The more things change, the more they stay the same.That old saying applies to so many things, including the long commercial strip along Bustleton Avenue in Northeast Philly’s Castor Gardens and Oxford Circle sections — where the types of businesses, like the surrounding neighborhoods, have undergone somewhat of a transformation of late.Change can be a good thing, even in the wonderful world of good old-fashioned family-run businesses, which are prevalent on Bustleton Avenue, which has seen an influx of Asian, Middle Eastern and Hispanic merchants.Indeed, ZIP code 19149 was described as a “global nation” by an Asian-American official of the city’s Commerce Department, which last week stepped up efforts to create a Bustleton Avenue Business Association.The new group would address issues that long ago have been tackled by organizations in other Philadelphia neighborhoods, including security, sidewalk cleanliness and parking. To be sure, the Northeast deserves some of the blame for the City of Brotherly Love’s other, less charitable nickname, Filthydelphia, so whatever the new Bustleton Avenue group can do to chip away at that embarrassing moniker would be welcome. Upgrades to the sidewalks and installation of benches would be a good start.The new inhabitants on the residential and business sectors, along with the old-timers who have not yet fled to greener, “safer” pastures in suburbia, represent an opportunity to rejuvenate an area that once put the “bustle” in Bustleton. All it takes is for the merchants — ALL of the merchants — to join together and make it happen.Send letters to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Firefighters are grateful for public supportTo the citizens of Philadelphia:As you all know, this has been a very rough time for the members of our union. The men and women firefighters and paramedics of Local 22 have suffered a tragic loss. I am humbled by the outpouring of sympathy and support shown by you, the citizens of this great city.Your generosity, kindness and empathy have had a profound impact on our members, and though we will be in mourning for some time, you have shown us all that the sacrifice these men made does not go unappreciated by you.When we lose a member in the line of duty it is never easy. We chose a profession — no, a calling — where we go out each day to try and help our fellow citizens, and when we lose one of our own in the process, it really hits home. We are faced with the dangers of our profession day in and day out. We as firefighters and paramedics have answered the call to put ourselves in harm’s way to protect the lives and the property of our city.One thing that we did not sign up for is to have the very city we have sworn to protect attempt to systematically cut the necessary resources it takes for our members to do their jobs in a manner that is not only safe for you the citizen, but for our members.We appreciate all that you the citizens of Philadelphia have done for us. Your prayers and your kindness have helped us begin to heal. Remember that we are always there for you, and I will never forget how you have been there for us.Bill GaultPresident, Local 22 IAFF
Firefighter Daniel Sweeney: 9-18-86 to 4-9-12The entire Sweeney family wishes to express our heartfelt thanks to all who reached out to us since the death of Dan and his supervisor, Lt. Robert Neary. The tremendous outpouring of support has helped us in these troubling times. David and Marian Sweeney sincerely appreciate your prayers and generous acts.Contributions in Dan’s name may be made to The Daniel Sweeney Memorial Scholarship Fund, accepted at any Police and Fire Credit Union or simply mailed to PFFCU (c/o the fund), 901 Arch St., Philadelphia, PA 19107 or Local 22 Philadelphia Firefighters union, 415 N. Fifth St., Philadelphia, PA 19123.The fund is set up for deserving children who wish to attend Bishop McDevitt High School (Dan’s alma mater) and any other school.
“Let the justice system handle Mister Toledo.”That was the very wise advice from Capt. Frank Bachmayer, commander of the 15th Police District, following the arrest of an Aldine Street man who allegedly slashed tires on vehicles belonging to his neighbors in Mayfair and Holmesburg.While residents may be sleeping a tad bit more soundly these days now that David Toledo has been apprehended and awaits his day in court, folks ought not get too lackadaisical.They should remain vigilant, aware that quality-of-life crime and the type of low-level urban terrorism Mr. Toledo allegedly put them through can happen anytime. They should continue to join and support their local Town Watch groups — heck, the more the merrier; remember, in unity there is strength — and frequently peer out their windows for signs of trouble.But residents must never allow their justifiable anger to move beyond the thought process, even if the wheels of justice move at a snail’s pace. A temptation to harass the suspect, his family or his property may be a natural instinct for folks who have lost time, wages and lots of dollars to get their cars repaired following the vandalism, but, as Capt. Bachmayer suggested last week, such action is off-limits. Crime victims must refrain from becoming criminals themselves in the name of retaliation.
More than 400,000 people call Northeast Philadelphia home, but it’s a safe bet that for many of them, their only exposure to the area along the Delaware River is when they glance at it on the way to or from the Tacony-Palmyra Bridge.That limited exposure should change in a few weeks when Lardner’s Point Park, a 4.5-acre jewel of the outdoors between Robbins Avenue and Levick Street, is formally dedicated for all to enjoy.The trash and debris that once marred the area will be replaced by a medley of amenities, including a walking trail that will be part of a 3,000-mile path along the East Coast, a fishing pier, benches and picnic tables, solar-powered lights, parking, and perhaps most important, trees.Much of the $1.5 million cost of the project came from state funds — in other words, you the taxpayers — so it would behoove able-bodied Northeast denizens to attend the May 14 dedication to check out the new and improved waterfront.With other improvement projects on the horizon, the area soon will offer Northeast residents great reasons to spend some of their leisure time in their community instead of the easy chair.• • •Speaking of treasures, America became a bit poorer last week with the passing of the world’s oldest teenager, music legend Dick Clark.Although watching the New Year’s Eve festivities on TV arguably lost much of its luster when bandleader Guy Lombardo died in 1977, Mr. Clark became a beloved tradition on ABC with his hosting duties on New Year’s Rockin’ Eve. This year, New Year’s Eve just won’t be the same. ••Send letters to: email@example.com
What’s the matter with kids today?Who knew the police outside the middle school by me are there to protect the public from the kids and not the other way around? The other day, I was in my back yard with my almost 2-year-old, when I heard yelling and lots of cursing. I looked up the driveway and there was a gaggle of middle-school kids; it seemed like two girls were getting in a fight.They kept getting closer, so I yelled for them to take it back to the street and watch the language, there was a child nearby. They actually did! Then I heard horns honking; these kids were just walking right in the middle of the road. Fortunately, as quickly as I dialed 911, a police truck came through honking. I remembered then, they usually hang out around the school when the kids are being let out.Oh, how I wish the parents of some of these kids could see what they are up to when they leave to come home! I hate to be out at that time, because of this. A school-age kid that lives nearby said just the other week some kids went running/fighting through his yard.Boy, I hope we are out of Philly by the time my kid is school age, or at least get her in a charter school; no way she’s going to the school that, sadly, is so conveniently close to us!Eileen TetiCastor Gardens
No crossing at the Boulevard crossoverSurprise! The crossover on the Roosevelt Boulevard going southbound in the inner lanes to get to Unruh Avenue has been cemented closed!Now, if you want to cross over from inner lanes to the outer lanes, you have to get over at the Cottman Avenue crossover or go past your streets to Levick Street. Whose idea was that? You would think after over 30 years or more, they would tell you of a change like this. I lost my crossover!Fran KaminskyCastor Gardens
If you don’t know the significance of next Tuesday, you’re probably the kind of person who whines about government but rarely or never bothers to vote. If so, shame on you. Shame, shame, shame on you.There’s a host of important decisions to be made in the primary election. It’s time to select candidates for president, the U.S. House and Senate, the state legislature, attorney general, auditor general and treasurer, and whether you like it or not, some of those men and women are going to retain or win their positions of public trust. Therefore, it’s up to you to know who they are and what they stand for and then give them an earful.Sadly, some of the state representatives and senators up for re-election this year have no opposition whatsoever — no opponents in Tuesday’s primary nor the Nov. 6 general election. In a free and democratic society, that is pathetic.Remember, an active, informed, motivated electorate is many a politician’s worst enemy. Citizens who exercise their right to vote every election day are helping to hold elected officials accountable for their actions — or, too often, their inactions — and in so doing, they demonstrate a sense of self-respect and a desire to do their part to control their own destiny. Yes, gentle readers, the politicians listen to the people, but only if the people speak up. If you sit on your hands on Tuesday thinking that your vote doesn’t count and that the politicians will do what they want anyway, you deserve the consequences. People who don’t vote are essentially inviting politicians to give them the shaft.Even if you think elections force you to pick the lesser of two evils, or the least of all evils, go to the polls anyway. Because in a democracy, silence is never golden.Send letters to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Too often, city officials and judges believe the best way to handle a problem is to first pretend it doesn’t exist, then pretend to do something about it, then, only if absolutely necessary, do something about it. Now, two firemen from Northeast Philadelphia are dead, and it appears their blood is on the hands of local government.The horrific five-alarm blaze at a vacant warehouse in Kensington that killed Lt. Robert Neary and Firefighter Daniel Sweeney Monday morning likely would not have happened had the city and court system been proactive, not reactive. The Langhorne-based company that owned the empty warehouse, on the 1800 block of E. York St., owes back taxes and unpaid water bills. That’s bad enough, but the building reportedly had been visited by the city’s Department of Licenses and Inspections a half-dozen times since November and had been broken into, even after the city sealed it up.Something’s terribly wrong with this picture. Too many Philadelphia neighborhoods have abandoned warehouses that are tragedies just waiting to happen.If city officials and the courts, from Mayor Michael Nutter and president judges on down the ladder, had any courage, they would have made sure that buildings like the one that collapsed on Lt. Neary and Firefighter Sweeney were torn down years ago.Like so many other segments of government, vigorous enforcement of a zero-tolerance policy on tax deadbeats and absentee landlords — of hazardous residential AND commercial properties — is doable but rarely done. Had the city and courts not dilly-dallied, two Northeast families and the entire family known as the Philadelphia Fire Department would not be in tears today. ••Send letters to: email@example.com
Fire department captain appreciates our supportThank you very much for your editorial last week regarding the brownouts in the Philadelphia Fire Department (Respect our firefighters).As a member of the Philadelphia Fire Department for 35 years, it is extremely rare to see anything in writing from the media here in Philly which depicts us firefighters in a positive light.As far as I’m concerned, it seems very obvious that the two major papers (The Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News) are pretty much controlled by City Hall, which I think is pathetic.These brownouts are no different than Russian roulette. The city is taking a chance that a fire does not occur in a company’s particular local area on any given day.Although nobody can say with absolute certainty that some of the fire deaths that have occurred when brownouts were in force would not have resulted with the same outcome, there have been a few where many of us firefighters feel there could have been a chance to save the lives of some of these people.I believe that the city of Philadelphia treats its firefighters like second-class citizens. I also believe that the public, in general, does not really care about us either. The one time I do know that they care about us is when they need us, whether it’s for a medical emergency, fire in their home, natural gas leak, or whatever the case may be.Once again, thank you for your support. It is appreciated.Robert BowmanCaptain, Engine 58Bustleton Avenue and Hendrix Street