Have you always lived in Philly? Yes, born and raised in South Philly!
What do you love about the area? I have a unique perspective because I’m born and raised here and I LOVE Philadelphia. Most natives, it seems, are indifferent or even hate Philadelphia. I love it, love it, love it!
My profession as a city planner, combined with my proclivity for urban culture, makes me really love the city. I don’t know of any other city where you can walk the city and see 17th century, 18th century, 19th century, 20th, and 21st century all within two miles! From an urban lover’s point of view, the city is so walk-able and the scale is so intimate, you want to stay and explore.
Philadelphia’s population is rising for the first time in 50 years, which is happening all over, as more people want to live in cities more instead of the suburbs. A lot of those people moving into Philly are those who have maybe grown up in the suburbs or are used to that suburban life of driving to the strip mall and having free parking.
How’d you get started with LoMo? I bought my house… and when I did, there was no civic association that I was aware of. I got my house through a friend, Todd Schwartz (LoMo’s Vice-President and Chair of our Zoning Committee). He is very civic minded and I am very civic minded. We were very interested [in establishing a civic association] and were involved at the ground level when residents were coming together to form LoMo.
I was a LoMo board member for a number of years and I felt really good about the positive energy as we started to have more meetings and such. You know, I grew up just six blocks away, and when I was growing up, I’d be hard pressed to find people who are as civic minded as the people I’ve met in LoMo.
Are you still involved with neighborhood improvement efforts? I always make it out for a clean-up and I’ve joined the Trash Think Tank. I am very happy to be a part of that. Addressing trash is what I’ve chosen to concentrate on. LoMo is great for that — wonderful actually! It’s the most visible effort, and as every politician knows that’s what counts. Even if it’s just a dent in the spaceship of life, it’s one of the more visible dents.
I wish that more people had a sense of social responsibility — especially here in South Philadelphia. It’s a dense arrangement, its one of the densest living arrangements in the entire country, actually. You would think that it would have bred more of a culture of social responsibility.
I’ve gotten in a lot of fights about litter with people and they look at me like i’m crazy, like, “Don’t tell me what to throw and what not to throw!” It’s not like I was yelling at them, and they act like I told them to cut off their oldest son’s arm. I just don’t get it, that’s all!
I think it’s something that Philadelphia as a city needs to work on if we ever plan to capitalize on what we have to offer and what we have coming.
If you had to sum up the LoMo area in one word, what would it be? Close-knit. For better or worse. That’s one word, it’s hyphenated, right? [Laughs].
It’s physically close-knit, the houses and everything, and it’s close-knit like a family. I tell my friends that the hospital where I was born in is on the end of my street; the hospital where my brother was born is on the end of his street; my parents are still six blocks away; I can walk to my cousin’s place; and my grandmother owned and operated a grocery store in South Philly. There’s even a lot of old ladies we grew up calling ‘aunts’ who still live here who saw both me and my father grow up.
I like that sense of community. I’m not related to anyone on my block, but I like to think we’re close-knit. Half of the houses on my little side street have my phone number, and I have theirs.
– Interview by Tylor Augustine
Editor’s Note: Save the date — LoMo’s next neighborhood cleanup is Saturday, September 21, and for more info about the Trash Think Tank, email: email@example.com. Get to know more of your neighbors at our next Neighborhood Happy Hour at Bomb Bomb Restaurant (1026 Wolf) on Wednesday, August 21!
Past Meet-Your-Neighbor Interviews: