City job openings & apprenticeships, functional art for Ridge Avenue, and PhillyU’s dreams for a safer Henry Avenue.
February’s a short month but East Falls Forward’s agenda was jam-packed. For the social hour beforehand, Golden Crust & BuLogics provided quite a spread of chicken fingers, french fries, mozz sticks… all the good stuff.
Philadelphia University spokesperson Tom Becker (associate VP for operations) reviewed the same plans for Hayward Hall’s new Health & Sciences addition that he presented earlier this week for Community Council. He then took questions from the audience, most notably:
Q. Does PhillyU have plans to put a traffic circle at Schoolhouse & Henry?
NO! PhillyU is not behind a roundabout at Schoolhouse & Henry. Tom said:
“To be honest with you, the University doesn’t support the traffic circle. We think that putting a traffic circle in the middle of this intersection would frankly divide our campus, and create an even bigger problem for our students moving from lower campus to upper campus.”
Tom explained that their students queue up at the corner of Schoolhouse & Henry, where traffic back-ups don’t really present a danger to them crossing the street. But traffic circles are designed to keep cars moving — at rush hour, that’d mean folks cruising through here at 45 – 50 mph.
“To us, it isn’t safer,” he said. Furthermore, a traffic circle here would take a considerable amount of PhllyU’s land. They’d need to relocate the softball field and take down two historic buildings (which some traffic committee members suggest should be condemned, wtf?).
TRUE STORY: the University is on board with PennDOT ‘s current plans for traffic improvements, but until East Falls’ traffic committee agrees to compromise, we’re stuck in a hazardous limbo. Next time you wonder why we don’t have better signage & visibility on Henry Ave, you can thank this “all or nothing mentality.”(Agree or disagree? Complete EFF’s survey and get your voice into the conversation.)
BTW, PhillyU’s long-term solution for this tricky intersection blew our mind: Tom said they’d love to see Henry Ave go underground! They haven’t discussed this publicly, it’s not in any planning yet — “It can’t happen now, ” Tom stressed, but still.
Neat stuff: the road actually did go down here in the 1930’s. Evidently, the bridge was designed to to accommodate a future subway station that was never realized, so the bones are there. Innnnnteresting. (Or what about an overpass like St. Joe’s has?)
Q. Will the new addition bring jobs to the area?
Yes! The new addition to Hayward Hall will likely create many new positions — health care, administrative, custodial, to name a few — and yes Tom says PhillyU does their best to prioritize applications from neighbors in the surrounding community.
SPEAKING OF JOBS…
Mark Green (38th Democratic Ward Leader) stopped by to inform EFF members about various Ward efforts in the area, including a call out: the City is hiring! Paramedics, and also apprentices for Commercial Painting, Bridge Painters, Dry Wall Finishers, and Glaziers. Earn good salaries with benefits while learning a trade — for zero college debt.
Paramedics can apply online here. Interested apprentices complete an online application and also take a one-hour assessment test to qualify for an interview. All genders, all ages (Mark says he knows a 50+ year old guy who was accepted into the program).
Mark also announced he’ll be playing host at Wissahickon Brewing Company on Saturday, March 4th for a great night of jazz, food, and neighborhood cheer. Come out and meet the candidates for this Spring’s local Democratic primary, and check out this new brewery/tasting room on Schoolhouse Lane (5pm – 8pm, $25 donation).
ART FIX FOR THE FALLS
Next, an update on functional art for the sidewalk in front of Frequency Tattoo by metal sculptor Sandra Webberking, creator of East Falls’ charming fish bike rack on Ridge Ave near Inn Yard Park. Interesting back story, btw…
Commissioned and installed in 2011 by EFDC, by 2015 we noticed Sandy’s funky bike rack was just sitting freely on the sidewalk, chained to a standard “U” bike rack. WTF? According to Gina Snyder, PennDOT did some road work there at some point, and disengaged the sculpture for some reason…?
Instead of bolting it back into the concrete when they were done, PennDot did the simplest thing. Gina was told the fix was only temporary, and that the bike rack would most likely need to be moved to make room for curb cut-outs and a new crosswalk.
Meanwhile, John Howie of Frequency Tattoo also noticed this weird bike rack-on-a-bike-rack situation. As an artist, it kinda hurt to see someone else’s fine work so poorly displayed. He mentioned this to Gina, and offered to make a proper home for it in front of his shop up Ridge. He often rides his bike to work from his home on Cresson — many of his clients bike, too — it’d get used, it’d be loved.
So Sandy’s bike rack came to East Falls’ only tattoo shop, sweet! Great pop of color and flourish in front of John’s gleaming historic facade. Inn Yard Park’s upgrades went smoothly, and then… Gina got a call from Philly Streets Department, “Hey, where’s the bike rack?”
Uh oh. Turns out there’s room for the rack at Inn Yard, after all. They were coming for the sculpture. Gina pleaded a good case but you can’t fight the city: it’s their sculpture, not EFDC’s.
So the Fish Bike Rack moved back to its old spot — looks great, but unfortunately now there’s a sad empty space in front of John’s shop. Seems so unfair. To have such a prize taken away (after all that work moving & securing it himself).
Of course Gina feels terrible; we do too because that cool bike rack looked great down that end of Ridge, which doesn’t often seem to get a lot of love. Last October, we raised $3,000 towards a boat ramp with one event, so what if this year we shoot for replacing Frequency’s bike rack?
As luck would have it, the artist is still in nearby Springfield, and still taking commissions for her awesome recycled metal pieces. We shared our story, and she was so touched by our situation Sandy agreed to create John a replacement bike race at cost! She and John discussed a new bike rack design, and Gina’s rustled up $500 to get things started.
We are about a sixth of the way there, thank you Sandy & EFDC!
Although the Bike Race Block Party has been cancelled this year, community groups still aim to coordinate a Spring Block Party, perhaps shut down Kelly Drive, enjoy the river, maybe even involve our own bike/tricycle races… A beer garden. Music. Committees now forming, email us to help plan in anyway.
Best case scenario: we hit our goal of $3000. Even better: we make extra, for a down payment on another bike rack somewhere else in East Falls. A series of Sandy’s fantastical, industrial creations would be fun and also functional, and reflect our artsy, active community.
Also: Frequency lost their art, please help us get it back! Email editor@EastFallsLocal to get involved or donate right now (specify “bike rack” in the notes).
MEMBERS TAKE ACTION
Mark your calendars: Philly Spring Clean-Up is Saturday April 8th (9am – 2pm). Like last year, we’ll meet at BuLogics for donuts & equipment, then join in to rake & bag up trash and debris on our streets.
“Last year we had enough people to clean up both sides of Ridge from Dunkin to the Twin Bridges,” Felicite told members, “I’d love to have double the number of people and cover twice as much ground.”
When EFF’s meeting ended at 8pm, a surge of neighbors poured in to brainstorm strategies and support systems in today’s heated political climate at East Falls’ second Momentum #Huddle.
SRO, kids: a full house. Easily over 60 heads counted. Clearly, many Fallsers are concerned about our country’s current state of affairs — if you are, too, please consider joining your neighbors in positive, active protest. Next Meeting is THURSDAY MARCH 2nd, 8:00 PM. Inclusive & informed working groups.