by Pete Mazzaccaro

It’s no secret that Philadelphia has a reputation for being less than resourceful when it comes to snow removal. While main streets tend to be kept clear, those who live on side streets are lucky if a plow ever comes near the snow as it piles up in front of their homes. Even one week after the storm of Thursday, Feb. 13, these streets were lucky to have two tire-sized clearings, enough for a single car to navigate.

Last week saw this play out in different ways in Chestnut Hill.

Take the front page article by Paula Riley. It relates how the Chestnut Hill Business Association convinced the Streets Department to remove tons of snow and ice from the parking lanes on both sides of Germantown Avenue and Bethlehem Pike. It was a much-needed relief from a situation in which many businesses had no street parking – this was particularly troublesome for those businesses below Southampton Avenue, where there are no close Parking Foundation lots.

The Chestnut Hill Business Association deserves a ton of credit for making this happen. It’s precisely what a good, functioning business association is supposed to do. It delivered a service to its constituents.

It’s too bad residents far away from the Avenue don’t wield the same amount of influence.

Take Alice Farley, of St. Andrews Road, a wide, leafy street overlooking the greens of Philadelphia Cricket Club’s golf course in West Chestnut Hill. Although St. Andrews is a wide street, with hardly anyone parked on it, Farley reported not seeing a single plow truck this winter. Her neighborhood of St. Andrews, Glen Gary Drive, West Gravers and Hartwell lanes was largely impassible. Last week, her trash had not been collected in three weeks. Her mail was often not delivered.

“Imagine if there were an emergency – a fire or a burglary – how would anyone be able to get here?” she asked. “It’s ridiculous.”

I took a drive through her neighborhood late last week, about 12 hours after Streets Department crews had finished removing snow on Germantown Avenue. Some homes had clearly paid private contractors to plow their driveways and their sections of the road. Other long swaths of St. Andrews were tough to traverse, with two narrow ruts – enough for one car to travel safely. At one point a car coming the other way forced me to drive up on a small iceberg and back down so it could pass.

Farley’s well-placed frustration is that there doesn’t seem to be much she can do about it. She’s called 311 and has gotten nowhere. The response appears to be that the city just doesn’t have the resources to plow her street – or many other streets that are too far from the main corridors of the city to warrant regular snow removal.

So what’s a taxpaying citizen to do? Farley said she wasn’t sure what to do. Paying her own plow service so she could use a public street and get regular postal and trash service didn’t seem right to her. After living in her home for 36 years, there’s a certain amount of city services one should be able to expect. A plow every so often is one of them.