- Experience a massive haunted house inside the cellblocks of a real abandoned prison! Terror Behind the Walls at Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia is NOW OPEN! https://www.easternstate.org/halloween/
- Consistently ranked among the top haunted attractions in the nation, Philadelphia’s Terror Behind the Walls is now open. Experience their newest attraction for 2017, Blood Yard! https://www.easternstate.org/halloween/
- Named “One of America’s Scariest Halloween Attractions” by the Travel Channel, Terror Behind the Walls at Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia is a haunted house in a real abandoned prison! Get your tickets today. https://www.easternstate.org/halloween/
- It’s hunt or be hunted in Terror Behind the Walls’ newest attraction, Blood Yard! Experience this massive haunted house inside a real abandoned Philadelphia prison. Get your tickets today! https://www.easternstate.org/halloween/
by Manuel McDonnell-Smith
Executives from the Philadelphia Zoo are on tour asking residents of Parkside and Mantua to support a new train plan from 30th Street Station. Anyone from Lancaster Avenue to Leidy Avenue knows the weekend routine – get into your car and avoid 34th and Girard Ave if you want to get anywhere fast. Zoo crowds are notorious for backing up traffic in and around the neighborhood. While things have gotten somewhat better in the past few years with the addition of the parking deck at the Zoo Transportation Center and other slight traffic pattern changes on Girard Avenue and 34th Street, backups are still a too-often occurrence.
So, with packed roads and less-than-ideal public transit options for Zoo Visitors, where should we look for solutions to the traffic nightmare around 34th and Girard? “Up high” says Kenneth Woodson, Vice President for Community Relations at the Zoo who has been circling around the neighborhood touting a new Zoo community outreach plan, part of which includes the monorail, which if built, would operate on a new line to be built between the Zoo and 30th Street Station, with a possible future extension from the Zoo up Parkside Avenue to the Mann Music Center.
With a high-flying idea like this, you might think Woodson is over-inspired by the runaway success of the Zoo Balloon, which sends huge crowds into the air over the Zoo each weekend. But a recently released study published by the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC) shows there is some merit to the Zoo’s idea.
In the DVRPC analysis, commissioned by both the Zoo and SEPTA, a 1.5-mile system is envisioned beginning at 30th Street Station and then snaking northward along SEPTA’s Powelton Rail Yard through University City and Mantua before making a stop at the Zoo. An expansion across Girard Avenue, and up Parkside Avenue providing access to the Please Touch Museum and the Mann Music Center “is only a possibility”, says Woodson, but it’s enough of one that conceptual plans for the actual Zoo stop have not been finalized. If the eventual monorail line stops in front of the Zoo, then future expansion north and west would be stymied by the large four track Northeast Corridor Bridge that abuts Zoo’s western boundary. “Going along Zoological Avenue could offer options for an overpass,” explains Woodson.
But those Parkside Avenue options are far-off in potential phase two plans. There’s still much to be decided in the first phase of the project. Two guideway options currently exist, one that stays closer to the rail yard, and another that would stop closer to the existing street grid along 32nd Street. Under either scenario, neighborhood access would be provided by stops at Race Street, Spring Garden Street and on Mantua Avenue. Authors of the study propose that operations be kept “simple, realistic, and easy to understand”, who plan service to operate with ten-minute headways.
While the report authors and Zoo Officials are optimistic about simple operation, much of the monorail concept faces complex questions. What would it look like, and how big would it be? Will residents in neighborhoods with historic character like University City, Mantua, and Parkside support a dual-track modern monorail running down the streets?
Another issue is ridership. If you build it, will they come? In the most optimistic ridership projections provided by the study about 6,000 riders would use the system daily. But that’s only if the system offered free fares. With full-fare added, the daily total of passengers drops to just over 1,400.
The Zoo is also promoting the monorail plan as a way to relieve congestion caused by crowds visiting the Zoo. But even free monorail service is only expected to capture just over 220 riders daily. Most riders using the potential service are forecast to use the neighborhood stops, not the one at the Zoo. Woodson says the Zoo prefers to see the project in terms of “total ridership: how many residents will get to ride and the opportunity for access to other cultural institutions in the area”.
SEPTA, the most-likely potential operator of the system, and one of the stakeholders in the eventual fare decision on the monorail system declined to offer formal comment other than to confirm their participation in the study and to commit to “continue to work with area stakeholders in the future.”
Marjorie Ogilvie, chairperson of the Business Association of West Parkside was one of the first in the neighborhood to learn of the monorail plan and is initially supportive of the plan. “We need more viable direct transportation in this community. What we really need is a train stop [along SEPTA’s Paoli Line] to allow our residents access in and out for work and play. But we’ll support a monorail if that’s what we can get.”
Woodson says additional community outreach events are planned for later this month where he hopes to get more feedback from neighbors as the Zoo plans the next steps in promoting the project. He says that there could be additional benefits beyond traffic relief from this project, adding that “this could be an huge opportunity for economic development.”
by Jasmine Bullock
Jamie Gauthier is the new Director of the
Fairmount Park Conservancy
Since 1998, the Fairmount Park Foundation, now the Fairmount Park Conservancy, has invested millions of dollars in the Philadelphia park system. The organization is a “Park Champion” and has been so effective because of its understanding of the importance of parks to our city’s neighborhoods. The Fairmount Park Conservancy takes pride in increasing public awareness of the park’s role in contributing to the health and vibrancy of neighborhoods in the Greater Philadelphia region.
Today the Park Conservancy works very closely with Philadelphia Parks and Recreation to develop and implement projects and programs that support, improve, and enhance Philadelphia’s parks. One of its premier programs is the Oval at the Art Museum that provides not only a play area for children, but also a beer garden and food truck hub for adults over a six week period during the summer. The Conservancy also works closely with community groups and over 115 Friends groups. The Conservancy aids in forming new groups and in sustaining and supporting existing groups dedicated to their neighborhood parks.
As of July 2017, the Fairmount Park Conservancy is under the new leadership of Jamie Gauthier. Gauthier is a native of Philadelphia who began her career at DuPont working in the field of accounting. During that time, she had a desire to do more meaningful work that helped cities and specifically the struggling communities of Philadelphia.
With a growing passion to work intimately with the community, Gauthier embarked on a graduate degree in Urban Studies and Planning from University of Pennsylvania. With a new career focus, Gauthier gave almost ten years of service to the Local Initiative Support Coalition (LISC). LISC is a national non-profit organization that provides capital from private sources to promote and support low income housing projects and community revitalization. Gauthier described LISC as a great place to learn but wished to serve in more of a leadership position.
Gauthier then became the Executive Director of the Sustainable Business network, a “Chamber of Commerce for socially conscious businesses”, as Gauthier describes it. After four years with this group and her recognition of the new potential that the new Philadelphia soda tax would provide, she decided that now was the right time to make a career change.
She made the decision to take the leadership position with the Philadelphia Parks Conservancy in order to take advantage of the Rebuild Initiative that was the direct result of the revenue produced by the soda tax. Rebuild is a $500 million program designed to revitalize neighborhood parks, recreational centers, playgrounds, and libraries across the city.
The funds are acquired from both the soda tax and private donations. Gauthier’s vision is to “connect and partner with the city to see the mission come to pass”.
by Juanita Alexander
Recently, I had the pleasure of interviewing Saundra Terrell, an engaging and delightful author who grew up and was nurtured in our very own Parkside community. I was spellbound as I listened to her discuss her childhood experiences and her latest book, WATER THICKER THAN BLOOD.
She explained that the underlying ‘theme’ of the book is that “you can have people come into your life in a meaningful way and that they can have more impact on your life and often be more supportive than your blood relatives”. Ms. Terrell’s book is a work of fiction but she feels it is filled with characters that everyday people can relate to based on their own life experiences. Characters like Johnny Mae who suffers from unrequited love and Pearl who must deal with feelings of inadequacy because she feels she is too dark and too fat compared to her prettier’ sister, are people most of us can empathize with.
Saundra Terrell moved with her family to Parkside (near 42nd and Viola Sts.) when she was about six
years old during the 1950’s. She attended Leidy Elementary School (the ‘original’ Leidy before the larger school was built). She remembers a beautiful neighborhood with grocery stores, pharmacies, and produce shops lining Parkside Ave. and nearby streets. During the 1950’s, the neighborhood was predominantly Jewish and Leidy was racially mixed. She believes that Parkside began to experience a decline when people moved into the community who were not homeowners and who did not have a vested interest in maintaining their properties. It is her belief that the decline of the neighborhood accelerated when a nearby restaurant was converted to a bar, leading to fights and other undesirable activities.
Despite the challenges facing Parkside today, Ms. Terrell remains deeply connected with her childhood community. Her sister still lives on Viola Street, right next to the original family home that her son is renovating. In addition, members of her late husband’s family still live on Viola Street.
Letitia House is the new home of Centennial Parkside CDC,. For
more information go to http://centennialparkside.org/
by Chris Sphar
This summer has been a busy one for the Centennial Parkside CDC. We have officially opened our office at the Letitia House at 3479 West Girard Avenue and are actively working with residents to plan how we will use the acre of outdoor community space surrounding the office building. Quentin Drew, Tracy Reed, and Johnnie McFadden, our Clean and Green Team, have been hard at work cleaning the streets and vacant lots of East Parkside in an effort to improve the quality of life of local residents.
In addition our summer programming, the Parkside Fresh Food Fest, has proven to be a great success. Close to 20 East Parkside residents have subscribed to receive a bag of fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, and dairy products from the Reading Terminal Market on six occasions over the summer.
In addition to receiving these healthy food shares at an affordable rate, visitors to the Parkside Fresh Food Fest experienced a cooking demonstration from a great local chef, Tess Connors.
Parkside Fresh Food Fest attendees could also access resources on Indego BikeShare, local recycling campaigns, and home health services while children read books donated by the Philadelphia Free Library. If that wasn’t enough, the Parkside Fresh Food Fest had a rocking performance by local musicians, CityLove on August 10 and anticipate a repeat performance at our closing on September 21.
This has been a great summer for the Centennial Parkside CDC and it is only a preview of what is to come as we grow to be an important resource in the East Parkside Community.
By Jim Brown
The photo above shows McKenzi Custus, surrounded by family and
friends at her sendoff to college party!
“Empowering young people is one of the greatest assets a parent, family or a community can do to have a positive return on life’s investment as they grow.” – Jim Brown, 8/28/17
As you know September is the month when many kids and young people look forward to starting their next school year whether it’s kindergarten, middle school, high school or college. Some area students start this adventure with not much more fan fare than getting new school supplies. Others however, will have the full support of their parents.
Recently (8/12/17), I covered and attended a college sendoff of a young lady from West Philadelphia named McKenzi Custus who was accepted to Susquehanna University in Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania, a hundred and fifty-three miles from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Mckenzi’s mother, Crystal Custus, demonstrated her love and support for her daughter with a special sendoff that had the theme: The World is Yours.
Watching a tireless mother be inspired by her daughter’s accomplishments, created moments that would give any first year college student the motivation to do well. Crystal and her friends transformed a former art studio in Germantown into an elegant and classy venue where they created an event to remember for her daughter, family, and friends. Over 65 people were in attendance at this dinner celebration.
“I wanted to give her a day full of love,” explains Crystal Custus. “I wanted her to feel that foundation that one last day that we’d come together in honor of her before she left to go Susquehanna University this fall.”
“One of the key things to carry her through school, is knowing that she has people that she can count on,” adds Custus. “People who recognize her achievements and accomplishments and congratulate her past triumphs is extremely important for her future success.”
As a biology major heading into her freshman year of college, McKenzi Custus felt the air of confidence that many of our kids need to feel from not only her mother but the incredible support system of family and friends that were in attendance to cheer her on that day.
“Kenzi” as mom passionately calls her mentioned that her daughter said to her early this summer, “mom, this is the best summer I’ve ever had. I’ve gotten to spend so much time with my family and friends and it meant the world to me.”
As McKenzi was celebrated, each person attending had great words of encouragement, while some reminisced about their days of college with great optimism for McKenzi. Her great-grandmother held back tears to talk about her great-granddaughter.
“Grand mom loves her very much and I’m gonna miss her,” says Marian Custus, great grandmother and the matriarch of the Custus family. “She’s special to me because she used to live with me and it makes me cry. Congratulations in everything she does, I wish her the best and I’m gonna miss her.”
McKenzi Custus will be attending a university that will allow her to travel abroad during her four years. She will see the world and yes, the world will be yours McKenzi and to all of the young people in West Philadelphia, shoot for the stars because the world awaits your contributions.