by Pamela Rogow

Part Two

As indicated in an article in Local Life last week, the September issue of Money Magazine designated Mt. Airy as the best neighborhood in Philadelphia out of 110 communities. How do residents of Mt. Airy feel about being so honored? We asked several at random. We printed some comments last week, and here are some others :

• Ann Rivers, 40, Marketing consultant: “I went to the University of Chicago to study economics and then moved to New York City and got an MBA at NYU. We lived in midtown, until we decided to move to Philadelphia a year and a half ago. We moved here for the standard of living when our daughter was one, before our son was born. Life is easier and nicer here.

“In Love Park we saw a Santa Claus — with no line of kids! In New York that would have taken an entire day. We talk to our neighbors and know them all. I can be downtown in 17 minutes. I commute to New York every week. It’s just an hour-and-a-half from the Upsal Station to Penn Station in New York if you switch to the Amtrak Keystone in North Philly. My parents love the convenience and the space when they visit. And the restaurants and Philadelphia. When we first moved in, they would say they were coming for the weekend, but they come now for 10 days.”

• Maurice Sampson, 59, Gorgas Lane: “I spent my teenage years in Cherry Hill. My father went there for the schools, but it wasn’t a good trade-off. I didn’t realize until later how isolating that was. I had friends even then from Mt. Airy and was so envious. I was active, chair at Lutheran Church youth league, president of my sophomore class. There were very few black students in Cherry Hill East. It was the peak of the white flight era. I lived in a Jewish neighborhood, which helped because there was acceptance living there, but it was confusing.

“My wife and I moved to Philadelphia in ’85, when I was the city’s recycling coordinator. And to Mt Airy in ’87. In Cherry Hill, there were some neighbors on that block I never met. I know everybody in my neighborhood now. We talk, we party and help each other. I came to Springboard Studio today. It has a Buddhist-based meditation, but they don’t ask you to be a Buddhist. It’s a community too. Last Friday, my wife and I went to Walk A Crooked Mile, the bookstore, for the concert there. It feels more like an extended family here. That’s the crux of it.”

• Lucia Rosenberg, 56, Business organization consultant: “Start with my block: The Strawbridge sisters lived here. Cross the street: the first black woman attorney in Pennsylvania. Another neighbor’s yard has a CSA garden (community supported agriculture]. A Tuskegee airman was my neighbor; he died last year. The Furtmans who lived across the street for many years were international Alexander Technique instructors. The Wissahickon bird sanctuary, free golf at the public course, baseball, horseback, bicycle trails, running trails. Old houses and older trees. Diverse socioeconomic community: professionals, tradesmen, alternative care providers, black, white, Asian. Ethnic restaurants and so much more.”

• Molly Shanahan, 44, Doctoral student, dance, Temple University: “The quiet was stunning when I moved here two years ago from Chicago — just the cicadas, the birds and the crickets. I find that soothing and magical and unexpectedly important. I was a little worried about feeling anonymous. I’m an introvert. And yet I see familiar faces every day, and I love that. From my first week, I started seeing people who became familiar, like I recognized you. That’s very welcoming after making a move in mid-life. It’s corny, but I like the quaintness of the local train station. It’s a big shift from the L in Chicago, which was more urban, active and impersonal. I walk in Carpenter Woods twice a day. I’ve never lived in a place that felt so much like a community. The diversity, I absolutely love it. I don’t know that the rigors of school would be as possible if I didn’t live in a place so conducive to sanity.”

• Jonathan Singer, 43, Social work professor, Temple University: “I love that Mt Airy makes my life as a parent of small children very easy. There are tons of playgrounds, lots of other families with small kids who have similar values and parenting styles. The businesses in the ‘four corners’ [Greene Street & Carpenter Lane] are family-friendly, invested in creating a community, which is nicer than just having a house on a block in a neighborhood. When I lived in Austin, Texas, I had to walk two miles to get to the nearest sidewalk. Here there’s a grocery, coffee shop, dry cleaners. We listen to samba drumming on Sunday. I absolutely use the acupuncture. The bookstore has a different feel than the coffee shop. It wouldn’t be the same block if they weren’t all there. What makes it great is that it has nothing to do with money.”

• Kelly Tannen, 45, Freelance grant writer for arts organizations and President, Henry School PTA: “My husband got a job in Philadelphia in 2003. My first five years here, I was director of development at the Village of Arts and Humanities in North Philadelphia. We are a one-car family, and Rob could take the train to work in Center City. He recently changed jobs. Now he can bicycle to work in Manayunk. We walk to get groceries or pet food at the Co-op, meet someone at the coffee shop and to the bookstore. We love our library (Lovett). It’s part of the girls’ lives. When I grew up in Canton, Ohio, we only had a bookmobile in the summer.

“We still go back to the block party on our old block. There are so many kinds of houses and gardens in the neighborhood. I never even heard of co-operative day care or schools before I moved here…”