One interesting revelation from this week’s McMichael Playground debate at Gustine Rec Center: I don’t think we’re fighting about a playground, guys.
UPDATE 2017: McMichael Park’s playground has been green-lit & funded but the controversy continues with anonymous “Save Our Park” signs and bickering on Nextdoor.
ORIGINAL POST June 30, 2016:
This is NOT another point/counterpoint on McMichael. Well, it is but not right now. I need to address some Fallsers, first, please.
Look, I get it: I wasn’t born here, I am not a “real” Fallser, despite what I like to call the “marketing definition” — the noun local writers use to refer to its region’s inhabitants: Angelinos, Parisians, Manhattanites, and my personal favorite, “the Dutch” — that article in front, like they’re all one big family with the same last name. So adorable.
All local demographics have some sort of geographically-related name for the folks living there. As someone who’s moved around a bit, I’ve been a “Parksider,” a “Hill Topper,” an “Old Towner,” and now, to my thinking, I’m a “Fallser:” I live in the East Falls section of Philadelphia.
TRUE STORY: It had never in my 45+ years of life occurred to me to get possessive over any of those terms.
Then, I moved to East Falls.
How long was I here, a month? Two? Not long at all. I forget the specifics, but I’m in a bar (of course I am) and some dude is explaining you’re only a Fallser if you’re born and raised here. Like, physically BORN here at Women’s Medical/MCP, now closed, so if you ask around there’s actually some disagreement whether any truly “authentic” Fallsers have been born since. I am not making this up.
I am, however, generalizing horribly.
To be clear, most “old-school” Fallsers I’ve met have been warm, open-hearted, salt-of-the-earth folks — usually with a myriad of fascinating interests and colorful stories. I cannot say enough how deeply we both appreciate the character of this neighborhood, a true product of the people here.
Linda Norris, Joe Boyle, Rich Gardner, Liz McFarlane, Joe Roberts… too many shout-outs to mention from Fallsers who’ve insisted if you’ve lived here a minute, you’re a Fallser to them! Still… they know about the rules. Everyone does.
And for those who follow the rules, it’s very black & white: Fallser & squatter.
No use trying to Velveteen Rabbit your way into Fallserdom, either. I’ve met grandmothers, married into the area many decades ago, who cheerfully allow they’re still squatters even though their children are full-on Fallsers. Evidently, no amount of love, respect, or generosity can transform a non-native into a “real” Fallser.
Likewise, no amount of effort, expense, or kindness can turn the hearts of “true” Fallsers who can never appreciate that someone not born & bred here should have any say in the community.
How can new neighbors who seek a centrally-located playground expect any sort of compromise?
Seriously — how? I’m not kidding, I want to know. Cause to me, the Fallsers (or sympathizers, I don’t know everyone’s birthright but at this point it’s an attitude) speaking last night against a playground at McMichael are not seeking compromise, and are not open to sharing even a tiny sliver of their park.
Seems to me many here will spread fallacies, plant fears, exaggerate the truth, and even suggest their neighbors are racist, or unworthy– rather than share prized public resources. And I just don’t know what to do with this bullshit, in all honesty.
At the meeting, the vast majority of the arguments against a McMichael playground were based on the full-blown fallacy that such a structure would be the end of natural play in the park — as if all the trees, sticks, and rocks will *poof* disappear if you designate less than 2% of 6-acres near a busy bus stop for a playground WHERE THERE ALREADY IS A MAN-MADE STRUCTURE ANYWAY.
Just stop it with this already. You’re not fooling anyone.
Friends president Alexis Franklin suggested they didn’t have funds to support a playground, which ironically was also an argument the Playgrounders used to underscore how McMichael Park could use extra help from parents who would be thrilled to contribute to upkeep, and promote events that would help fund pet projects such as restoring the War Memorial. So, checkmate there, guys.
Another bizarre echo of neighbors against a playground: teenagers will vandalize it. Really? That’s why we shouldn’t have a playground — because we’re daunted by kids with 40’s and magic markers? I can’t even.
“Friends” supporters also loved pointing out there are other playgrounds in East Falls — as if these parents seeking a playground at McMichael are just not aware of McDevitt or Inn Yard.
Are you guys even listening?! The proposal is for a playground at McMichael. Yes there are other playgrounds here just as there is pastoral space in the nearby Wissahickon. Neither fact is germane to the discussion at hand. This thread is dead, guys, leave it be.
“But WE didn’t need a playground, and WE raised kids here!”
How can you argue with that? When a person honestly thinks that their experiences should shape your reality — how is a reasonable, respectful discussion possible?
*INCLUDES INTERPRETIVE SUBTITLES!*
And how can you expect reason from folks who will pretty much lose it in public over a playground? Beth Gross-Eakins huffed in her presentation that such a amenity at McMichael would take resources from Mifflin but she’s wrong! Parks & Rec’s money is entirely separate from public school system funds.
And Mifflin is already getting a whole landscaping redesign, thanks to grants from the Community Design Collaborative and the Philly Water Dept. The project includes a playspace for students, funded by the Philly School District.
Where would PPR pull money from, for a McMichael playground? The soda tax! Again — building a playground at McMichael doesn’t rob from Mifflin. To suggest otherwise is just plain false. Kinda shocked that, as an educator, Beth doesn’t know this…
*MORE INTERPRETIVE SUBTITLES!*
Also shocking: this adorable grandpa stood up and essentially called the parents who want a McMichael playground spoiled racist yuppies! These white people don’t deserve a place for their kids to play, not when non-white kids don’t feel welcome here.
I see… but when McDevitt was overhauled, that was great for the community (North Philly, who?). And where were all these poverty advocates when Tree Tenders accepted a $1000 grant last May? Shouldn’t that money go to urban neighborhoods who could use that money towards greenery and equality for all there?
Ooh! Do you think when the Historical Commission gives Friends of McMichael a grant to restore the War Memorial, they’ll instead give it over to RAH for their pocket park on Allegheny? I have a feeling Rose Cooper‘s not holding her breath…
A favorite twist of the evening: one of the Friends presenters actually wound up arguing *FOR* the playground when he said he’d support a natural artistic play space at McMichael but unfortunately Parks & Rec has restrictions against wood or and other organic materials.
Commissioner Lovell quickly corrected him: nope, Parks & Rec does NOT have any such regulations. Welcome to Team Playground, Brendan!
We hope Curtis Jones’ plan to sit down with “three from one side, three from the other” leads to a breakthrough rather than a another rundown of the same stupid arguments we are all tired of entertaining. Curtis, don’t let these hard-line Fallsers gaslight you.
They’re fascinating, though. Friends of McMichael has no non-profit status, and its admissions process is secretive & selective. I love how they claim to know what’s best for the whole community, while refusing to recognize the majority of us. (Especially curious, since Alexis — as many have pointed out — does not even live here anymore.)
That “Fallser” thing, again… And no matter how much sense these playground proponents make — no matter how natural and aesthetic their design, nor how many neighbors are on board — these “true” Fallsers will continue to distrust & disrespect non-natives, and oppose any changes on principle.
Thanks, guys. Your park needs help and there’s a crowd of new blood who’s dying to get involved, if only you’d learn to compromise, and play well with others.
Hey! Maybe you guys could’ve used a playground growing up?! Just sayin’… 😉
BUT WAIT! THERE’S MORE! Since Joyce & Tennyson’s Powerpoint presentation is available online, instead of repeating it, here Dr. Kate Avitabile, pediatric cardiologist at St. Christopher’s Hospital, and an associate professor at Drexel College of Medicine. Kate’s also an East Falls mom who’s concerned about convenient, accessible playgrounds for special needs families, particularly.
Kate proposes that a thoughtful, centrally-located playground in a highly-visible location like McMichael (perhaps with a walkway for strollers/wheelchairs) would be a huge selling point for the neighborhood, and help create an inclusive space where every family can fully and openly participate.
ADDITIONAL READING: Judy Gotwald (Town News Today) is on fire! Her spin on what went down includes both recap and editorial:
Residents Stand-off Ever So Politely in McMichael Park East Falls residents filled the bleachers at Gustine Recreation Center to debate playground issues…
Small Town Life: The Way it Was vs The Way It Is The evening reverberated with two ideas. The way East Falls was vs the way it is and could be…
Annnd a Philly.com article that tries hard to make both sides seem equally reasonable — scroll down to COMMENTS for a whole lotta deliciousness (I wouldn’t look if I were a McMichael speaker, though).
OH NO HE DI’INT: Penn Street resident Chris McCabe shared some interesting documents he received as a result of his “Right to Know” request with the City of Philadelphia (he filed it to determine who the members are of the Friends of McMichael. And who are these members, voting against a playground?).
DON’T JUST SIT THERE — SIGN SOMETHING!
As a child-free couple, ordinarily we’d have no interest in new playground facilities. But at this point, we’ve heard no good reasons why not to acquiesce such a small & already-developed slice of park to these parents — who, by the way, really want to work with the community on something unique & artistic (killing us, that something as pleasant as a playground can tear friends & neighbors apart).
Petition to SAY YES to a natural playground.
Petition to SAY NO to a playground here. (If you’ve got a good reason we haven’t answered here, by all means lay it on us in the comments below or email us privately if that’s more your jam, thanks!)
I GUESS WE’RE POSTING IT ANYWAY… We’ve been asked to throw up some of Joyce & Tennyson’s presentation, so here’s what we’ve got off the first camera. If we get anything off Steve’s, we’ll add it too.
INCLUDES TIME LAPSE OF MCMICHAEL (same half hour in the AM over several days, just one lone dog walker)
FYI: we’re using old point-n-shoots cause that’s what we’ve got — we’re open, of course, to better equipment/more skilled operators if anyone wants in on this sweet gig.