Another Heat Wave? No Sweat! A free way to stay cool in Parkside.

by Manuel McDonnell Smith

It’s getting hot out there. As we sweat through our second heat wave of the summer, an opportunity to cool off is just around the corner!

616768_371817916222513_1853951373_oJohn B. Kelly Pool is now open for the summer and is a relaxing and free opportunity to stay cool in the summer heat. According to Philadelphia Department of Recreation spokesperson Alain Joinville, Kelly Pool is open from 11 a.m – 7 p.m., Monday-Friday and from Noon to 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. The pool, which also recieved a fresh coat of paint before opening on June 23 has special activity hours posted on it’s Facebook page. They include:

  • Adult Swim: Mon/Wed/Fri from 5:00 p.m. to 6:45 p.m.
  • Community Swim: Mon-Fri from 1:00 p.m. to 3:45 p.m. & Saturday from Noon to 4:45 p.m.
  • Family Swim: Tues & Thurs from 5:00 p.m. to 6:45 p.m. and Sunday from Noon to 4:45 p.m.
  • Lap Swim: Mon-Fri from 11:00 a.m. to 6:45 p.m. and Saturday/Sunday from Noon to 4:45 p.m.

In addition to beating the heat, using the public pool is a “Community-Building, Life-Saving Beauty,” plus never mind those rumors of the pools being dirty and unsafe. Studies have shown that there is only an .0004% chance of getting sick in a public pool. So, now there’s no excuse to check out one of the best amenities that the neighborhood has to offer during the summer!

Enjoy, and stay cool!

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Neighbors unsure of future plans for former Leidy School

by Manuel McDonnell Smith

Councilwoman Blackwell at Leidy Meeting (credit: Michael Burch)
Councilwoman Blackwell at Leidy Meeting (credit: Michael Burch)

For more than 50 years, Parkside students received their first lessons at Leidy School. On Monday, area residents discovered that there’s more homework to do, before coming to a community decision on what they’d like to see developed at the now shuttered property.

Closed for over a year and placed up for sale by the struggling School District of Philadelphia, officials are asking $2.3 million dollars for the three story school and adjoining yard covering 120,513 square feet bounded by Thompson Street, Belmont and Leidy Avenues. Whomever ends up purchasing the large tract is bound to make a large impact on the neighborhoods surrounding development for years to come.

Responding to a call to be “proactive rather than reactive to community decision making”, around 30 people packed a meeting regarding future development plans for the school held this past Monday at the Christ Community Baptist Church on 41st Street. Several area block captains were in attendance at the meeting, joined by city councilwoman Jannie Blackwell and ward leader Peter Wilson. Lorraine Gomez, President of the Viola Street Residents’ Association called the meeting the order and introduced the councilwoman to the assembled group.

Sharing that she “imagined that the community’s wish for the property to remain a school first because a school is what we [already] have,” Blackwell said that she was informed by School District officials that six to seven potential buyers had expressed interest in purchasing Leidy School property, although she could not confirm a final number since the district was handling the formal process of selling the twenty schools that are up for sale. She explained that City Council “tried to fight all of the school being closed” in the first place, and then attempted to manage the sales process but in the end, both of those political battles were lost. However, Blackwell said she will still have an opportunity to advocate for the community’s concerns regarding the schools when developers approach her office for support with zoning and other city regulation issues.

In that regard, Blackwell said she had heard directly only from two interested parties, the first being Michael Karp of the Community Education Alliance of West Philadelphia (CEAWP). Karp and CEAWP already has some experience in the nearby community as the non-profit umbrella for two area schools, Belmont Academy and Belmont Charter Schools. Blackwell said that her understanding is that the group plans to provide a “high school program” at the Leidy site since no other high school alternatives were available nearby. The CEAWP proposal also came with an offer of $2.3 million dollars to be delivered to the school district immediately, which could be particularly attractive to officials there given its looming large budget deficit for the upcoming school year. National charter school operator K.I.P.P. also contacted her office seeking “a letter of support” for their proposal to purchase the property. Blackwell said that KIPP was still awaiting the letter at the time of the meeting.

Community Residents gathered at the Leidy School Meeting (credit: Michael Burch)
Community Residents gathered at the Leidy School Meeting (credit: Michael Burch)

Viola Street’s Gomez was first to raise her hand to object to the possibility of a school at Leidy’s location, not because she’s objects to educational usage but rather the fact that “school [usage] is only 9-5 and does not lend itself to leaving an ongoing impact on the community. We’d rather something be put there that would be more substantial,” she said, “where people will stay.” Gomez’s idea was seconded by many in the room, including Parkside Journal Publisher Michael Burch who mentioned a proposal forward by private developer German Yakubov which would see a “Piazza” like proposal built on the Leidy site, similar to the popular apartment/nightlife complex credited with the rebirth of Northern Liberties. The councilwoman reviewed Yakubov’s proposal, featured on the cover of the summer edition of the Parkside Journal, but said she could not confirm if Yakubov submitted an official purchase proposal to the School District.

Other ideas proposed by meeting residents included retail establishments, a community center to serve adults and children, and even a banquet hall. Resident Michelle Johnson added that whatever is built needs to have some community purpose, since the closure of the school and the conversion of Memorial Hall to the paid-admission Please Touch Museum saw “the loss of basketball courts for youth. Another development at Leidy is likely to take something else away from the neighborhood.”

Blackwell & Wilson, who took copious notes at the meeting said a large community center on the site was unlikely due to the ongoing cost of maintaining such a facility, but added “if it is a commercial development…it can be negotiated with the developer to include some community space.” They both cited a “CBA” (Community Benefits Agreement) which developers in other parts of West Philadelphia have already agreed to before receiving community support. Blackwell specifically cited Drexel University’s agreement with the neighbors surrounding the former University City High School in which the University agreed to fund scholarships for local students, create a community advisory board, and hire from the community for eventual jobs at the complex.

That idea got ideas flowing again from many in the room about what the possibilities could be at the Leidy site. Ward said the most important step for the neighbors of the school was “to come together make one decision and be one”, so that he and the Councilwoman could support the idea with the eventual selected developer. Both promised to remain in close touch with community members as with additional information about the purchase process was available, and to convene additional meetings once developer(s) are selected. Gomez invited community members to stay involved and attend upcoming neighborhood meetings and brainstorming sessions where consensus a list of community concerns could be finalized. The Parkside Journal will continue to closely follow any developments regarding the sale of the Leidy School, and will keep readers informed in print and on Facebook.

52nd & Lancaster Bridge Construction to cause Travel Delays

by Manuel McDonnell Smith

Are you a SEPTA rider who relies on bus transit in the area of 52nd and Lancaster Avenues? An upcoming AMTRAK bridge construction project scheduled to begin in a few weeks could delay your ride.

To accommodate work overhead, travel on the street below will be affected beginning Monday, July 7. On that day, construction crews will close the inner southbound traffic lane and adjoining sidewalk to travel for a period of four to six weeks. Following that, construction crews will move east forcing the closure of the outer southbound traffic lane for another four to six week period before moving to other areas of the bridge that will see closure of the inner northbound traffic lane and finally the outer northbound traffic lane and adjoining sidewalk. All construction work on the bridge requiring lane closures is scheduled to be completed by December 2015.

Former_52nd_Street_PRR_Station_SiteNo SEPTA bus routes will be required to detour during the lane and sidewalk closures, however the large volume of traffic on 52nd Street that will compressed from two lanes into one will likely cause some travel delays on Bus Route 52, which serves the area every four minutes during peak hours. Additional travel delays may also be experienced on Bus Routes 38, 40 and 43, which use 52nd Street for travel to and from the beginnings of their routes from the Callowhill Depot.

While construction is ongoing, crews will attempt to mitigate any travel delays by adjusting their hours of work. A greater amount of traffic volume is experienced on 52nd Street in the Southbound direction, so construction crews will limit their work and resulting lane closures to overnight hours between 7:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. The phases of construction requiring lane and sidewalk closures in the northbound direction will occur only between 9:00 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. In addition lane closures will be avoided during scheduled evening events at the nearby Mann Center.

Riders are reminded to use extra caution when approaching and waiting at transit stops for Bus Route 52 in the construction area. Bus riders may also want to download the official SEPTA App available for iPhone from the Apple Store. The application provides real-time vehicle location information which can be particularly helpful if buses are experiencing any travel delays during the construction periods. Travel information is also available online at www.septa.org , by phone at 215-580-7800, and on social media by using the @septa_social twitter handle.

The Mann Center for Performing Arts Keeps the Life and legacy of Octavius V. Catto Alive!

by Nolan Williams, Jr.
Festival Artistic Director, Philadelphia Freedom Festival 
The Mann Center for the Performing Arts

Forward: Seeing beyond Sterling

Don Sterling. No doubt, this name has become a lightning rod in the past few weeks.  The recordings and subsequent interviews that capture Sterling’s extremist and inflammatory remarks, have reignited the dialogue about race in America. The downside is that this current dialogue has been incited by a controversial event and therefore limited to this particular controversy. Thus, we vilify Sterling, take solace in the NBA Commissioner’s tough stance, and then go back to business as usual – all the while avoiding deeper engagement or discussion about race.

Deeper engagement means facing some blatant truths.  TRUTH is racism is not new, and is not dead. TRUTH is the story of the fight for civil rights in America is both an innate and continuing saga. It is innate because race has been an integral part of our history since the first Africans were brought to North America over 400 years ago. It has only been 50 years since the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that eliminated most of the remnants of legalized racial segregation and discrimination. It doesn’t take a mathematician to figure out that only a relatively small portion of America’s history has been spent undoing, addressing, and correcting racial wrongs that have existed over several centuries.

Dare to go deeper?

Octavius Catto, year unknown
Octavius Catto, year unknown

If so, here’s another name for you: Octavius V. Catto (‘CAT-toe’).   It’s not a name you’ll find in many history books. In fact, the history of Philadelphia has oft been told with the willful exclusion of his name. Yet, his is a story that merits telling: (1) of how he and his contemporaries secured voting rights and integrated the public transit system in their day; (2) of how he was a manager and player for the Philadelphia Pytheons, a Black baseball team that predates the Negro Baseball League; (3) of how he was a scholar and teacher, an extraordinary feat for a Black man born in 1839, who taught math, English and classic languages at the Institute for Colored Youth (later Cheyney University, the nation’s first historically Black university); (4) of how he worked alongside Frederick Douglass to recruit 11 regiments of colored soldiers from Philadelphia to fight in the Civil War; and (5) finally, how he was murdered on Election Day in 1871, at the hand of Frank Kelly, for leading a get-out-the-vote drive that rallied scores of Black Republican men in Philadelphia to the polls, upsetting Irish Democratic immigrants who feared a loss of employment and economic opportunities if they lost that election.  And of how Kelly was never convicted of his crime.

Unfortunately, Catto’s story was never a media sensation, nor a hot trending topic.  But, for people of good will, people who dare to engage beyond the salacious headlines of the Sterling scandal, Catto’s story is one we should share because it aids us greatly in the critical process of undoing, unlearning, redressing and correcting.

The Mann Center for the Performing Arts is honored to play a role in that process. We are in the midst of an unprecedented series of free concerts and forums called the Philadelphia Freedom Festival which culminates on July 19 with a free “Gospel Meets Symphony” concert with gospel artist Marvin Sapp, soprano Barbara Walker, The Philadelphia Orchestra and a community gospel choir.

The Mann is joined by others in our community, like the organizers of the planned Catto statue at City Hall and The Philadelphia Inquirer reporters who authored the landmark book on Catto, Tasting Freedom, in leveraging the power of the arts to positively move race dialogue and race relations in Philadelphia forward.

Learning While Having Summer Fun

by Deborah Gary

Screen Shot 2014-05-27 at 10.52.47 AMEven without going to camp this summer, there are still ways for our youth to have fun while learning about African-American history. Below are a few suggestions.

During the first week of summer vacation, young people can start right in their own neighborhoods. In their individual communities, youth can participate in walking tours with a neighborhood elder—a person familiar with the overall history and evolution of the local community. During these tours, young people can make special note of and ask questions about cultural and commercial establishments (past and present) owned and operated by African Americans. At the conclusion of this activity, various contests, word puzzles, etc. can be created that reienforces what everyone has learned

During the second week, our youth can be encouraged to pay special attention to the many African American inventions that they see or come into contact with during their daily activities. Some of these many inventions are: the traffic light, ironing board, egg beater, ice cream scoop, car gear shift, light bulb filament, fax machine, computer micro chip and street side mailbox.

Youngsters can find and draw pictures and/ of these inventions as well as read entertaining books about these innovations. As a ‘bonus’ activity, youngsters can be urged to find ten things invented by George Washington Carver.

After this is done, our youth can try to think of something special they may want to create or construct this summer. Puzzles are fun and challenging and help sharpen the brain’s cognitive thought processes that are essential for careers based on science, technology, and mathematics. Philadelphia native Ronald McNair, one of only a select number of African-American astronauts, flew on the space shuttle.

Young people could be encouraged to try building a 3D version of the shuttle. We should remind our youth that they are descendants of various ethnic groups from Africa who gave the world many cultural and scientific gifts. These are just a few ideas parents can use with their children this summer. Deborah Gary is the owner of Color Book Gallery, a multicultural children’s bookstore located at 6553 Germantown Avenue in Philadelphia. Our bookstore offers many African -American history exhibits targeted at both children and adults. For these and our other activities please call us at 215-844-4200 or visit or website at http://www.colorbookgallery.com

Major Petition Drive Underway

A view of 5000 Parkside Avenue
A view of 5000 Parkside Avenue

by Juanita Alexander

Just before the deadline for the printing of the Parkside Journal, this paper was informed by reliable sources that a petition drive is currently underway in the Parkside area (and possibly in other neighboring communities). The focus of the petition drive is the METADONE Clinic (Formally known as Parkside Recovery in West Philadelphia) located at 5000 Parkside Avenue. This facility has been a fixture in our community form many years.

According to the copy of the petition obtained by the Journal, the ultimate goal of the petitioners is to have the clinic moved to another location outside of the Parkside Community and its adjacent neighborhoods. The petition expresses concern about the affect of the clinic on neighborhood safety and the physical and cultural environmental of the Parkside community. The petition also allages that the clinic is a hindrance to business development and economic growth in Parkside.

In accordance with the Journal’s belief in fair and objective news reporting, efforts were made to obtain comments from both the clinic and the local police. Repeated attempts were made to contact the Clinic by phone and get a response or statement concerning this issue from the executive Director of Addition Services or other clinic spokesperson.

The Journal did not receive any response to calls or voice messages. (If the Journal receives any response or statement from the clinic after the printing of this issue, every effort will be made to post it on our website). Despite time constraints, the Journal was able to briefly contact a community relations representative from the 19th police District. She said that she could not recall any specific recent incidents involving the the metadone clinic. She did state, however, that there have been a significant number of complaints from the community about loitering by some of the patrons of the clinic after they receive their medicine.

It was her opinion that more needed to be done to (by the operators of the clinic) to encourage clients to leave the area around the clinic in a more timely fashion after the completion of their medical treatments.

The editors of the Journal are encouraging all Parkside residents to become more informed about this important issue. Journal readers are invited to visit our website at http://www..parksidejournal.wordpress.com for updates and/or comments about this fast moving story. The next issue of the Journal will have a follow up report on this important community issue.

All Aboard the SEPTA PZ Express!

by Manuel McDonnell Smith

All Aboard!!
All Aboard!!

Close proximity to the Philadelphia Zoo is just one of the benefits of being a neighbor in the Parkside community. On just about any nice day, it’s only a short stroll over Girard Avenue directly into the lush gardens and winding pathways of the Zoo where the family can spend a day seeing and experiencing familiar and exotic species from the across the animal kingdom.

But while a short walk over to the Zoo is a perk that all of us neighbors can enjoy, the youngest visitors to the Zoo this season will be really excited to take a ride aboard the recently unveiled ‘SEPTA PZ Express’. Located just beyond the Children’s Zoo, the ride is a quaint, Victorian-style train experience that has been re-imagined with a modern SEPTA -style train logo that’s also intertwined with the tails of familiar animals from a few different species.

At first glance, adults will see a short ride around a loop, but the entire experience is designed to include a multi-layered learning opportunity for the kids who hop aboard.

“Our partnership with Philadelphia Zoo and the ‘SEPTA PZ Express’ allows us to capture not only the magic of a child’s first train ride, but also introduces them to the idea of using public transportation for a lifetime,” says SEPTA General Manager, Joseph M. Casey “In one 360 degree trip, we have the opportunity to show kids how to board and ride trains safely, while reinforcing the theme that transit is an environmental choice that preserves the world and its wildlife”

Tickets for the ‘SEPTA PZ Express’ are $3.00 per person with regular admission. SEPTA pass holders receive $1 off the ticket price (on up to 4 tickets). Just present your regular SEPTA TransPass, TrailPass, One Day Independence Pass or SEPTA Employee ID at ticket office to receive your discount. For more information about the “SEPTA PZ Express” including hours of operation, or to purchase tickets please visit http://www.PhiladephiaZoo.org.

News that is from, about, and benefits our Parkside Community in West Philadelphia.