2011 in the riverwards

2011 was a big year for the City of Phil­adelphia. These are the stor­ies that made the most im­pact loc­ally.

St. Anne’s school fi­nal walk through, Sat­urday, June 18, 2011 in Phil­adelphia.

With the birth of the new year, it’s a good time to re­flect on the year that has passed and, per­haps, spec­u­late on what the fu­ture holds.

We know you’ve prob­ably read your fill of these types of lists in the past week or so, but 2011 was quite a year for Phil­adelphia. To make this list a little dif­fer­ent, let’s look at some stor­ies from the year that had spe­cif­ic im­pact on the river­wards.

In fact, let’s start with the story of a na­tion­al move­ment that also set up camp in our back yard.

Oc­cupy Phil­adelphia

Whatever you may have thought of the move­ment or its myri­ad goals, there’s no dis­put­ing that through the peace­ful protests — held in front of City Hall and around the coun­try in solid­ar­ity with the Oc­cupy Wall Street move­ment in New York City — oc­cu­pi­ers made politi­cians and their tar­gets, the wealth­i­est “one per­cent” of Amer­ica, sit up and take no­tice.

Through pub­lic sit-ins, oc­cu­pi­ers out­side of City Hall shined a light on what they felt were un­fair bank­ing prac­tices, the plight of the home­less, and oth­er con­cerns that, as far as demon­strat­ors were con­cerned, all too of­ten don’t get enough at­ten­tion in­side that build­ing.

Here in the river­wards, the move­ment took on a life of its own when about 30 home­less mem­bers of the protest set up  a small camp just as the oc­cu­pa­tion down­town was com­ing to an end.

After only a few days, the camp — some­times called “Camp Liberty” — at Cum­ber­land and Rich­mond streets was dis­as­sembled by an evic­tion or­der, for­cing the in­hab­it­ants to find a new place to stay.

However, dur­ing its brief ex­ist­ence, the camp was evid­ence of the very real prob­lem of home­less­ness that ex­ists in many neigh­bor­hoods of this city.

Pizza Brain’s World Re­cord

The year also saw Fishtown rep­res­en­ted in the Guin­ness Book of World Re­cords thanks to res­id­ent Bri­an Dwyer, who brought the hon­or to the neigh­bor­hood be­cause of his mad pas­sion for pizza.

The 26-year-old Dwyer has ac­cu­mu­lated so much pizza-themed trinkets, knick-knacks and mem­or­ab­il­ia that when he opens his planned res­taur­ant and mu­seum later this year, he’ll will have a world-re­cord plaque for the largest col­lec­tion of pizza stuff to dis­play amid all the mem­or­ab­il­ia.

Dwyer and Mi­chael Carter, along with South Car­o­lina pizza chef Joe Hunter and Ry­an An­der­son, a loc­al de­sign­er and sculptor, hope to cre­ate a real slice of pizza heav­en with Pizza Brain, the pizza mu­seum and res­taur­ant planned for 2313 Frank­ford Ave. later this year.

Port Rich­mond Vi­ol­ence

The year also was not free of vi­ol­ence; shock­ingly tra­gic at­tacks oc­curred in sev­er­al areas throughout the river­wards. Two of them res­ul­ted in the deaths of Shane Kelly, who was gunned down on Nov. 13, and Mustafa Shaker, a clerk at Gir­ard Av­en­ue’s Trax Foods who was shot to death on May 26.

These truly were tra­gic events, but it was a “flash mob” in­va­sion of a home on In­di­ana Av­en­ue in Port Rich­mond that par­tic­u­larly rankled the loc­als, who filled com­munity meet­ings to con­vey their an­ger and safety con­cerns to po­lice ad­min­is­trat­ors.

The vic­tim, Mark Lav­elle, was as­saul­ted in his liv­ing room by what he de­scribed as an angry mob tar­get­ing two young boys he had pulled in­to his home for pro­tec­tion.

In fact, due in part to that at­tack, along with an un­re­lated neigh­bor­hood shoot­ing with­in a mat­ter of days, a new or­gan­iz­a­tion sprouted in Port Rich­mond to tar­get crime is­sues and oth­er com­munity mat­ters.

However, what this group, the Port Rich­mond West Com­munity Ac­tion Net­work, might achieve for com­munity im­prove­ment re­mains to be seen.

Di­Cicco’s De­par­ture and Zon­ing Changes

After 16 years in of­fice, it can be ar­gued that City Coun­cil­man Frank Di­Cicco (D-1st dist.) has had more im­pact on the chan­ging river­wards than any politi­cian.

Among his many con­tri­bu­tions, Di­Cicco draf­ted le­gis­la­tion that has cre­ated a blue­print for or­derly de­vel­op­ment along the Delaware River.  In fact, even as he leaves of­fice, loc­als will be af­fected by his leg­acy: As one of Di­Cicco’s last acts in of­fice, he sponsored le­gis­la­tion to sup­port a 34,000-square-foot, 2,700-pat­ron mu­sic ven­ue on Rich­mond Street.

But that isn’t the only sig­ni­fic­ant pro­ject planned for the river­front. Last year also saw the un­veil­ing of the Mas­ter Plan for the Cent­ral Delaware River­front. The plan calls for ma­jor changes to the wa­ter­front, from Ore­gon to Al­legheny av­en­ues, with new parks, bike trails and a broad range of de­vel­op­ment.

Al­though the plan could take more than two dec­ades to achieve, sup­port­ers firmly be­lieve that it could start the ball rolling on a world-class wa­ter­front that all Phil­adelphi­ans would be proud of.

St. Anne’s Closes

Per­haps it’s a sign of the times to re­port on the clos­ing of yet an­oth­er Cath­ol­ic school, but for 155 years, St. Anne’s School on Le­high Av­en­ue served as a staple of Cath­ol­ic life in the river­wards.

After the school’s alum­nae as­so­ci­ation saved the school from clos­ure in 2010, the in­ev­it­able re­sur­faced — St. Anne’s gradu­ated its fi­nal class last sum­mer.

In June, alum­nae filled the school at Mem­ph­is and Tuck­er streets to share memor­ies of what the school had meant to their lives.

North­ern Liber­ties gets a Su­per­Fresh

To para­phrase a shop­per dur­ing a news in­ter­view at the Au­gust grand open­ing of the Su­per­fresh su­per­mar­ket in the Piazza com­plex at 2nd Street and Gir­ard Av­en­ue, “What’s the big deal, it’s just a su­per­mar­ket?”

Well, the big deal, in an urb­an en­vir­on­ment such as Phil­adelphia, is food ac­cess for res­id­ents. Es­pe­cially for res­id­ents west of Front Street — for more than a dec­ade there hasn’t been such a food store in walk­ing dis­tance, oth­er than corner stores that folks of­ten dissed be­cause of lower-qual­ity foods and little or no pro­duce. The last loc­al su­per­mar­ket, on Gir­ard Av­en­ue, was des­troyed by fire.

The new $37-mil­lion, 51,000-square-foot store also will serve as an an­chor for a block of shops in the pro­ject.

Look­ing Ahead

For starters, much of the river­wards will be served by a new city coun­cil­man, Mark Squilla (D-1st dist.), who is tak­ing Di­Cicco’s seat. Also, the city re­cently passed a new zon­ing code that will af­fect com­mer­cial and res­id­en­tial de­vel­op­ment.

The Star wants to wish read­ers a healthy, happy new year, and we look for­ward to see­ing you in 2012. We will be right there, on your door­step, every Wed­nes­day morn­ing. ••

Star news­pa­pers man­aging ed­it­or Hay­den Mit­man can be reached at 215-354-3124 or by email at hmit­man@bsmphilly.com

You can reach at hmitman@bsmphilly.com.

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