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Report on Dec 4, 2018 Meeting with Streets Department and Representatives of Historic Streets (Jan 21, 2018)
On December 4th representatives of Quince Street and Hutchinson Street (200 blocks), including the Philadelphia Society of Small Streets (PSSS) met with the representatives of the Streets Department and Councilman Squilla’s staff to discuss the funding and restoration of historically designated streets. (see participants’ list below)
In 1999, twenty years ago, the historic streets restoration program began (aka, Philadelphia Historic Street Paving Thematic District). It was in recognition of the important cultural and civic role Philadelphia’s historic streets play in the fabric of city life. Since that time, several streets have been restored. However, the program has not kept up with the demand or safety concerns. Currently, there are five high value streets on the Historic Streets Inventory that need immediate restoration due to unsafe conditions, heavy pedestrian use, and their historic value.
Designated historically certified streets in urgent need of restoration:
- 200 block of Quince Street
- 2400 block of Panama Street
- 200 block of Hutchinson Street, plus intersecting Manning Street and Bonaparte Court
The representatives of the Streets Department explained that historically designated streets are an ‘unfunded mandate’, although funds are normally set aside on a yearly basis for the restoration program. That said, Streets indicated that this year there will be no funding. Grants, for which the Streets Department has applied and been approved for, have thus far favored major streets and intersections (Thomas Paine Place and Mermaid Lane), but not small neighborhood streets.
However, Streets indicated that there may be funds left over from other projects which could be used. In addition, Councilman Squilla has access to funds, some of which could be directed toward historic street restoration. Overall, the situation looks bleak financially for the small historic streets, which could consign residents to unsafe living conditions without an end in sight.
Stephen Lorenz indicated that the next street to be restored is Waverly Street, 1400 block, between 15th and Carlisle Streets, as the Streets Department has located the blue stones in Europe that are needed to repair the street. Although the resident attendees appreciated the need to secure the blue stones, Lynn Landes (PSSS) expressed deep concern for Quince, Hutchinson, and other historic streets that are more deserving and in desperate need of restoration. She compared them to Waverly, a short dead end street that is mainly used as an alley for non-descript apartment buildings and is without any historical importance, charm, houses, or serious safety concerns.
Regarding the 200 block of Quince Street, specifically, it is one of Philadelphia’s most filmed and photographed historic streets. Here are some links on Quince Street:
- Octavius V. Cattoo, A Legacy for the 21st Century. Film. Quince Street is featured at about the 10 minute mark - There is a labor rally in the episode "Disorder" that takes place there, and the Octavius Catto fight scene in "An Equal Chance" also takes place on Quince. https://www.historymakingproductions.com/philadelphia-the-great-experiment-2 // also see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Octavius_Catto_
Rich Spitzburg and Lynn Landes raised concerns about several areas of serious subsidence on Quince Street, some of which caused $5800 of damage to the Landes’s car in November of 2018. She also said that another resident of Quince Street has a security camera that has caught multiple cars being damaged and losing parts on Quince Street.
Nancy Sen said that the Landes’s could file a claim with the city, which they want to do. However, Steven Lorenz also suggested that if the safety concerns were that serious and needed immediate attention, covering the street with asphalt was an option that the Streets Department could pursue, as they did with Camac (the wood) Street.
It was a disturbing response that could be used against the residents of any historically designated street, if they complained too much about safety concerns.
This situation puts the Landes’s in a quandary. They want to file a claim, but do not want to trigger the asphalting of Quince Street. Mrs. Landes said that closing Quince Street to traffic would be her suggestion, before more vehicles are damaged. But, it was also pointed out that some residents with SUVs, or cars whose undercarriages are not so close to the road, might object to the closing.
Rick and Lynn also raised the issue of possible water or sewer leaks on Quince Street, and that the Water Department should conduct a thorough survey of the street. The Streets Department agreed that if a water main leak is involved, then the Water Company could also be a source of funding, as it was with the Philip Street (300 block) restoration in 2018. Stephen Lorenz said that they would contact the Water Department about Quince Street.
In conclusion, the following issues and actions were discussed:
- Insufficient funds available to restore and make safe some of Philly most charming historic streets
- Make the historic streets a “funded” mandate
- Streets to contact the Water Department to thoroughly inspect Quince Street for leaks
- Assurance from the Streets Department that the Landes’s can file their claim without fear that it will trigger the asphalting of Quince Street
- Make Quince Street next on the list to be restored, and perhaps closing Quince Street, not paving it over
The Philadelphia Society of Small Streets
- Rick Spitzburg, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Lynn Landes, email@example.com
- Linda Hahn, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Ellen Trappey, email@example.com
- Richard Montanez, Richard.Montanez@phila.gov (Deputy Streets Commissioner, Lighting & Maintenance)
- Stephen Lorenz, Stephen.Lorenz@phila.gov (Chief Engineer, Historic Streets)
- Nancy Sen, Nancy.Sen@phila.gov Director, Transportation Planning & Analysis
- Patrick O'Donnell, firstname.lastname@example.org, Manager, Right of Way for the Streets Department
- Leo Procopio, Leo.Procopio@phila.gov Councilman Mark Squilla’s staff, Constituent Services Representative