way through the dark (“Without Y, Germantown loses part of its past,” Feb. 13). Where, for starters, is the City Planning Commission’s district plan for Germantown?

Whatever happens with the neighborhood’s vacant YWCA will affect its central park, its commercial corridor, and the future development of Germantown in a big way.

I know Germantown has what it takes. And I’m looking for change I can believe in, not change I’m mildly OK with. But if the wave of development sweeping the neighborhood now doesn’t meet my expectations, I will, with a heavy heart, look for a new place to live, work, and play.

I have already invested (and sacrificed) years making a positive difference on my own block, only to be crushed by the weight of insurmountable problems – poverty, ever more diminished city services, and the lack of oversight or feigned interest of the city agencies handling inspections and public housing.

I want neighborhood reinvestment that excites me. I’m young. I’m civically engaged. But I’m burning out fast. And I could use a good shot of espresso at a café in my very own neighborhood, as well as the ability to stop at a convenience store that isn’t reminding me over a loudspeaker every minute that I’m on camera.

We should have opportunities and we should have options to shape a grand vision for Germantown.

Emaleigh Doley, Philadelphia, www.rocklandstreet.com

The Germantown YWCA serves as a border for Vernon Park and as a backdrop to the Pastorius Memorial. (Credit: The Philadelphia Inquirer / Rachel Wisniewski)

The Germantown YWCA serves as a border for Vernon Park and as a backdrop to the Pastorius Memorial. (Credit: The Philadelphia Inquirer / Rachel Wisniewski)

The Philadelphia Inquirer ads to its stock photography collection of developer Ken Weinstein, here outside of the Germantown YWCA. (Credit: The Philadelphia Inquirer / Rachel Wisniewski)

The Philadelphia Inquirer ads to its stock photography collection of developer Ken Weinstein, here outside of the Germantown YWCA. (Credit: The Philadelphia Inquirer / Rachel Wisniewski)

big-news-clipart-200x243In the news

1. The Philadelphia Inquirer‘s architecture critic Inga Saffron pens an ode to the old building and brings the hammer down on councilmanic prerogative: Changing Skyline: Political battle could topple Germantown Y.

2. Earlier in the week, The Inquirer‘s city hall reporter Claudia Vargas captured Councilwoman Cindy Bass’ point of view: What’s to become of the old Germantown YWCA? The article notes the Councilwoman doesn’t want more subsidized housing at this location on Germantown Avenue. Bass says that given Germantown’s potential, time is needed to find the right plan for the old Y. “Land in Germantown, I believe, is becoming more and more valuable as we speak.”

3. Flying Kite Media offered a recap of the January 22, 2015 community meeting about the fate of the YWCA building, convened by Germantown United CDC.

4. Here on The W Rockland Street Project blog, my top 5 questions about the YWCA redevelopment leading up to the January 22 meeting.

5. A range of opinion and community conversation on Changing Germantown: facebook.com/groups/ChangingGermantown

Map view

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Crowdfunding to save the W Rockland Street Community Garden. We need you!

The W Rockland St Project in Philadelphia has launched a crowdsourced fundraising campaign to remove a sick tree from the community garden that’s threatening the 2014 growing season and neighborhood gathering space.

rockland_street_garden_fundly

click the image to make an online donation: www.fundly.com/support-philadelphia-community-garden-germantown

In 2012 the residents of W Rockland Street in Northwest Philadelphia’s Germantown neighborhood took over the trashstrewn vacant lot and built an award-winning community garden and gathering space from scratch. In just two years, members have produced hundreds of pounds of fresh vegetables, fruit and herbs. Sadly, this urban oasis is under threat. There is a sick and diseased tree falling into the garden and the vacant house nextdoor, making it unsafe for neighbors to use the space and halting plans for the 2014 growing season. If the tree does not come down, this vibrant but low-income block will have to close its home-grown community space to the many children and adults who benefit from this little slice of green in the city.

You can help save the summer! Support our fundraising effort to cover the high cost of tree removal and watch a neighborhood blossom. Give any amount you choose.

donate

click to give: www.fundly.com/support-philadelphia-community-garden-germantown

Growing community

The garden is home to 13 raised garden beds (lucky number!), a melon and climbing vine patch, a compost bin, a floral garden, and jungle gym for kids. Non-gardeners also use the peaceful green space to host gatherings, activities for the block’s many children, and other events. As the garden has flourished, the tree’s health deteriorated. Huge branches entwined with Poison Ivy now reach down to the ground, covering some of the garden beds. It cannot be saved.

Today, this dying tree stands in the way of a community on the rise. Neighbors have already organized a work-day on Saturday, May 24 to install new picnic tables for the summer and equip the garden with rain barrells, a small shed and new fence. But, the tree must come down first!

The community’s answer to blight

Located at 15 W Rockland Street, the garden sits next to a vacant house, recently sealed by the City’s office of Licenses and Inspections. Two vacant spaces side by side can crush a block. Fedup with the conditions, neighbors decided to take a DIY approach. The garden was built on April 16, 2012 during the 4th annual Philly Spring Cleanup and its been growing and evolving ever since. By activating the abandoned spaces, the community lessens the effects of blight created by vacancy, turning a double negative into a positive. The transformed space has made the neighborhood safer and improved quality of life for nearby residents. Help us keep it that way!

If you’re not convinced yet, listen to Mrs. Ada Pullett talk about her love of planting and 40+ years living on W Rockland Street in this cool soundslide created by Temple University journalism students Shanise Redmon and Monet Tucker.

About The W Rockland Street Project

The W Rockland Street Project is a citizen-driven effort to revitalize one Philadelphia city block through community organizing and small-scale urban interventions. With a do-it-yourself spirit and low-cost high-impact approach, the grassroots initiative builds community and creates change you can see. The project is spearheaded by Aine Doley and Emaleigh Doley, sisters and longtime block residents. Discover rocklandstreet.com.

Street cred

  • Inga Saffron, Pulitzer Prize-winning Architecture critic at The Philadelphia Inquirer: “The methods the Doleys employ are worth watching — and imitating all over Philadelphia… Cities just don’t plan like they used to. That leaves tactical urbanism as one of the few tools for making change.” Read: Germantown sisters use tactical urbanism to bolster their block.
  • 40+ year block resident Minnie Plez: “It makes the neighborhood look much better, and I think it’ll make everybody act a little better too.” Watch: Germantown neighbors plant new life.
  • Pennsylvania Horticultural Society city-wide garden contest judges: “The garden has a colorfully inviting entrance and neatly laid out raised beds inside with a space set aside for socializing. It is clearly meeting its mission of creating community through horticulture. Impressive that this community has come together to build a garden on an abandoned lot. A credit to the garden creators!” In 2012, the garden was awarded Second Prize in PHS’ annual contest in the Community Garden Combination category for first-year community gardens with both vegetables and flowers.
  • Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter: “When neighbors are trying to make something happen, we, the city, have to meet them halfway.” Read: Sisters persuade Nutter to move up demolition of derelict houses.

Mrs. Ada Pullett in W Rockland St’s community garden

donateGot questions? Contact us.

From an Old Resident

Over the years, we’ve received some eyeopening letters from former residents of W Rockland Street and the surrounding blocks. Here’s one from Phil O’Donnell of Cheltenham, who provides a snapshot of life in Southwest Germantown in the 40s and early 50s. Phil lived just around the corner on Wyneva Street and his grandfather lived on W Rockland Street, next to the houses that would later become abandoned. He sent this letter via email in June 2011 after reading Inga Saffron’s news report in The Philadelphia Inquirer about the demolition of the two remaining houses at the corner of W Rockland and Greene Streets. Declared imminently dangerous, the buildings were torn down after Mayor Michael Nutter, who read Saffron’s earlier report on the first annual Grow This Block! planting day, made a surprise visit to the block to see what neighbors were working on. 

——-
Good Morning Emaleigh,

I think what you are doing is wonderful. I could go on and on about the wonderful times I enjoyed when I was a youngster in Germantown. I lived at 63 W. Wyneva St. from the time I was born in Germantown Hospital in 1942 until we moved to Cheltenham Township in 1953. I thought my parents must have hit the “jackpot” (back then there was no legal lottery) because I thought we were moving to the “suburbs” where the wealthy folks lived. My folks even bought the first car that we had in my life, a 1953 Plymouth Savoy.

I was 10 years old and missed walking up to the Acme at Seymour and Germantown Ave. We pulled our wagon to help Mother bring home the groceries! And going to the New Lyric theater matinee on Saturday afternoon (used to be up on Germantown Ave just past the firehouse) was a treat IF we had the $0.10 admission price. We had no car because my father took public transportation to work at RCA in Camden, NJ. He would leave early every day on the #23 trolley car on Germantown Ave. to the Broad St. subway, to the “Bridge Train” that still goes across the Ben Franklin bridge to Camden. And he arrived home every day at the same time.

SEPTA's Route 23 trolley on Germantown Avenue approaching Eerie Avenue on July 13, 1977. Photo by Mike Szilagyi.

SEPTA’s Route 23 trolley on Germantown Avenue approaching Eerie Avenue on July 13, 1977. Photo by Mike Szilagyi.

In 2012, congregants attend the final Mass at St. Francis of Assisi, which sits in-between Logan St and W Rockland St, across from the vacant lot. Photo by Theresa Stigale.

In 2012, congregants attend the final Mass at St. Francis of Assisi, which sits in-between Logan St and W Rockland St, across from the vacant lot. Photo by Theresa Stigale.

My elementary school was right through the alley to St. Francis of Assisi school. My parents had been married at SFoA in the church rectory because my mother was not Catholic and Dad was. My Cub Scout meetings were at SFoA. My Den Mother was Mrs. Conway who lived at 150 W. Wyneva St. in the block between Greene and Wayne Ave. Also in that block at the corner of Greene and Wyneva was the local Unity-Frankford grocery store which was our equivalent to today’s 7-11 convenience store. Wortley’s Drug store was at the corner of Greene and Wyneva, right next to my house. Opposite the drug store, the corner house on Greene at Wyneva was Dr. Scanlon, the dentist. Our playground was Logan Park which is still through the alley across the street from my house. The “big kids” were allowed to go up to “Happy Hollow” playground way up on Wayne Ave. across the avenue from the end of Wyneva St.

The streets were lined with large trees and springtime always smelled so clean to me. The yards all had some kind of flowers in them. I remember Rose-of Sharons and Lilacs that were so strong smelling, it smelled so good. It was officially spring when almost every house put up their awnings on the porch to give some shade from the sun when we sat out on the porch. There was no such thing as air-conditioning.

The house that was just torn down (4817) next to the corner empty lot belonged to the Edward McGinty family. Mr. McGinty was a career Phila. policeman. One of their sons, Joseph went on to become a Phila. policeman. They had five children as I remember and went to SFoA with me.

The next house (4815), if I remember correctly, belonged to the Hepp family who had four or five children. Those kids also went to SFoA. They moved to Ardsley not long after we moved to Cheltenham.

4819, 4817 and 4815 Green St, at the corner of W Rockland St, in 2009.

4819, 4817 and 4815 Green St, at the corner of W Rockland St, in 2009

The empty lot at the corner of Rockland and Greene was a local grocery store where we used to buy penny candy, TastyKakes and Franks sodas. The corner house at 74 W. Rockland belonged to my grandfather, Patrick Francis Xavier O’Donnell. My aunts and uncles all lived there until and sometimes after they were married. Some of my cousins lived there in their early days. It was a large three story house with a lot more room than our two story house right behind it on Wyneva St.. Your site shows many pictures of that house. Just as I remember it.

I’ll stop here before I bore you to tears and again say that what you are doing in my old neighborhood is a wonderful thing. It was/is a great, convenient, fun way of life.

– Phil O’Donnell

74 W Rockland St during Grow This Block! in 2012

74 W Rockland St during Grow This Block! in 2012

Herb quickly learned how to become a master gardener at Grow This Block! in 2012

Herb quickly learned how to become a master gardener at Grow This Block! in 2012

 

Herb's garden in full bloom and the vacant lots in 2013.

Herb’s garden in full bloom and the vacant lots in 2013

October 2013: After the residents at the last two houses on W Rockland St planted gardens, neighbors worked together to install several flower planters along the border of the lot. It began to look like a space people cared about.

October 2013: After the residents at the last two houses on W Rockland St planted gardens, neighbors installed several flower planters along the border of the lot. It began to look like a space people cared about.

Snow On The Block: Sidewalks Are For Everyone (S.A.F.E.)

Photo by @ainedoley

Photo by @ainedoley via Instagram. Monday, February 3, 2014.

Sidewalks are for everyone. 

It doesn’t really matter where you’re going or how you get there, just remember mostly everyone in the city has to step foot on a sidewalk. Whether you’re walking around the corner to the bus stop or 10 feet to your car, a few blocks to school or back and forth all day to the corner store – sidewalks are for everyone and everyone uses sidewalks!

About 60% of the households on West Rockland Street house awesome and/or responsible people who adequately cleared the snow from their sidewalks, so far this winter. The other 40% are f@$k!^g it up for everyone!

West Rockland Street is sloped, which makes navigating icy surfaces extra tricky. We hate seeing kids and adults slipping and sliding along the sidewalk every time they cross a patch of un-shoveled snow, or worse, walking in the middle of the street to play it safe. 

Want to keep people in your neighborhood safe in the snow, or simply avoid being fined when someone reports you? Clear your entire sidewalk. Don’t just create one of those little channels that cuts through the snow, the walls always cave in and you’ll be back where you started. It’s really not that hard. 

PS: You can make a lot of money shoveling snow, even in Germantown! So sick of hearing lazy people talk about how they used to go to other neighborhoods and shovel and make a mint but “people in the ghetto don’t want to pay.” I would pay you if you STFU and got to work!

PSS: Coincidentally, “Sidewalks Are For Everyone” also stands for S.A.F.E. 

W Rockland Street on Monday, February 3, 2014. Photo by @ainedoley via Instragram.

W Rockland Street on Monday, February 3, 2014. Photo by @ainedoley via Instragram.

Report a sidewalk that has not been cleared

To report a sidewalk or curb cut that has not been cleared, residents may call the Streets Department Customer Affairs Unit at (215) 686-5560. For all City services dial, 3-1-1 (or 215-686-8686).

The official rules for snow removal in Philadelphia are included below. If you have any other questions about snow in the city, the Philadelphia Streets Department has all sorts of fascinating information posted at philastreets.com

Slow melt. This is the sidewalk in front of a single-unit rental property on W Rockland Street that has not shoveled once this year. This photo was taken on Friday, January 31, 2014, nearly a month after the first significant snowstorm hit Philadelphia on January 3. The sidewalk has been a slippery slope since then.

Slow melt. This is the sidewalk in front of a single-unit rental property on W Rockland Street that has not shoveled once this year. This photo was taken on Friday, January 31, 2014, nearly a month after the first significant snowstorm hit Philadelphia on January 3. The sidewalk has been a slippery slope since then.

Close-up of the above pictured un-shoveled rental property on W Rockland Street.

Close-up of the above pictured un-shoveled rental property on W Rockland Street.

This is what the sidewalk on W Rockland Street looks like when you shovel. Photo taken on Friday, January 31, the same day as the above. Responsible people, to the left, irresponsible people to the right.

This is what the rest of the sidewalk on W Rockland Street looks like when you shovel. Photo taken on Friday, January 31, the same day as the above. Responsible people, to the left, irresponsible people to the right.

Philadelphia Code 10-720 Regarding Snow Removal From Sidewalks

According to Philadelphia Code (10-720),

“(1) the owner, agent, and tenants of any building or premise shall clear a path of not less than 36″ in width on all sidewalks, including curb cuts, abutting the building or premises within 6 (six) hours after the snow has ceased to fall. The path shall be thoroughly cleared of snow and ice. Where the width of any pavement measured from the property line to the curb is less than 3 (three) feet, the path cleared may be only 12 inches in width. When the building in question is a multifamily dwelling the owner or his agent shall be responsible for compliance with the requirements of this section.”

(2) Snow or ice removed from sidewalks, driveways, or other areas shall not be placed or piled in the street.

(3) Any person who violates this Section shall be subject to the provisions and penalties set forth in 10-718 and 10-719.

The penalty for violating this provision can range from “a minimum fine of fifty dollars ($50) to no more than three hundred dollars ($300) for each violation.”

Private plows piling snow in the street after city teams have cleared the road is illegal as well as a hazard to drivers and pedestrians.

via philastreet.com

What is your vision for Germantown? Philadelphia University hosts community meeting, Oct. 14

Join Philadelphia University architecture and landscape students for a presentation of research and analysis of Germantown’s issues and opportunities. Come and give your ideas of how to RE-Start Germantown on Monday, October 14 at 6 PM at the Flying Horse Center (312-316 W Chelten Avenue).

Directions: http://goo.gl/maps/frfs9.

Philadelphia University Flyer

Festive Fall Flea Market in Southwest Germantown on Saturday, October 19 from 8AM – 3PM

We’re taking over the grassy vacant lot at the corner of West Rockland Street and Greene Street this Saturday, October 19 from 8 AM to 3 PM for the first annual Fall Flea Market, sponsored by West Rockland Street Neighbors and The West Rockland Street Project. Come by to say hello and shop!

This event was originally scheduled for October 12 and postponed due to rain.

Bargains for All:

  • Clothes, Books, CD’s, Household Items
  • New, Used, and Collectables
  • Nice Children’s Items
  • School Supplies
  • Music
  • Baked Goods
  • Delicious Jamaican Food
  • and More!

Directions: http://goo.gl/maps/NQwJp

W Rockland St & Greene St

Flea Market Flyer

FOR BLOCK RESIDENTS! GOT STUFF TO GET RID OF?

Many block residents have already signed-up for The West Rockland Street Fall Flea Market (new this year!). If you plan to participate, return the sign-up form to Emmy or Aine, or let them know. We will be setting up in the large corner lot at the bottom of the block. Bring your tables and tents and come out for the day. Cost is $5 to participate – which pays for flyers, posters, and the advertising that has been done; extra money raised will go into the 2014 Block Party fund.

Why You Should Adopt A West Rockland Street Cat (Hint: They Rock!)

Chianna and Quincy. Photo by Morgan Zalot.

Chianna and Quincy. Instagram by Morgan Zalot.

We heard you need a friend. Meet Quincy, Lucy, Paul, Kenny, Thomas Jackson and Petey! All of these amazing kitties are currently homeless cats on West Rockland Street in Philadelphia’s Germantown neighborhood.

Morgan Zalot and David Maialetti at the Philadelphia Daily News think they’re pretty sweet and visited the block last week for this story in Monday’s edition of The People Paper (can we call it The Cat Paper today?) to tell you all about them: Germantown sisters working to find homes for stray kittens.

Give a West Rockland Street cat a forever home and help us solve our block’s problem with animal abandonment and neglect at the same time. It’s a win-win! The cats up for adoption are all extremely friendly. Their behavior suggests they were all previously house cats that were recently “put-out” by negligent pet owners not too long ago – four of these cats just appeared within the last three weeks. Sad but true.

By adopting a cat from our block, you’ll also be supporting our ongoing effort to raise awareness about this issue in Germantown and beyond. In addition to finding homes for Rockland strays – who now live in neighborhoods all over the city, from Chestnut Hill to Port Richmond – we have helped many of our neighbors become more responsible pet owners by providing low-cost veterinary and spay/neuter services to block residents. In the past two years, over fifteen cats belonging to block residents have been spayed and neutered during our annual West Rockland Street Cat Health Day program, resulting in a visible reduction of kittens and strays on block. We also provide block residents with educational materials about keeping city cats safe and healthy and information about ACCT Philly and the SPCA’s animal surrender services, explaining that kicking a cat out on the street is not only cruelty to animals, it also creates problems for neighbors, their pets and the block as a whole.

So what are you waiting for… Read all about these cool catz. If you’re interested in adopting, email rocklandstreet@gmail.com and we’ll tell you more. 

Quincy

Quincy is a bicolor grey and white six month old male kitten with green eyes. He is super chill and friendly, loves rolling around in the sunshine and sleeping on laps and in empty flower pots. Quincy  just started hanging around on West Rockland Street about three weeks ago after his previous owner, who is known and also lives on the block, kicked him to the curb. We have no idea why, beyond ignorance. He’s a delight and loves kids!

Helllllllllo, Quincy!

Helllllllllo, Quincy!

Dude, what are you looking at? Quincy hanging out by the sidewalk garden.

Dude, what are YOU looking at? Quincy hanging out by the sidewalk garden.

Lucy, the Hemingway Cat

Lucy is a super sweet calico kitty that showed up at our backdoor about two weeks ago and never left the back stoop. She is a small one year old female cat with brown eyes and a pretty coat. She is very friendly and loves to take naps on laps and cuddle. Her face is split nearly evenly in color, one half a beautiful black, the other a deep orange brown (the mark of a chimera!). And if that wasn’t mystical enough, Lucy is also a polydactyl! She has extra toes on each front paw and it looks like she’s wearing white mittens. Did you know Ernest Hemingway loved polydactyl cats? You should too! Check out this story on Mental Floss: 11 Writers Who Really Loved Cats.

Lucy is magic!

OMG! Lucy!

Note, Lucy has mittens. Polydactyl cats are awesome.

Note, Lucy wears mittens all year round. Polydactyl cats are awesome.

Paul

Paul is a pretty cool guy. He is an orange and white six month old male kitten, long and lean. If Paul was a person, we think he would be a cool young math teacher that wears corduroy pants. Does that make sense? That’s Paul’s vibe.

"Hey, where did we go , Days when the rains came?" Brown eyed Paul!

Brown eyed Paul!

because catsKenny

Photo coming soon. Kenny is just like Paul. They are likely brothers and hang out on the block together. Kenny is a grey and white striped six month old male kitten. He is very friendly and wants a family! He loves people and kids. 

Thomas Jackson

Thomas Jackson is a totally awesome cat, hence his stately name. He is a large two year old short-haired mackerel tabby with rad stripes and big green eyes. His body patterns make him look like a furry boa constrictor, and if that wasn’t enough, the markings on his head look like an outline of the eiffel tower (seriously). Like most mackerels, he also has a clear ‘M’ mark. It’s a cult! For such a big guy, Thomas is crazy playful but also a bit of a scaredy cat. He loves chasing balls and flying through the air but seems intimidated by other cats, though he did recently become playmates with fearless Calvin, a kitten who is about ⅛ his size. Who knew… Thomas Jackson spent many months on the street and is currently an indoor/outdoor cat (we think he could be trained to stay indoors full time). He loves looking out the window and sleeping in beds but he isn’t exactly a total cuddle cat. If you want a cat to chill with and occasionally chase balls like a maniac, then he’s your guy. Emaleigh is super sad to see him go. Somebody give him the best home ever.

Sup. I'm Thomas Jackson.

Sup. I’m Thomas Jackson.

I love sleeping upside-down!

I love sleeping upside-down!

because catsPetey

Photo coming soon. Petey is an all white two year old male cat. He was neglected by his previous owner and now lives on the street. Petey is very friendly but will need some extra attention at first. Give him a home!

Are you in love yet?

Email rocklandstreet@gmail.com and we’ll tell you more!

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