Near neighbors aren’t bullies

It seems that “near neighbor” has become a term of vilification.  In the SugarLoaf negotiations, as in many other local controversies regarding zoning and development proposals, near neighbors have been represented as self-interested, NIMBYist, anti-development, “convenient forgetters” … and on and on.  I suggest that characterization – fed in part by a few individuals who relentlessly express their opinions in these pages – is unfair and unwarranted.

On the contrary, near neighbors are by definition well placed to understand the issues that a particular project presents.  Precisely because they are familiar with the locale, they can foresee the impact of the proposal on traffic, noise, storm water run-off, or whatever.  As residents they are as concerned as anyone else about the bigger picture – the economic health of Chestnut Hill.

It is plain wrong to accuse them of placing their local interests above those of the wider community. As individuals they often don’t have the resources for slick PR or the unquestioning respect that an established local institution commands. Please, understand that near neighbors have intentions that are just as – if not more – pro-community as those with whom they are negotiating.  Please pay attention to the concerns of near neighbors before airily dismissing them as strident and obstructive.

It has been suggested that after 18 months of negotiations over the SugarLoaf development proposals, it is time for the near neighbors to quit whining (about their spoilt vistas) and get out of the way (of a glorious proposal to bring prosperity to Chestnut Hill.)  But the issues surrounding development of SugarLoaf are many and complex, the stakes are extremely high and the executed outcome is irreversible.

Eighteen months is no time at all to thoroughly investigate and listen to all concerns about a project of this magnitude, particularly when the public has only been allowed access to information about it in the last few weeks.

It is just worth reminding those who would “conveniently forget”, that without the intervention of the near neighbors in this case, the college would have proceeded to implement its original proposed master plan without objection.  And that plan would have been, to put it bluntly, a disaster for Chestnut Hill.  Much has been accomplished for the community through negotiation, but the work is not quite finished.  Let’s take the time we need for everyone to agree that we’ve got it right.

Arabella Pope
Chestnut Hill

Hillers have moved on

The twin pleas from Bob Previdi and Walt Sullivan for Bullies, Nay Sayers and all other Hillers to get behind economic expansion and the CHCA board deserves a response – a clarification, actually.

Bob identifies foes of development as a minority. It’s the CHCA board, and those who believe in its relevance who are in the minority. It’s a minority status that the CHCA board has worked hard to attain. ZIP Code 19118 has 9,600 residents. The CHCA has 1,700 memberships. Only about 1,000 are in 19118. (I won’t discuss the surrealism of non-residents belonging to a community organization.)

In the last election, 175 votes were counted for 18 or so board candidates. That’s 10 percent of the membership and 4 percent of the population, counting two per household. These numbers show that an overwhelming majority of 19118 residents don’t consider the CHCA board worth the trouble. This view is reinforced every time the CHCA board sides with business interests over residents, which is almost always.

Now, when residents want to have their views represented, they don’t even bother with the CHCA board – they just organize a group of their own, get legal help, call local politicians and take action. It saves time, energy, and is a damn sight less frustrating. It’s proper, it’s democratic, and it’s legal. It’s just not what Walt, Bob or the CHCA board wants.

Too bad. The CHCA board also has an embarrassing reputation in many quarters of city government, and it has nothing to do with the manners of its audience. It rather has to do with its legal record, one that certain members of that audience were instrumental in establishing.

The CHCA board has made its bed. Its tiny electorate can all fit into it. But an overwhelming and increasing plurality has moved on.

Ed Feldman


Loved Fathers’ Club story

Kudos on your article about Chestnut Hill Youth Sports Club a/k/a Fathers’ Club.  I coached with the Club for 17 years – baseball, basketball and soccer – helping my Tim and Dan and a lot of other people’s sons and daughters.  We taught how to field grounders, but mostly we taught teamwork, sportsmanship, kindness and playing with enthusiam and joy.  My kids learned a lot from other people’s good examples and their bad examples.

I loved to win but some of my favorite experiences came with teams where we didn’t have a chance.  One May evening my team in the “non-competitive” division had an away game at Warminster and only eight players (the minimum) showed up. Not a pitcher in the bunch!  I told the boys that it was pointless to drive all the way to Warminster for a game we couldn’t possibly win.

My first basemen stood up and said “Coach, if I go home now my mother will make me do homework, let’s go play ball, I don’t care about the score”  All of the other seven agreed and off we went.  When we arrived at the game I told my son Dan he had to pitch. “Why me?” he said. “Because my health coverage includes psychotherapy.”

The parents ordered pizza to arrive in the fifth inning when the mercy rule kicked in.  We lost big but we had a great time.  I learned later than Dan wrote a poem about this game for English class, “The Accidental Pitcher.” I kept it over my desk for years.

One of the major changes I saw over the years was the growth of female participation.  Finally a girl was selected to play on our 12-year -old summer travel team – because she earned it.  I’ll call her Sue.  We went to play in Roxborough where they had real fences in the outfield 180 feet to deep center, I recall.

She came up to bat in the second inning, the opposing coach by the third base line called out to his infielders “shorten up, first; shorten up third” it’s a girl!”

Sue glared at him, waited for her pitch and then slammed a homer over the 180 sign.  As she trotted past the opposing coach at third, she took off her helmet and let her hair fall to her shoulders as if to say, “You’re darn right, I’m a girl”

We made memories, we made friends.  Happy Anniversary.

Tom Johnson
West Mount Airy
Thanks for the Fathers’ Club story

Thank you so much for your column about the 50th anniversary of the Fathers Club. (Yea, I know I can’t call it that anymore. Well I did ’cause that’s the way it was! (Smile)

When my boys played baseball, from age 8 to 14, Saturday mornings at CHA’s field to the 21st Ward league, I umpired the Little League games. Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Friday night basketball at Watertower, I officiated.

They were some of the happiest days of my life. Not only sharing the times with my kids, but all the kids of the Fathers Club. I think any parent/parents of their kids would feel the same way.

The only sad part was looking at the picture of the ’62 Dodgers and knowing that some of those kids have passed away.

Thanks again for a great column and hope to see you on the “4th at Watertower” where I will do the opening tribute in honor of this great country we call “home.”

Tom Woodruff


Support healthy families act

It is easy to give lip service to “family values.” The challenge is to put them into practice. Our employment practices often fall far short. More than 40 percent of workers in Philadelphia cannot take a sick day without losing a day’s pay, sometimes even putting their very job in jeopardy. Over 200,000 hardworking Philadelphians cannot take time off to care for a sick child or elderly parent.

Respecting the health and dignity of all human beings is a core religious value for all faith traditions. This includes not just access to health care, but time away from work to recuperate from illness, as well as to tend to ill family members.

Many of us are blessed to be able to stay home to care for ourselves or our loved ones when illness strikes. Yet thousands of our neighbors – including all too often the cashier at the market, the waiter at a restaurant, or the attendant at a hospital – do not have paid sick days.

They must continue to work – through colds, fevers, and stomach flus (jeopardizing as well the health of those with whom they come in contact). Nor can they afford to take off to care for their sick children or other dependent family members

Right now Philadelphia’s City Council has the opportunity to change this for many workers in Philadelphia by passing the Promoting Healthy Families and Workplaces Act.  Workers want to be responsible on the job and be able to care for their families.  Our policies lag desperately behind this reality – and Philadelphia families are struggling as a result. We can and must do better – and we will, if we truly value families.

Rabbi George Stern
Executive Director,
Neighborhood Interfaith Movement


Happy for smoking ban

I applaud Mayor Nutter for his recent executive order that banned smoking in city playgrounds and recreation centers. Residents should not have to choose between exposure to second-hand smoke or not enjoying public recreation centers and playgrounds.

Besides the health risks associated with second-hand smoke, even witnessing adults smoke is not in the best interest of children. The fact that 80 percent of adults that smoke were regular smokers by the age of 18 shows that children need to be discouraged from smoking beginning at a young age to prevent them from smoking as an adult. With this order, playgrounds and recreation centers will be healthier places for everyone to enjoy.

Molly Reynolds
Still too noisy

A few months ago my wife and I went to Cantina Feliz in Fort Washington shortly after it opened where Alison used to be. We thought the food was very good, but the place was extremely noisy.

Then in April I read Craig LaBan’s review of the place in the Inquirer. He also said that the food was good but that the place was way too noisy. He said it was “92 decibels even without a full room.” (He always says it should be no more than 75.)

Then I read the review in the Local, which also raved about the food but commented on the really loud noise level. Then in the May 19 issue of the Local, Missy and Dick Lee, who had written the article in the Local, wrote a letter stating that Cantina Feliz, “is taking steps to reduce its noise level.” As a result of that comment, we returned to Cantina Feliz last night. The food was again very good, especially the sea bass, but the noise was worse than ever.

And the godawful “music” was so loud that my wife and I had to yell at each other to be heard. I would not expect to hear such abominable noise at a Taco Bell, much less an upscale restaurant like Cantina Feliz where you can drop over $100 for dinner without even trying. The Lees need to check their information out first-hand before putting it in the paper because they were dead wrong. We could not enjoy the fine food because the noise level is still horrendous! I could not recommend it because of the atrocious noise.

Fred O’Hara