Moving On, Looking Back

Congratulations to Gina Snyder, who received a resolution last month from City Council for her service as EFDC Director. She’s also been accepting well wishes from neighbors and colleagues as she prepares to leave her job in August for a year-long vacation in France. With the big change fast approaching, we asked her to reflect on her time with the EFDC.

Gina speaks at her City Hall ceremony as Councilman Jones and EFDC Pres. Sharon Jaffe look on. Photo credit: Jared Piper

How did the Falls wind up on your radar?

I met my neighbor before we moved here.  He described a dreamy place nears parks and the river.  By coincidence, the house next door to him later came on the market.  I am now living the dream!!

Some thoughts from when you first started? Were you nervous?

I was hired as a part-time and temporary staff and the challenge was to figure out how to create a sustainable organization that could implement the community’s plans.  I actually  thought it was an exciting challenge and that, based on my experience, I had a good shot of figuring it out. I had a good entrepreneurial nervousness. Thanks to then Councilman Michael Nutter and my board, we found resources and were able to put the EFDC on stable footing.

Looking back, what advice would you give to your “first day on the job” self?

Be a little more skeptical and document what people said.  There were some times that people denied things that happened, votes, agreements and relationships.  I was too trusting and should have written things down and confirmed with letters, etc.  Trust but verify!

What did you learn about the neighborhood early on?

Even though we are in a big city, there is a lot about East Falls that makes it a great small ‘town.’  There is a healthy mix of old “Fallsers” – families who’ve lived here for generations. And there are more recent arrivals (you know, people who’ve been here under 50 years).  All together, it creates a town that loves its library, location, parks, and river.

Biggest surprise?

I love how people watch what is going on and appreciate it.  I hear from people at meetings and during presentations, which is great.  It is really neat when total strangers, visitors, or new residents have noticed the improvements we have made. They go to In Riva or Trolley Car because parking is easy.  They like the pedestrian island sign.  They use the parking lot.  They have gone to the Dance on the Falls Bridge.  These are all things we hoped for and it is a pleasant surprise when they have worked the way they were planned!!!

Biggest challenge?

Biting my tongue. But, seriously. I would say that there are property owners that are too complacent or inactive for the Riverfront Business District. They don’t want to change or invest in their properties. They are content with owning empty storefronts.  Look around – it is the same storefronts that have never been fixed up. What they need to do is see the opportunity – invest in cleaning out the commercial space, sprucing it up, and then rent it out. The benefit will come but some elbow grease and money have to be spent first.

Did the Falls remind you of anywhere else you’d lived?

It is kind of a mix between Virginia Highlands in Atlanta and my hometown of Vestal, New York.  Virginia Highlands was the next door neighborhood to ours in Atlanta.  It was small and had restaurants and some cute shops. Vestal was a mix of all sorts of people, mainly rural, in town, and suburban. We all had places that joined us into a town  – like school, football games, and the library. It’s that feeling that’s the same.

What are a few favorite memories from your time as EFDC Director?

The very first Dance on the Falls Bridge was magical. The idea was proposed by Peicha Chang of Falls Flowers and my event committee took up the challenge and raced to put the event together.  That was exciting in itself.  But when the lights went on and the music started, the bridge was transformed into a beautiful place. It felt like you were outside and inside at the same time.  It was such fun and has continued and grown!!  We wanted it to be a regional attraction and it pulls from Bucks and Montgomery Counties and even New Jersey and farther rural areas.

My committees. This sounds mundane, but is really where the exciting work of the EFDC  happens. I love it when people work together to create something that was not there before.  It is the heart of community development and, although it is not very exciting, it is the thing that makes me happy.  People have taken the time to volunteer and work with others to give me assignments and inspiration.  I have so valued them and enjoyed so many of our volunteers.  Many have become friends.  I will truly miss them.

As of this writing, Gina’s replacement hasn’t been named, but we know one thing for sure – they’ve got some big shoes to fill.

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