Friday, June 24, 2011

Livability Court

After Travel + Leisure added "almost trashiest" to Philadelphia's list of accomplishments, the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corp. was so offended that they pulled advertising from the magazine. Well, as unreliable as any newsstand survey may be, you don't fight back by pulling our city's presence from one of the top travel magazines in the world.

I wasn't offended by the results of the survey, I was annoyed. Not because some bias survey put us at the top of another list of broken cities, but because it's absolutely true. The only reason New Orleans bested us in filth is because America's Atlantis is still drying out. 

Philadelphia is a dump. Literally. It might be the nation's most expensive landfill. 

I know people hate to hear that but I refuse to engage in blind pride when I see uniformed police officers throw trash out of patrol car windows. We can fill the city with high tech trash cans, but no amount of technology is going to change why Philadelphia is so littered: Philadelphians. 

Yes. You.

Everything from cigarette butts to refrigerators, you, Philadelphians, seem to think that there is something acceptable about throwing your waste on the sidewalk, in the gutter, or using vacant lots as dumpsters.

Even our nation's least enlightened cities are so far beyond the anti-litter campaign of the 1970s that recycling programs dominate the civic landscape. Yet somehow thousands of our seemingly normal, law abiding - even law enforcing - citizens didn't get the memo...forty years later.

But what are you going to do? 1.5 million people have been trained to throw their hoagie wrappers on the ground. It's been so unacceptably bad for so long that it's become unacceptably acceptable.

We don't see it. I've been here for nearly a decade and I don't see it. That is until I go upstate, down south, or out west. Pick a direction.

It's just us. We're disgusting.

How do you solve an epidemic that is as Philadelphian as the Liberty Bell? I'll tell you what you do. Turn it into a way to make money.

That's right. Remind people that their slovenly behavior is illegal and make a few bucks off of it. Sure, our entire judicial process is so overworked that hundreds of outstanding warrants sit idle while violent criminals kick back and wait to be arrested.

But don't start shopping for excuses. There are none. If Gulf cities and Tornado Alley towns can clean up the trash Mother Nature dumps on them and still keep Faygo cans out of their gutters then we can keep broken toilets out of my backyard.

It's called Livability Court. Started appropriately in Charleston, S.C. in 2002, "America's Most Polite City," like Family Court, Livability Court is solely responsible for tackling one specific problem: Those citizens who are determined to make their city unlivable.

If a city as clean as Charleston, S.C. can justify the need to target litter, graffiti, vandalism, and illegal dumping, then targeting Philadelphia's cretins is well worth the investment. With our internationally renowned trash problem, we have a well stocked pool of turds that could generate more revenue for the city than any real estate tax hike.

It may sound like the pessimistic ramblings of someone who's lived in Philadelphia for a little too long, but don't confuse me with those that say we're buried too deep. Philadelphia isn't the worst place in America, so why should our citizens be allowed to treat it like it is?

Urban tumbleweeds signify a lack of respect for our own property. Clean neighborhoods are safe neighborhoods, and safe neighborhoods make safe cities.

If people aren't willing to take out their own trash, it's the city's duty to take it out for them. Cite them, fine them, and set a precedent that let's the trash know that a lot of us actually like Philadelphia.
Most importantly, lead by example. Philadelphia has developed a reputation of caring very little about Philadelphians, which is evident when you see a police officer drop a Snickers wrapper on the ground three feet from a trash can.

We'll never look like Disney World but we shouldn't want to. We have our own magic in our grit, but grit is in the rusted patina lined with street performers, eclectic architecture, and colorful characters. All of which is almost impossible to see to the unspoiled eyes of our visitors when they're knee deep in our sewage. 

Friday, June 17, 2011

Robinson's Department Store

While I'm completely in favor of illuminating Market East as a catalyst to return the corridor to its rightful place as Philadelphia's historic center of all things capitalism, I won't deny that this once fine stretch of Center City is still home to a few significant landmarks.

Unfortunately, I think activists and historians miss the mark touting it as a place of quaint Colonial charm. It never was and never will be. Additionally, the introduction of the "distraction debate" is a political tactic worthy of little discussion.

After all, one of an architect's primary goals is to make us look, and in a city like Philadelphia, to look up. Buildings are advertisements. Comcast could have easily built an office park in King of Prussia but they wanted to be seen.

A lot can and has been said about Market East's white elephant, The Gallery. It's easy to criticise and hard to avoid. It's so hard to avoid that most people don't bother to look across the street. And that isn't necessarily because The Gallery is inviting, but because the dilapidated mix of retail across the street is even less hospitable.

But look up. At first glance the south side of the 1000 block of Market Street is a mess. But a tile-clad diamond of architectural significance stands above the the weeds. Built in 1946, the former Robinson's Department Store, which I like to call The Barbarella Building, was decades ahead of its time. Like the International Style icon, the PSFS Building at 12th and Market, many don't realize just how old this bizarre building really is.

Both helped establish a trend of boring, easily built, cost effective modern architecture, but as early examples, did so with well crafted quality design.

While it's not indicative of traditional Philadelphia architecture, our building stock is far more diverse than many national historians are willing to give us credit for. I think the Colonial ideal is more accurately applied to New England cities than Philadelphia.

Internationally renowned architects repeatedly used Philadelphia as a playground for their early experiments. Considering our eclectic portfolio - Willis Hale, Frank Furness, Wilson Eyre, I.M. Pei - I find Robinson's very Philadelphian.

Whether or not it finds itself on the Historic Register, were it cleaned up I think it could establish the same cultural following as some of our other quirky landmarks like the Divine Lorraine and the Hale Building.

More information on the history of Robinson's Department Store can be found here: Unlisted: Robinson's

Thursday, June 16, 2011

America's Dirtiest Cities

Travel + Leisure joined the ranks of magazines that have taken to publishing unvalidated surveys in lieu of actual articles. And typical to these sorts of surveys, instead of looking for the best in our American cities, it pits us against each other to showcase the bottom.

America's Dirtiest Cities puts Philadelphia at #2, behind New Orleans. This is probably pretty accurate. We're dirty. I've seen cops throw fast food wrappers out of patrol car windows. That is the example we set.

To their credit, Travel + Leisure does a good job of pointing out the subjectivity of the survey. Obviously, with New Orleans at the bottom of the list, America's more gritty cities seem to be the most interesting.

Unfortunately, Travel + Leisure's kudos end there. The "article" goes on to tie in another irrelevant survey, somehow making the awkward segway that our proported lack of style has something to do with absent cleanliness. Much like another survey that pegged Philadelphians as America's "ugliest", aside from New York, America's most "stylish" cities are also its least diverse.

We often equate cleanliness with clinical homogeneity, and apparently attractiveness and style. San Diego might be clean but there is visual poetry in our blight. Clean means bland. It's a dry hoagie. And I like ours smothered in dressing.

More Misleading Renderings

The Preservation Alliance has joined SCRUB in misleading the public with renderings falsely displaying an historic building shrouded in advertising. I have to give them props for using a Krispy Kreme ad in their doctored rendering right in the midst of the sugar tax fiasco.

As I understood the bill, the Lit Brothers building was exempt. However, look closely at the facade next time you walk by it and you'll see the moulding is covered in period signage.

The Preservation Alliance prepared a rendering showing a sixty year old black and white photo of Lit Brothers shrouded in color billboards, including office windows. This is a worst case scenario that will never happen. Not only is Lit Brothers a landmark loved by the city, there are many other locations on Market East more condicive to these advertising schemes, including The Gallery, The Girard Trust Block, and the Disney Hole.

Even if it's not exempt, the public outcry from someone attempting to cover this landmark in billboards would be louder than any irrational rant carried out by SCRUB.

On the roof, however, who cares? If you ask me, that block could use some height. But the Preservation Alliance would like you to believe that the facade, including the office windows, are going to be covered in Revlon ads. Really? That's just ridiculous.

This is our historic corridor of consumerism but it is not Philadelphia's historic core. While it leads tourists to our to Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell, so does I-95 and Delaware Avenue. There is no endangered history on Market East. With historic churches and theaters decaying all over the city, like SCRUB, the Preservation Alliance's resources are better employed elsewhere.

Welcome to PA, that'll be 50 cents

Being from the South, it's taken me a while to adjust to taxes, tolls, and political cash grabs. It's not that Red states are any stranger to fees and corruption, but they look you in the face when they f*ck you.

A lot of people got worked up over a 2 cent per ounce tax on soda. I hate Nanny Laws, so I'm one of them. But there was a much darker demon waiting in the shadows so the quest to save my afternoon Big Gulp quickly expired. 

It's surprising how well City Hall played us this time. The soda tax was a brilliant wedge issue to throw to the dogs while the city worked on a 3.5% property tax increase that seems a lot more viable. 

If soda is that important, you can always buy your groceries in NJ. But unless you plan on living on a houseboat or parking your RV on North Broad, you're going to have a hard time avoiding property taxes.  

And with BRT in limbo deciding what to become, it's hard to say what will happen when they decide to reassess some of these homes that haven't been appraised since Truman was President. 

I like a level playing field. How about lowering taxes and reassessing the city's housing stock to their current market value? I know the home I rent is worth more than $1, but I'm pretty sure that's how it's taxed.

But that's not how we do things in PA. I remember when I lived in Portland, OR, the government had an unofficial motto: "We do things differently here." So do we, but we sure don't yield the same results. What's really amusing is while City Hall and Harrisburg screw us time and time again, they still have the courtesy to leave a note on the nightstand. Their rationale is often more amusing than the tax.

Soda tax is aimed at the "please think of the children" crowd, but isn't even remotely designed to have any affect on the consumer. If the tax isn't applied at the register it will be diluted throughout the store. Consumers won't even know they're paying the tax and obese children will still get their bottle of diabetes. 

How stupid does Mayor Nutter think we are? He's like a junkie with a sob story. I'll give a bum money if he tells me it's for weed, but if you're going to piss on my leg and tell me it's raining, screw off, I'll vote for Karen Brown.

None of this nonsense is new, and it's certainly not unique to Pennsylvania. But it brings up the classic story of the Johnstown Flood Tax. After the Johnstown Flood of 1936, the state imposed an emergency - and allegedly temporary - 10% tax on alcohol. Today, 75 years later, that tax is at 18%. 

It's not surprising that former New Orleans Mayor, Ray Nagin, on a trip to Philadelphia following Hurricane Katrina researching ways to address flight and abandonment, commented that New Orleans was bad, but not as bad as us...after Katrina!  

It's hard to take pride in a city and state when your elected officials act like they don't want you here.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Piazza at Penn's Landing

After decades of rendering grand plans for the Delaware waterfront that we could never afford, Thomas P. Corcoran, Director of the Delaware River Waterfront Corp., has come up with a scaled back plan that actually seem doable. 

Lining the river with ten parks - green parks, not concrete - he leaves most of the river's success in the hands of private development hopefully attracted to the parks.

Penn's Landing's concrete flyovers would be removed, improving its connection with Center City in spite of I-95. 

Corcoran helped with Camden's waterfront, unarguably Camden's only living success.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

This is a Tree

Throughout Callowhill, stenciled around the base of newly planted trees are messages reading "THIS IS A TREE". It seems silly, and perhaps for the more cynical Philadelphians, even annoying. But in a city in which AstroTurf is a passable substitute for grass and parents routinely employ their children to mar saplings with box cutters, it's clear that many need reminding.

As early as kindergarten, I was taught that trees breathed life into all living animals. But trees aren't just necessary for life. They cool our streets by providing shade. They absorb the water that cools the ground. In the winter they provide natural insulation both above and below ground. Basic science tells us how much plants and animals need each other, but the City of Philadelphia seems defiant in its acceptance of all things vegetative.

When South Street decided to chop down its mature trees in lieu of new ones, the temperature difference between the strip and adjacent tree lines street was at some times more than ten degrees. That's significant to both your quality of life and your electric bill. But why are cities like D.C., Atlanta, and even New York overflowing with greenery while Philadelphia's most densely populated streets are barren of any vegetative life?

Take South Philadelphia if you're familiar, and try to think of a single backyard you know of that isn't made of concrete, or even has a tree. I've seen window boxes with plastic flowers. When you do see a newly planted tree, the bark has most likely been stripped by a knife in an effort to make it die. 


Some streets are small, yes, but where did this violent hatred of trees come from?

Like most bad ideas, it came from the 1950s, and like most of what is wrong with Philadelphia, it lingers in those who still think that way. That's why you'll find trees in University City and Society Hill, neighborhoods that aren't home to those with 60 years of mid-century baggage. 

It's no doubt that by the 1940s, Philadelphia had become a disgusting and polluted dump that probably smelled worse than a bad day in Sao Paulo. But it was the subtleties of the campaign, perhaps inadvertent, that bred a generation to look at trees and see squalor. In their minds, trees were dirty. 

I've heard the argument, irrational as it may seem, that many older Philadelphians don't like trees because "they slip on the leaves." I've never heard that anywhere else.

Take this picture of a clean-up campaign from the 1950s. In an era when many residents are fleeing the city for greener pastures, those determined to stay were looking for any reprise from the filth. I'm sure if you could smell the streets of 1949 you'd probably vote for street sweepers and concrete too, but painting trees as synonymous with blight did five decades of irreparable psychological damage.

Treeless playgrounds are paved with rubber, asphalt dog parks have only several patches of dead grass, and sweltering streets roast under an unshaded sun. As the exhaust of their air conditioners and cars make these streets boil, residents step outside to grab their mail and still have the audacity to complain about the heat, returning to their living room to turn the thermostat down below 60.

Where to Cool Off

While the Weather Channel said yesterday's high was 98, I'm certain it was at least 100. Philadelphians are no strangers to brutally hot summer days, but it's not even summer. If this is any indication of what's to come, where do we go to seek relief? 

I've been to a Philadelphia public pool...once. If I wanted to stew in lukewarm city water I'd put a baby pool in my living room. Honestly, it wasn't that the pool grossed me out, it was the way it was managed. There were no changing rooms or restrooms. Your possessions had to be stashed away from the pool, out of sight. 

Additionally, the typical crowd control rules applied: No jumping, No splashing, No diving, No swimming. Essentially, if you did anything other than simply stand in place, you'd hear a whistle. Those sorts of things are understandable in an overcrowded swimming pool, but they don't make me want to return.

Then you have your private pools. I haven't found one that costs less than $1000 for the season. My advice, join Philadelphia Sports Club in Washington Square at their monthly rate for June, July, and August. They have a great outdoor pool and you won't be bothered by kids.

Then there is always Philadelphia's most popular "public pool", Swann Memorial Fountain in Logan Square. Now I'm not condoning the massive legal liability the city is opening itself up to by looking the other way as kids climb their way to the top of this massive metal and concrete impromptu splash park. But on hot days, when your alternatives are the overcrowded petrie dishes or something most just can't afford, it's hard to put the hammer down on this tradition. They tried a few years ago, and once the mercury rose as high as yesterday, enforcement relented.

 Several years ago officials began enforcing a "no swimming" policy on public fountains. Public backlash and a debilitating heatwave forced the city to look the other way, particularly at the popular Swann Memorial Fountain.

I'll admit, it's gross. I'll also admit that I've climbed to the center, looked down on the Delaware's representation, and yes, he is in fact anatomically correct. 

I've heard all the arguments. I know homeless people bathe in public fountains, among other things. But with no restrooms available at public pools, they aren't any cleaner. Chlorine bleach kills everything. One time I had my feet in Washington Square's fountain and a nosy woman came up to tell me, "You can't put your feet in there. The homeless pee in there." To which I replied, "So the homeless can use it as a toilet, but I can use it to cool off my piggies?" 

Mind your own business.

But I digress. Cleanliness aside, Swann Memorial Fountain is not an amusement park. While a 14 year old lifeguard will call me out of a public pool for splashing, Swann Fountain remains an unsecured recreational landmark. As much as I love the tradition, I understand we live in a litigious society, especially in Philadelphia, and it's really only a matter of time.

But don't misunderstand me. I'm not being negative. I'm certainly not saying shut it down. I'm saying offer an alternative. I hate to repeatedly cite Portland as an example, but let's face it, they know how to please their people. Tom McCall Waterfront Park in downtown Portland has several fountains, including Salmon Street Springs and Bill Naito Legacy Fountain designed specifically to be interactive.

 Salmon Street Springs in Portland, OR was designed with interactivity in mind. Understanding that Philadelphia summers can be particularly brutal, we have no modern fountains designed to accommodate the needs met by Swann Fountain's usage as an impromptu watering hole.

With the wildly successful improvements to the Museum of Art and the Schuylkill Banks which continue to make their way down the Parkway, developers could be looking at utilizing some of the available green space, perhaps the vacant Calder Sculpture Garden, as the site for a new landmark fountain, one designed to meet the needs that are currently met by Swann Fountain.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

We're Almost There

Market East is on its way to returning to its rightful place in history as the brightly lit corridor of consumerism it once was. Bill 100720 passed the Rules Committee yesterday, which would allow various types of illuminated and digital advertising to be applied to Market East's non-historic facades, including The Gallery. Developers applying such advertisement would be required to invest $10M into the building to which the scheme is applied.

The Gallery as it is.

 Eaton Centre in Toronto is a common example of what Bill 100720 is aimed at accomplishing. 
Historical groups continued to pander their case that Philadelphia is a one horse town, accusing this bill of threatening Philadelphia's cultural heritage. Others continued to speculate that the primary reason people come to Philadelphia is for its history. At one point in the hearing, a man dressed as William Penn appeared, accusing Council of being paid off for their support.

Philadelphia's historic historic Market East?
More "cultural heritage"? 

Market East was never charming and its mind boggling why preservationists and historians have gotten so wrapped up in this bill. There isn't a lot of physical history there, and the few antique buildings that have survived Market East's long, evolving history are exempt from Bill 100720 and will not be affected.  

Luckily the counter arguments were so absurd that City Council was not swayed. Market East's primary cultural heritage lies in its place as a shopping district, not in its architecture. Tourists don't solely come to Philadelphia for our history, but for those who do, there is nothing wrong with offering them a great shopping and dining experience on their walk to Independence Mall.

City hoping for a Market rebound

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Beach Sticks

It was nice to get a full two days of Spring before the temperature went back up to 98 degrees. As weekenders crowd the Atlantic City Expressway and head "down the shore" (a grammatically incorrect statement I refuse to utter without quotes), I'm itching for a shore with which I am far more familiar. As much as I appreciate Philadelphia's easy access to the ocean, there are few coasts in the country as breathtaking as North Carolina's Outer Banks and its southern counterpart, Cape Fear.

It isn't just the crowds, or lack thereof. From Currituck to Holden Beach, the Carolina coastline has achieved an international reputation for its unspoiled beauty and is no stranger to a bustling rental season. But while the Jersey Shore, Long Island, and the Capes of Massachusetts enjoy a survived Victorian and Colonial infrastructure, they carry with them the burden of history.

Mother Nature repeatedly proves the Outer Banks uninhabitable, and in doing so makes it a very desirable place to be. You, as much as its architecture, are at the will of the gods. You won't find life guards. You won't pay to go on the beach. You won't find shingled beach houses from the 1890s. 

What you will find is a place where nature reigns supreme and the built environment is secondary at best. You will find freedom, but also its consequences. Beaches are held in place by dunes covered in sea grass, nature's way of preserving its coastline. Sand dunes have engulfed streets, homes, and even an amusement park, with no choice but to submit to the wind.

A house built in the 1980s is considered old on Carolina's coast. Built atop sandbars that shift with hurricanes, erecting a house is a gamble. 

Architectural history in this region is reserved for lighthouses, which is why it was so surprising that when the rental, Serendipity from the movie Nights in Rodanthe, was condemned and nearly swept out to sea, someone actually stepped forward to save it.

Serendipity's having succumbed to North Carolina's brutal nature was what had made it such an attractive building for the film. The coastline had moved beyond the foundation of the house since it was built in 1988, leaving it on the ocean side of the grassy dunes. It was a scene made for a movie, unfortunately the drama of its position left it to face the inevitability of hurricane season.

But something about that house was special. With a river of ocean water running between its stilts, being beaten by 130mph winds, it never moved, not even a little. It continued to greet visitors to the village of Rodanthe. Towering over the ocean, it was the first house one would see. 

Dare County finally imposed a nuisance violation on the owners of this Hollywood star after Hurricane Ida heavily damaged both the village and the house, sweeping several others out to sea. It seemed that Serendipity's end was no longer at the will of nature, but in the hands of Man.

Luckily Serendipity prevailed. Ben and Debbie Huss of Newtown, NC purchased the home on January 4th, 2010 and on January 18th, successfully completed the move of the 83,000 pound house to its new location on Highway 12 where it will continue to greet visitors to the Cape Hatteras town of Rodanthe. 

That is until it needs to be moved again.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

They're ba-ack...

Carol Ann turned an ominously said, "they're ba-ack." I wondered why a cold chill ran down my spine as I opened up, whose contributors I like to think are at least moderately objective and in favor of the successful redevelopment of Center City's largest commercial corridor.

That is until I read their latest contribution from SCRUB's most vocal witch hunter, Mary Tracy.

I really don't want to give this group any more attention than they deserve, but this time the captains of unreason and an uncompromising passion to preserve the blight they claim to fight don't even seem to know what they're fighting. Or perhaps they just assume that those they pander to won't bother reading through the legal jargon of Bill 100720. The latter is probably a more accurate assumption.

Well, I read it. And Mary Tracy's latest assertion is brazenly false, and the wording in Bill 100720 couldn't be clearer.

Mary Tracy's irrational argument over "unsightly" billboards she hasn't even seen yet states that Bill 100720 would "permit large scale animated billboards on the historic buildings of Market East."

Check your facts, Mary. Bill 100720 states clearly:

(4) The following buildings shall not be considered host buildings:
(a) An historic building, unless such building during its history supported an exterior sign that would have met the definition of a large format sign;

Your move, SCRUB.

A hearing to discuss Bill 100720 will be held on Tuesday, June 7th, and 10am in Room 400 at City Hall.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Simmer Down

With Harold Camping's campaign promising the adjusted end in five(ish) months and the Mayans blowing up the internet, it's easy to look at tornadoes in Springfield, MA and earthquakes in NE Philadelphia to justify this raptured nonsense. What's even worse is the media plays right into humanity's morbid infatuation with destroying itself., the umbrella site for the Courier Times, The Intellgencer, and Burlington County Times, went so far as to run a headline claiming an earthquake "rocked" Northeast Philadelphia and Bensalem. The article goes even further, calling the boom produced an "explosion".

In most earthquake laden regions, and even some areas less affected by tremors, a 1.7 earthquake would not only be ignored by the media and seismologists, but it wouldn't even be felt. But in the era of the apocalypse and Britney Spears gyrating 'til the world ends, a tremor about as jarring as mild gas is a sign of the times.

Everyone wants to feel special. Springfield's recent tornado is being broadcast across legitimate media outlets as an unusual catastrophe with implications pointing to everything from global warming to polar shifts. The truth of the matter is, New England experiences three or four tornadoes every spring, and this one happened to hit a populated area. There is nothing historically unusual about the event. Massachusetts saw a tornado just three years ago.

Harold Camping must have felt like he struck gold when Iceland's Grimsvotn volcano erupted on May 21st, his prophetic date of the Rapture. Media sources were ticking this story as top news, playing right into the palm of the Doomsdayers. Yet most neglected to mention that Grimsvotn is Iceland's most active volcano and that it's eruption has been anticipated since October of 2010. It also erupted in 1996, 1998, and 2004.

Unfortunately with an exponentially growing media and a global newsfeed active 24/7, it's very difficult to weed out fact from fiction. While most legitimate news is technically fact, it is typically sensationalized around the influences of a popular culture that is grounded in fiction. 

Thirty years ago no American could be tuned in all day, every day, not even the President. No one would hear about a tsunami in Indonesia or hundreds of birds falling from the sky in Scotland. In fact, even the most informed would need to wait for the evening news or scour the newspapers to find information on hurricanes in the Gulf, oil spills in Alaska, or tornadoes in the Midwest.

Yet today, the least interested are the most informed, leading to wild speculation and unfounded claims. It's easy to spot trends when you have access to everything that is happening all the time. Disasters have always happened, all the time. They are happening right now and they will be happening all week, all month, and all year. The world is a big place, and having unlimited access to its entirety is overwhelming.

Those with little to no understanding of politics or the environment receive a streaming update of global issues from hundreds of Facebook friends, endless Tweets, and smart-filtered search results from Google. 

Even those academically versed in mayhem and disaster have a hard time ignoring the aggrandized headlines and convincing themselves that the end is not eminent. Is it any surprise that someone like Harold Camping was able to use the same instant and free access we all have to billions of internet users to convince a handful of people to sign over their life savings? If 2012 signifies the end of anything, it's the end of reason, and we have a nonstop electronic supply of bullshit to thank for that. 

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Fergie's Tower

The Jewish Federation's thrift store has been vacant for a long time, leading many to wonder why this prime piece of property spanning the block between Walnut and Sansom, 12th and 13th, hasn't been developed.

Sandwiched between a garage, one of Sl-EZ Park's many unsightly surface lots, and Fergie's Pub, 1213 Walnut Street was slated for a 29 story apartment and hotel complex in 2009. Fergie's would have remained in its current location. U3 designed a complex with 299 apartments and 152 hotel rooms that would have had a unique driveway that would have spanned the block under the tower.

Unfortunately, this project wasn't designed to include the one thing this city doesn't need more of: parking. Although this development neighbors a garage, another garage, another garage, at least five surface lots, cabs, buses, subways, not to mention a city core with at least one parking lot or garage on literally every, single block; neighboring landlords are using antiquated legality that requires parking to mount legal opposition against this project to muscle out healthy competition.

If 1213 Walnut Street moves forward, Fergie's Pub will remain unaffected.

Barely Human: Governor Chris Christie

You've done it again New Jersey. I just can't let this go. 

How are our elected officials still so out of touch with reality? So out of touch that this sort of behavior seems at all acceptable. 

Are they just pushing the envelope of power, seeing how much they can get away with? Have they not yet grasped the impact of communicative technologies? 

Last Wednesday, New Jersey's jowl faced, waddling governor, Chris Christie used a state helicopter to travel to his son's baseball game at Delbarton High School. 

Using a police chopper as his own Air Force Once, Christie and his wife left in a photo op that halted his son's game in the fifth inning.

There is nothing technically illegal about a New Jersey governor using a police helicopter for personal use, but considering the current economy, especially in New Jersey, it's incredibly tacky. Particularly since his predecessor, Corzine, reimbursed the state or chartered private helicopters when requiring personal transportation. It shows a dramatic disconnect between Christie's lectures on budget cuts and how he views himself.