Not One of Us: the Fallser Phenomenon at McMichael

One interesting revelation from this week’s McMichael Playground debate at Gustine Rec Center: I don’t think we’re fighting about a playground, guys. 

EastFallsLocal Youll Ruin the Park

UPDATE 2017:  McMichael Park’s playground has been green-lit & funded but the controversy continues with anonymous “Save Our Park” signs and bickering on Nextdoor.

ORIGINAL POST June 30, 2016:

This is NOT another point/counterpoint on McMichael. Well, it is but not right now. I need to address some Fallsers, first, please.

Look, I get it:  I wasn’t born here, I am not a “real” Fallser, despite what I like to call the “marketing definition” — the noun local writers use to refer to its region’s inhabitants:  Angelinos, Parisians, Manhattanites, and my personal favorite,  “the Dutch” — that article in front, like they’re all one big family with the same last name. So adorable.

EastFallsLOcal parkside elementary text

All local demographics have some sort of geographically-related name for the folks living there.  As someone who’s moved around a bit, I’ve been a “Parksider,” a “Hill Topper,” an “Old Towner,” and now, to my thinking, I’m a “Fallser:”  I live in the East Falls section of Philadelphia.

TRUE STORY:  It had never in my 45+ years of life occurred to me to get possessive over any of those terms.

Then, I moved to East Falls.

How long was I here, a month? Two? Not long at all. I forget the specifics, but I’m in a bar (of course I am) and some dude is explaining  you’re only a Fallser if you’re born and raised here. Like, physically BORN here at Women’s Medical/MCP, now closed, so if you ask around there’s actually some disagreement whether any truly “authentic” Fallsers have been born since. I am not making this up.

I am, however, generalizing horribly.

EastFallsLOcal happy fallser collage

To be clear, most “old-school” Fallsers I’ve met have been warm, open-hearted, salt-of-the-earth folks — usually with a myriad of fascinating interests and colorful stories. I cannot say enough how deeply we both appreciate the character of this neighborhood, a true product of the people here. 

Linda Norris, Joe Boyle, Rich Gardner, Liz McFarlane, Joe Roberts… too many shout-outs to mention from Fallsers who’ve insisted if you’ve lived here a minute, you’re a Fallser to them! Still… they know about the rules. Everyone does.

And for those who follow the rules, it’s very black & white: Fallser & squatter.

EastFallsLocal text Fallser squatter maternity

No use trying to Velveteen Rabbit your way into Fallserdom, either. I’ve met grandmothers, married into the area many decades ago, who cheerfully allow they’re still squatters even though their children are full-on Fallsers. Evidently, no amount of love, respect, or generosity can transform a non-native into a “real” Fallser.

Likewise, no amount of effort, expense, or kindness can turn the hearts of “true” Fallsers who can never appreciate that someone not born & bred here should have any say in the community. 

How can new neighbors who seek a centrally-located playground expect any sort of compromise?

EastFallsLocal anti collage

Seriously — how? I’m not kidding, I want to know.  Cause to me, the Fallsers  (or sympathizers, I don’t know everyone’s birthright but at this point it’s an attitude) speaking last night against a playground at McMichael are not seeking compromise, and are not open to sharing even a tiny sliver of their park.

Seems to me many here will spread fallacies, plant fears, exaggerate the truth, and even suggest their neighbors are racist, or unworthy– rather than share prized public resources. And I just don’t know what to do with this bullshit, in all honesty.

Lemme try…

EastFallsLocal 5-11 McMichael proposed playground area far survey behind text

At the meeting, the vast majority of the arguments against a McMichael playground were based on the full-blown fallacy that such a structure would be the end of natural play in the park — as if all the trees, sticks, and rocks will *poof* disappear if you designate less than 2% of 6-acres near a busy bus stop for a playground WHERE THERE ALREADY IS A MAN-MADE STRUCTURE ANYWAY.

Just stop it with this already. You’re not fooling anyone.

Friends president Alexis Franklin suggested they didn’t have funds to support a playground, which ironically was also an argument the Playgrounders used to underscore how McMichael Park could use extra help from parents who would be thrilled to contribute to upkeep, and promote events that would help fund pet projects such as restoring the War Memorial.  So, checkmate there, guys.

Another bizarre echo of neighbors against a playground:  teenagers will vandalize it. Really? That’s why we shouldn’t have a playground — because we’re daunted by kids with 40’s and magic markers? I can’t even.

EastFallsLocal turtles around phila parks collage

“Friends” supporters also loved pointing out there are other playgrounds in East Falls — as if these parents seeking a playground at McMichael are just not aware of McDevitt or Inn Yard.

Are you guys even listening?!  The proposal is for a playground at McMichael. Yes there are other playgrounds here just as there is pastoral space in the nearby Wissahickon. Neither fact is germane to the discussion at hand. This thread is dead, guys, leave it be.

“But WE didn’t need a playground, and WE raised kids here!”

How can you argue with that? When a person honestly thinks that their experiences should shape your reality — how is a reasonable, respectful discussion possible?


*INCLUDES INTERPRETIVE SUBTITLES!*

And how can you expect reason from folks who will pretty much lose it in public over a playground? Beth Gross-Eakins huffed in her presentation that such a amenity at McMichael would take resources from Mifflin but she’s wrong! Parks & Rec’s money is entirely separate from public school system funds.

And Mifflin is already getting a whole landscaping redesign, thanks to grants from the Community Design Collaborative and the Philly Water Dept. The project includes a playspace for students, funded by the Philly School District.

Where would PPR pull money from, for a McMichael playground? The soda tax!  Again — building a playground at McMichael doesn’t rob from Mifflin. To suggest otherwise is just plain false. Kinda shocked that, as an educator, Beth doesn’t know this…


*MORE INTERPRETIVE SUBTITLES!*

Also shocking: this adorable grandpa stood up and essentially called the parents who want a McMichael playground spoiled racist yuppies! These white people don’t deserve a place for their kids to play, not when non-white kids don’t feel welcome here.

I see… but when McDevitt was overhauled, that was great for the community (North Philly, who?). And where were all these poverty advocates when Tree Tenders accepted a $1000 grant last May? Shouldn’t that money go to urban neighborhoods who could use that money towards greenery and equality for all there?

Ooh! Do you think when the Historical Commission gives Friends of McMichael a grant to restore the War Memorial, they’ll instead give it over to RAH for their pocket park on Allegheny?  I have a feeling Rose Cooper‘s not holding her breath…

A favorite twist of the evening:  one of the Friends presenters actually wound up arguing *FOR* the playground when he said he’d support a natural artistic play space at McMichael but unfortunately Parks & Rec has restrictions against wood or and other organic materials.

Commissioner Lovell quickly corrected him: nope, Parks & Rec does NOT have any such regulations.  Welcome to Team Playground, Brendan!

We hope Curtis Jones’ plan to sit down with “three from one side, three from the other” leads to a breakthrough rather than a another rundown of the same stupid arguments we are all tired of entertaining. Curtis, don’t let these hard-line Fallsers gaslight you.

EastFallsLOcal text Alexis Franklin McMichael pic face

They’re fascinating, though. Friends of McMichael has no non-profit status, and its admissions process is secretive & selective. I love how they claim to know what’s best for the whole community, while refusing to recognize the majority of us. (Especially curious, since Alexis — as many have pointed out — does not even live here anymore.)

That “Fallser” thing, again… And no matter how much sense these playground proponents make — no matter how natural and aesthetic their design, nor how many neighbors are on board — these “true” Fallsers will continue to distrust & disrespect non-natives, and oppose any changes on principle.

Thanks, guys. Your park needs help and there’s a crowd of new blood who’s dying to get involved, if only you’d learn to compromise, and play well with others.

Hey! Maybe you guys could’ve used a playground growing up?! Just sayin’…  😉

 

BUT WAIT! THERE’S MORE!  Since Joyce & Tennyson’s Powerpoint presentation is available online, instead of repeating it, here Dr. Kate Avitabile, pediatric cardiologist at St. Christopher’s Hospital, and an associate professor at Drexel College of Medicine. Kate’s also an East Falls mom who’s concerned about convenient, accessible playgrounds for special needs families, particularly.

Kate proposes that a thoughtful, centrally-located playground in a highly-visible location like McMichael (perhaps with a walkway for strollers/wheelchairs) would be a huge selling point for the neighborhood, and help create an inclusive space where every family can fully and openly participate.

EastFallsLocal turtles playground presenter collage text

ADDITIONAL READING: Judy Gotwald (Town News Today) is on fire! Her spin on what went down includes both recap and editorial:

Residents Stand-off Ever So Politely in McMichael Park   East Falls residents filled the bleachers at Gustine Recreation Center to debate playground issues… 

Small Town Life: The Way it Was vs The Way It Is  The evening reverberated with two ideas. The way East Falls was vs the way it is and could be…

EastFallsLocal audience member support playground collage txt

Annnd a Philly.com article that tries hard to make both sides seem equally reasonable — scroll down to COMMENTS for a whole lotta deliciousness (I wouldn’t look if I were a McMichael speaker, though).

OH NO HE DI’INT: Penn Street resident Chris McCabe shared some interesting documents he received as a result of  his “Right to Know” request with the City of Philadelphia (he filed it to determine who the members are of the Friends of McMichael. And who are these members, voting against a playground?).

DON’T JUST SIT THERE — SIGN SOMETHING!

As a child-free couple, ordinarily we’d have no interest in new playground facilities. But at this point, we’ve heard no good reasons why not to acquiesce such a small & already-developed slice of park to these parents — who, by the way, really want to work with the community on something unique & artistic (killing us, that something as pleasant as a playground can tear friends & neighbors apart). 

Petition to SAY YES to a natural playground.

Petition to SAY NO to a playground here. (If you’ve got a good reason we haven’t answered here, by all means lay it on us in the comments below or email us privately if that’s more your jam, thanks!)

I GUESS WE’RE POSTING IT ANYWAY…  We’ve been asked to throw up some of Joyce & Tennyson’s presentation, so here’s what we’ve got off the first camera. If we get anything off Steve’s, we’ll add it too.


INTRO


INCLUDES TIME LAPSE OF MCMICHAEL (same half hour in the AM over several days, just one lone dog walker)


WRAP UP

FYI: we’re using old point-n-shoots cause that’s what we’ve got — we’re open, of course, to better equipment/more skilled operators if anyone wants in on this sweet gig. 

 

31 Comments

  • Chris McCabe

    As always, great post!

    Here is my initial reaction to the presentation of Alexis Franklin, coordinator (1990-2016) of the Friends of McMichael Park. (I assume there is more that was said than what was in the video, but I don’t have good notes, so I can only address what is in the video and a remark that was reported by Judy Gotald). I’ve already responded to Ms. Franklin’s May 14 Friends letter on these pages, so I hope I’m not repeating myself too much. (I don’t even know how to respond to Mr. Rabinowitz’s rant, so I’ll just let it hang out there all by itself like a festering, open sore.)

    In her presentation, Ms. Franklin states that the Friends have evolved over time and that way back when they made good use of the McMichael Park with their friends, raising their kids and now their grandkids, bringing their bikes and strollers to the park, meeting Philly U students in the park, meeting others in the neighborhood and from outside the neighborhood, and greeting “of course, the turtle.” (“Ah, but I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now”-B. Dylan.)

    She notes that the beloved turtle (“Morton”) dates back to 1965 and is one of the few remaining turtles from that time period (as if, what, we’re supposed to applaud that it has lasted that long and what does this have to do with a playground in the park anyway?). She boasts that the Friends take from their own “treasury” for park upkeep, like pruning. She laments the fact that there are insufficient funds for the restoration of the War Memorial that was installed in 1948. She complains that there are so many more chores in the park than the Friends can ever begin to handle on their own. And she finally ends with a comment about “no fences, no walls, no gates, no keys” (a classic straw man argument if I ever did see one).

    So she was young and now she’s old. Ok, but will a playground prevent anyone from enjoying the park as she and her cohort of Friends did in the 1990s and 2000s? Not at all. The park (90-95%) will still be there for her and the Friends to enjoy, and for others as well who want their kids to enjoy some “unstructured” play in a nature’s play space without resorting to a pesky man-made structure (well, I hope they walk to the park and don’t drive there in one of those pesky man-made cars that the Friends all drove to Gustine Recreation Center).

    So the War Memorial needs restoration? Ok, but will a playground prevent the War Memorial from being restored? Of course not. In fact, a playground might even help generate a new constituency of park users who could be solicited by the Friends for funds to upkeep the park and restore the War Memorial. Of course, I won’t give a dime to the Friends until they incorporate as a 501(c)(3), define membership criteria, and create a community-based governing board with a clear leadership succession plan.

    The Friends has a treasury (how does it have a treasury when it is not a 501(c)(3) entity and who holds the treasury anyway?). That’s great, and thank you to the Friends for volunteering in the park, but will a playground affect the treasury of the Friends? Nope. No one is asking the Friends to dip into its treasury to pay for the playground.

    So the turtle is now 51 years old! That’s an interesting factoid, but will a playground eliminate the beloved turtle (who even knew it had a name??! – I’ve lived here 18 years and no one ever told me its name was Morton)? Absolutely not. I am sure that Parks & Recreation would be more than happy to incorporate Morton the turtle into the landscaping for a new playground.

    So, it seems that the Friends have lots of chores (well, maybe they need to do a better job of recruiting more members!). Will a playground increase the chores of the Friends? No, as no one has asked the Friends to become stewards of the playground.

    And as for Ms. Franklin’s complaints about the Friends’ chores, it’s hard to have much sympathy when the Friends have been around for 26 years (1990-2016), but are still somehow fixed at a core group of 20 or so members (their Parks & Recreation registration form states that Friends have 45 members, but who are the other 25 members?). Besides, no one really knows how to join the Friends (their Facebook page has no “sign up” or “join” button and their other Facebook closed group page has only seven members), the Friends do not have a formal governing structure or leadership succession plan, and the Friends’ history of non-compromise on a playground has likely turned off many residents of East Falls who might otherwise have been willing and generous volunteers (why would someone volunteer for the Friends when they have been led by the same person for 26 years, when volunteering is not a clear path to membership with all the privileges that membership entails, such as a vote on a playground, and when the Friends are unwilling to listen to fair suggestions about other inherently compatible uses of the park, such as a playground?).

    Finally, Ms. Franklin loudly proclaims: “no fences, no walls, no gates, no keys.” That’s great sounding rhetoric. But the playground at Cloverly Park has no fence, and it works just fine as it is. And no one has proposed a wall, a gate, or a key. So what was her point anyway? It was a classic straw man argument, not worth the paper it was written on. The supreme irony in her comment is that it is Ms. Franklin and her Friends, not the parents who want a playground, who have figuratively fenced and walled off the park from those who want to make it better for the whole community.

    So, tell me then, what is the objection of Ms. Franklin and the Friends to a playground in McMichael Park? I did not hear one, at least not one that made any sense.

    Thank you.

  • Jake

    We dont want the park.There are other parks local that can be fixed up.(Mcdevetts).Put the money towards fixing that up.There is plenty of parking an its alot less dangerous.When i say dangerous i mean not heavy traffic like Henry Ave and Midvale Avenue.Its safer for the kids.

    • Carolyn Fillmore

      Thank you! Yes, this makes all the sense in the world: “we don’t want the park,” which as far as I’m concerned is the only valid reason I’ve heard for voting against a playground at McMichael. And it’s totally cool if the community rejects the idea based on preference alone. But that’s not what’s happening here, right? Nearly 10 to 1 East Fallsers who signed petitions about a McMicahel playground support it.

      To my thinking, the fair & respectful action by those not wanting a park (aka, the underdogs in this situation) would be to negotiate with the majority of the neighborhood so that the playspace created will be something everyone can live with. “No” is not a compromise, is it?

    • Judith Gotwald

      I agree that crossing Henry or Midvale needs to be made more safe. I tried to cross with a group of children recently and the cross time is only about 16 seconds. But this is a problem that can be fixed—not a reason to deny the neighborhood use of public space.

  • Juliet

    I have had so many thoughts swirling in my head about the playground conversation since the meeting, but I’d just like to comment right now on the idea that we should be satisfied with McDevitt. Um, sorry — but no. All due respect to the people who lobbied to get the playground equipment replaced (to whom I am certainly thankful), but the place itself is a disgrace — for reasons that have nothing to do with the playground itself, and which are, unfortunately, completely intractable.

    Where to begin? The horrible bridge over Route 1 where I’m convinced someday there will be someone waiting to mug me hiding on the other side? Or the fact that once we run that gauntlet, we get the pleasure of hearing the whine of motorcycles and breathing in the fumes from the highway the entire time we’re playing there? Or the fact that the rec center building looks like a disgrace, there’s deteriorated asphalt everywhere you look (hello heat island effect), and the empty post-apocalyptic looking EPPI looms over you in the distance? I mean, maybe I’m oversensitive being a designer by trade, but the ugliness of this place on multiple levels thoroughly depresses me each time I’m there, making me wish I could live anywhere but East Falls. And to face that alone most of the time, without the sound of children playing to drown out the sound of the highway? It’s a sure-fire way to make me angry at the world.

    Is it any wonder parents don’t want to linger at this place any longer than they have to?

    I’m tired of hearing that this $#%@-hole at the margins is good enough for East Falls’ kids when there is a relative oasis at the center of the neighborhood that is completely underused. Maybe if the kids could play (moving freely from more structured play equipment to unstructured play, as my son often does) under the trees, in a pleasant, centrally located place, both kids and parents alike could build stronger relationships in this neighborhood.

    • Chris McCabe

      Thank you Juliet for your thoughtful and insightful comments. They are spot on.

      I have been saying this all along throughout this silly debate – just answer this question and honestly – would you rather take your kids or grandkids to a playground located in a tree-shaded, grassy centrally-located park, that also has options for “unstructured” play, or to a playground located at the far edges of the community and planted in the middle of an asphalt and concrete parking lot without trees or shade?

      McDevitt is a sports and recreation center. It’s great for what it is, and it absolutely serves an important purpose for the community, but it is not a park in the center of the community. That’s what McMichael Park is, and that’s why McMichael Park deserves a children’s playground and why people want a playground in McMichael Park.

      And by the way, I did take my kids to McDevitt all the time when they were younger, so I can speak from experience about its location and how crossing the Route 1 pedestrian bridge and ending up in a secluded area would seem a bit dicey to anyone with young kids in tow.

  • Meredith

    Since this article’s purpose was to discuss being a true “Fallser” and all that entails in relation to the playground argument, I’d like to make one point that seems extremely relevant.

    Alexis Franklin, head of the Friends of McMichael, no longer lives in East Falls.

    • Carolyn Fillmore

      Very important point, thanks. Also, to be clear, we feel “Fallser” is as much an attitude as a birthright here.

  • Brian

    It’s a playground… what is the problem here? We are creating a space for kids to play, to meet other kids on a playground, and to grow their communication skills…… Take your emotion out of it…. and think for a second…. why this would be a bad idea? There has not been one valid reason as to why this playground can’t be built. This is about generations to come and growing a community with well rounded families; not your stagnant stubborn thoughts. Wouldn’t it be more fun to get to design a playground together for the community with picnic areas, grills, jungle gym, than complain about something you don’t want for some reason you can’t explain? Stop hindering progress and become a positive part of the process.

  • Gayle Griffith

    I live across from the area in the park where the playground is proposed. I am 67 years old and I welcome young families enthusiastically! We need to welcome change and to support young families in our neighborhood to keep it a thriving community.

  • Vicki

    Boy, am I glad my kids are grown. East Falls hasn’t changed much since I was born 62 years ago. It really never had too. I guess that’s why I lived here so long. I remember my mother telling me she protested the building of the twin bridges back in I believe 1959. Living on Krail Street when it went all the way down to Ridge Avenue at the time, my mother was told half her block would be eliminated and made into a dead end street. She was furious. When the dump trucks came to start digging she put my sisters playpen in the middle of Krail Street with my sister in it. Obviously she lost her battle and she still lives in the same house. I guess the moral of the story is sometimes you can’t always get what you want but you have to try at least. East Falls was a great place to grow up. Back then our kids would just tell us they were going to McDevitts. They were about 7 or 8 years old. Today’ you can’t let kids roam at that age.. It is very sad. As much as I love East Falls but I think about leaving just for a change. It really is for the young. There are only a few of us left on the block who are born and raised Fallsers. I really don’t know anyone anymore. My parents who were born and raised here too will die here like a true Fallsers, me I doubt it.

  • Chris McCabe

    Now, moving right along to Beth Gross-Eskin’s comments during the forum Q&A (by the way, she was one of the five designated speakers on the anti-playground contingent, so how was it that she also ended up at the microphone during the Q&A – seems like two bites at the apple if you ask me).

    So, her screed seems to boil down to this – that we in East Falls already have it all – parks, green space, nice houses, playgrounds, etc. – but North Philly has NOTHING, absolutely NOTHING. And until, I assume, North Philly gets its own playground in a nice park like McMichael Park, and all of the other great stuff that we already have, then East Falls will just have to wait its turn for a playground in McMichael Park.

    Actually, her argument is really quite silly and condescending, and I suspect that Ms. Gross-Eskin herself has done nothing concrete for North Philly (advocated or volunteered or contributed money) other than to use it as a cheap prop in her specious argument against a playground in McMichael Park. So, now these young parents are all suddenly part of the “entitled” bourgeois class because they want a playground for their children to enjoy in their centrally-located, taxpayer-funded, under-utilized public park? Please, give me a break.

    Never mind first that the debate here is not between a playground in North Philly and a playground in East Falls (thus what North Philly has or doesn’t have is irrelevant – otherwise we might as well discuss Northeast Philly and South Philly while we’re at it, right?), or second that Ms. Gross-Eskin’s argument seems to hold true only for a playground in McMichael Park.

    Does North Philly have a Christmas Carole Sing in a park? Nope, so no more Christmas Carole Sing in McMichael until North Philly gets one! Does North Philly have a flea market in a park? Nope, so no more flea market in McMichael until North Philly gets one! Does North Philly have a dedicated crew of tree tenders? Nope, so no more tree tenders until North Philly gets its own! Does North Philly have theatre in the park? Nope (or, at least I don’t think so), so no more theatre in the park until North Philly has it too! Does North Philly even have as nice and pastoral a park as McMichael Park? Not according to Ms. Gross-Eskin, so let’s close McMichael Park effective immediately, in protest and in solidarity with the poor folks of North Philly until they get their own park as nice as McMichael Park!

    But wait just a minute! Is Ms. Gross-Eskin really correct in her statement about North Philly? Doesn’t Hunting Park, south of Roosevelt Boulevard, count as being in North Philly? Because Hunting Park is a large, green and leafy park, and Hunting Park has a playground. Doesn’t Fernhill Park, on Wissahickon Avenue, count as being in North Philly? Because Fernhill Park is also a large, green and leafy park, and it has a playground too. Doesn’t East Fairmount Park count as being in North Philly? Because East Fairmount Park (very close to Strawberry Mansion) is definitely large, green and leafy, and it has the spectacular Smith Memorial Playground. Does Fotterall Square at 12th & W. Cumberland Streets count as being in North Philly? It’s a green, leafy square/park with a playground in the middle. Does Norris Square at Diamond and N. Hancock Streets count as being in North Philly? It’s also a green, leafy square/park with a playground in the middle as well. So, that’s five, count ‘em, five parks (!) in North Philly that are somewhat similar to McMichael Park (neighborhood parks) and each one has a playground! Looks like North Philly has East Falls beat by a long shot, and that Ms. Gross-Eskin just has her facts all wrong! Doesn’t surprise me.

    But you know what? If Ms. Gross-Eskin and her cohort of Friends truly cared about North Philly, they would join hands with the pro-playground folks to design and build a marvelous, destination-type children’s playground in McMichael Park – and then they would have a grand, ribbon-cutting ceremony where they would invite all of the poor, disadvantaged, and deprived kids from North Philly (who they so care about and who, let’s remember, have NOTHING, just NOTHING!) to come up to East Falls and play in the new playground. After all, there’s no reason why the kids from North Philly (and our surrounding neighborhoods of Germantown, Mt. Airy, Roxborough, and Manayunk), as well as the kids waiting after school for the SEPTA buses at the corner of Henry & Midvale, aren’t perfectly welcome to come to East Falls to sit or stroll in our beautiful McMichael Park and to play on its new playground. But I won’t hold my breath waiting for that to happen.

    Thank you.

    • Carolyn Fillmore

      You are correct, sir! The “Fallser” thing was just a literary device to open the conversation. I agree 100% that it’s unfair of me to generalize here but so many ridiculous arguments are being seriously entertained I thought I’d add my own in to mix things up. FYI this is how it looks from outside in — EF is getting tagged as a racist & exclusionary in Philly.com articles and other online forums. My rant here is a call for everyone to take a good hard look at themselves. Thank you for addressing this!

  • Sue P

    Non Fallsers are Squatters?! Where do you get this stupid stuff? I’ve lived in the Falls for 41 years and never heard this word used in this way.

    Squatter: noun
    1. a person or thing that squats.
    2. a person who settles on land or occupies property without title, right, or payment of rent.
    3. a person who settles on land under government regulation, in order to acquire title.

    • Carolyn Fillmore

      Thanks, Sue, I see that my “Fallser” argument struck the chord I was seeking! You’re right — it’s not airtight, and really it’s not even a valid position (not all those in favor/against are Squatters/Fallsers, of course). I was using my experiences/observations about “Fallserdom” in a literary way (the second definition: “having a marked style intended to create a particular emotional effect”).

      I wanted to take a shot at a new angle to rehash the ridiculous old arguments we’ve heard on this playground: cold water in the face, maybe?

      PS I am honestly amazed you’ve never encountered the Fallser/Squatter thing here but, for both me & Steve, it’s been a learning process. I agree with you it’s stupid, though.

    • Kathy

      Garnering strength in numbers, to oppose a community play space, from a “Fallser” who has migrated to Center City pours gasoline on the “stupid stuff” fire, does it not?

      I grew up across the street from a beautiful park, twice the size of McMichael Park, and I would never weigh in on what the current community should or should not with their beautiful community space. Why would I do that?

      My life is here now. Emphasis on “here.” Emphasis on “now.”

  • MorganB

    OK, it’s time for another one of my drunken rants. Pardon any spelling or syntax errors – I’m pretending to be all sophisticated and stuff here…..

    Being the evil, racist double-plus bad unperson that I am:

    http://authorlarrybenjamin.blogspot.com/2016/05/racism-wearing-new-hat-rears-its-ugly.html

    , I feel especially qualified to comment on Mr. Rabinowitz’s vomitous display of what can only be described as the textbook definition of projection. He means to paint those of us who are in favor of a playground of being “racists”, while pretending as if his opposition is entirely based on some imagined, heroic altruism on his part toward “people of color”. I will counter this ridiculous assertion with the charge that it is *he* who is afraid that these very same people might pollute his front yard, should a playground be installed there.

    Make no mistake – Just as those who protest homosexuality a bit too forcefully tend more often than not to be closeted gays, those who obsess over racism also tend to be closeted racists themselves. You must ask yourself why he’s so preoccupied with race and why he might actually oppose the erection of a playground so close to his front door (and what would motivate him to prepare THAT speech). I think the answer is hidden in plain sight.

    In his “believable” anecdote, he would actually have us believe that he approached some “children of color” with an offer to fill their water bottles and then to come over to play with his grandchildren. When, in the entire history of the universe, has this ever actually happened? And for that matter, when has anybody at or around Cloverly Park ever offered some of their pet “children without color” with a water bottle refill?

    This is beyond stupid.

    Why was he so concerned about black people feeling welcome in McMichael. I ask him: Why do you not have similar feelings of concern for white people feeling welcome at Cloverly park?

    My advice to Mr. Rabinowitz: Never go full retard.

  • Dick Birpz

    Here’s the formula straight from the NIMBY playbook:

    1: Pretend as if you are heroically defending “pastoral” space (which just happens to be right outside your front door) for ALL to enjoy. Never mind that almost nobody will actually visit such a beloved space – of course this is the real object but let’s not say that out loud!

    2: If #1 fails to gain traction, move on and pretend it’s all about protecting the environment. Be sure to include some technical-sounding gobbledygook about the heat island effect (throw in some climate change rhetoric for good measure) and make sure you sound believably authoritative on the subject (A certain Timber Lane resident is quite adept at this. You can learn from him). It can’t hurt to toss in a little blurb about protecting migratory birds and preserving the Praying Mantis population.

    3: Having failed to win the argument using #1 and #2, it’s time to pull that last arrow out of your quiver. At this point you are little more than a cornered rat, and must lash out with a Hail Mary. Be careful, though – you can really make a dick out of yourself here if it comes across as contrived (and it almost always does).

    What is this last arrow that I speak of? Racism, of course! The last refuge of a scoundrel! Make the accusation that your opponents are racist with the hope that they will retreat as their nutsacks shrivel up and fall off. Of course this tactic is losing potency with each attempt, so do try to use #1 and #2 to exhaustion before moving on to this nuclear option.

    4: You can always just admit that you’re scared of black people and that you’re worried a playground would be nothing more than a negro magnet. Everybody (including Curtis Jones – trust me he’s a smart guy and can read in between the lines) knows that this is why you’re so against the playground in the first place. You could save yourself quite a bit of trouble by bypassing the first three steps and going straight to step 4. (By the Way, this is a good example of how to accuse people of being racist without sounding phony about it.)

  • Chris McCabe

    So, a key question in this debate is, who are the Friends of McMichael Park?

    According to the sign-in sheet for the private vote held on May 10, 2016, by the Friends on the issue of a playground in McMichael Park (discussed in Alexis Franklin’s “open” letter of May 14 and published in these pages), we know that 21 persons attended the meeting. Ms. Franklin, the self-styled coordinator of the Friends, attended the meeting, but did not cast a vote. Bill Epstein, president of East Falls Community Council, was present and apparently voted in favor of a playground as a “private citizen,” but not as a member of the Friends. That leaves 19 members of the Friends who all voted against putting a playground in McMichael Park.

    Who are these folks and where do they live? I’ll leave their names out of it for now, but, thanks to the property search feature of the City of Philadelphia Office of Property Assessment, it’s possible to find out where they live in East Falls.

    Two (one household) live directly across from the park on the 3800 block of Henry Avenue. Five (three households) also live directly across from the park on the 3200 block of Midvale Avenue. According to information on Nextdoor (not OPA), I determined that another (one household) also lives directly across from the park on the 3200 block of W. Coulter Street. One (one household) lives close to the park on the 3900 block of Henry Avenue. Four (three households) live close to the park on the 3100 block of W. Coulter Street. Two (one household) live close to the park on the 3100 block of W. Penn Street. Two (one household) live close to the park on the 3300 block of W. Coulter Street. Two (one household) live far removed from the park on the private Timber Lane (where there is lots of green and quiet space for the homeowners there to enjoy).

    So that’s it folks. A total of 12 households (or homes) in East Falls, totaling 19 residents. That’s the Friends of McMichael Park, all against putting a playground in McMichael Park, though hardly representative of the East Falls community at large.

    PS. The official 2016 registration statement filed by the Friends with the City of Philadelphia Department of Parks & Recreation notes that there are 45 members of the Friends, but other than the 20 members identified on the May 10 meeting sign-in sheet, we don’t know who these other 25 members are. We also don’t know if they were invited to the May 10 meeting or if they were asked their views on a playground in McMichael Park.

    PPS. On May 23, 2016, the Friends had a private meeting with Barbara McCabe and Patty-Pat Kozlowski of Parks & Recreation, presumably to discuss the issue of a playground in McMichael Park. This meeting was attended by 15 members of the Friends, all of whom were present at the May 10 meeting. No notes of this May 23 meeting, other than a sign-in sheet, are known to exist. I, for one, would like to know what was discussed at this meeting between the Friends and Parks & Recreation.

  • MorganB

    I’d also like to respond to the charge that North Philly has NOTHING while we have everything.

    I was driving through Strawberry Mansion the other day, and noticed that there was a brand new Indego bike rental stand at 33rd and Diamond. Just two blocks further, there was yet another Indego stand at 33rd and Dauphin. “Yes, but those are supplied by a private company!”, some might counter.

    Moving forward to the public sphere….

    Just to the left of the Indego bike rental stand at 33rd and Dauphin was a very well maintained public swimming pool. People were swimming there and it looked like fun was being had by all! This was nothing like the post-apocalyptic wasteland of our imagination. Just to the side of the pool were also tennis courts that put McDevitt’s mothballed courts to shame. These courts actually had nets! There were no 18″ tall weeds in the courts! People were actually playing tennis there!

    Those POOR, POOR souls in North Philly! How did they ever survive if not for all of these upper-middle class White Knights in East Falls to bravely speak up for them! Thank heavens we have such high-minded, altruistic neighbors here in East Falls, where we have EVERYTHING!

    (OK Carolyn & Steve…. I’m done trolling your blog for now!)

  • Bree

    Hi Carolyn – I think you should fact-check some of your statements about Mifflin in this post. The CDC did donate time and intern resources to putting together a proposed cohesive *design* for the external land and concrete playspace at Mifflin. However – this is really important – there is no funding to actually implement the design! Friends of Mifflin and EFDC gathered a task force to weigh in with input for CDC’s design. My understanding is that a playground at Mifflin (as part of this overall design or even on its own) would be much appreciated by the students and staff.

    I am pro-playground at the Turtle Park (as my 5 year old calls McMichael) but it simply does not strike me as worthy of so much emotion, press, time and energy. I would love to see these passionate folks put their resources toward fighting for our local elementary school. Then we would may see young families stay here and not move to New Jersey or the suburbs.

    Ms. Roy, the science and writing teacher at Mifflin, has tried to raise money for laptops for the writing class at Mifflin. For anyone inclined to donate – here is the link:
    https://www.donorschoose.org/project/technology-for-the-future/1931014/
    Let’s try to make a difference in East Falls where it could have the biggest impact.

    • Carolyn Fillmore

      Thanks for chiming in! Sorry — yes lemme clarify. There’s a PWD grant to fund a complete re-landscaping of Mifflin’s area and I’d *thought* the playground was included but after checking with Gina Snyder, the playground here is supposed to be funded by Friends of Mifflin and the School District of Phila, with the CDC offering design input.

      • Bree

        Thanks Carolyn for clarifying. Gina may be more optimistic than I am. Friends of Mifflin does not have money in the till or an ability to raise funds for a playground. That would require buy-in and investment from the neighborhood residents. And can you really imagine the school district funding a playground at Mifflin? I am also skeptical that the PWD grant (do you know the dollar amount?) is sufficient to implement the types of designs considered by CDC.

        I am not trying to co-opt the thread here. After the pro-playground contingent is successful at McMichael (because it is just a matter of time), as the pre-schoolers and toddlers who use that playground grow to school age, I hope their parents will put some of the same energy and love toward the public school.

        I love East Falls – I have a fierce loyalty to this place and intend to stay. I most want to see investment from the community in education for our kids. I have been here for 5 years and it seems like we are going backward. Full disclosure – my daughter will not go to kindergarten at Mifflin – we got a space through the lottery at Green Woods Charter. I realize that could be read as hypocritical. One of the factors for me was the availability of outdoor space and exploration – such a huge part of early childhood development.

        Thanks for your views and opinions on East Falls happenings – you have undoubtedly opened a space for community discussion that was lacking. Keep up the good work.

        • Carolyn Fillmore

          Hello and thank you for your kind words and thoughtful comments. We agree that Mifflin needs help and that this PWD grant is not a magic bullet. Agree also that a playground at McMichael is a great “first step” towards more new families taking ownership of Mifflin. Oh by the way, we have had many frustrations with Mifflin/Friends of Mifflin — seems “not one of us” would apply in this instance, as well…

          More on this later, likely, but meanwhile a really good read: “How To Walk To School: Blueprint for a Neighborhood School Renaissance” which details how a group of concerned parents revitalized an under-resourced public Chicago public school (not thru charters or privatization, but partnerships with local businesses and community organizations). Many other schools have benefited from the ideas detailed in the book — could some of the changes happen here? I wonder.

          One thing that’s super-clear, though: individual donations and volunteers are never enough. If Mifflin’s ever going to really turn around, local leadership will need learn to ask for help, and reach out to every resource here (even the ones from people they don’t know or even personally like, eek!). These one-offs at crowd sourcing by teachers acting on their own is terribly inefficient — and kind of unfair, because now only those kids with motivated teachers get extras…? Sigh. I know, it’s complicated.

          A playground at McMichael, I believe, will be a step in the right direction. It’ll prove that enough of us can work together to accomplish goals. Here’s to neighborhood cooperation, thanks again for your input.

          PS I believe Gina provided the dollar amount of the grant in the video we have on our site (more details at least): https://vimeo.com/145811857

      • Gina Snyder

        Right now, we are doing landscaping planning. The funding for implementation will have to come later: the Friends of Mifflin are already seeking funds for the next steps. BTW, the Olin interns are working really hard this summer to produce a plan that is attractive and workable for the school. There will be an opportunity to look at the design in the Fall. See you then!!!

    • Steve Fillmore

      I agree it’s critical to have a good school as a backbone for the neighborhood — you can’t have a truly good community without one, but I think we need to have as many amenities (for lack of a better word) as possible to attract and keep families in the Falls — including a playground. I don’t think pushing that issue takes anything away from an effort to improve Mifflin.

      Why aren’t more people helping at Mifflin? Why do teachers have to go hat in hand to get basic necessities? We’re puzzling over how to address our experiences with Mifflin in a positive way. From our point of view, Principal Mason and the Friends of Mifflin seem as selective as the Friends of McMichael, as to who they allow to help (and how fiercely they’ll “bark off’ those they view as competition).

      For a quick litany, we’ve had backlash & obstruction just trying to write about Mifflin, or promoting their events. We’ve brought them willing donors & volunteers, who they’ve ignored. Before you claim they’re just “overwhelmed,” we have video of a prominent leader in the Mifflin community swearing at us in the street while he straps his kid into a car seat. https://vimeo.com/143908855

      That’s just the tip of our iceberg – others, too, have met frustration: EFDC, Trolley Car, Metro Presbyterian… snub after snub. And why didn’t the school apply for EFCC grant money last year? Still a mystery. http://www.eastfallslocal.com/sour-grapes-missed-opportunities-at-may-efcc-meeting/

      We are baffled that a school so clearly in need of help would ever dream of turning down volunteers and money that would have provided the kind of good press – and more importantly, the community engagement — so desperately needed.

      What else can we say? We’re trying. We’re hoping. But we’re not going to pretend that we’re all just arguing over children’s play equipment here.

      We’d like to write a post detailing all of our experiences (including supporting video/emails, etc.) but at this point, it’s hard to tell if attacking our public school would lead to improvement. But everyone reaches the end of their rope eventually. Stay tuned.

    • Chris McCabe

      Sorry, but respectfully, Mifflin, in my view, is not a viable or valid alternative to a public playground in McMichael Park. Mifflin is a school, yes public, but it is not a public park. A playground at Mifflin would be for its students primarily, and not for the community at large. The only setting for a playground at Mifflin is asphalt and concrete, not a green space with grass and trees. The community wants a playground at McMichael Park, not at Mifflin. It’s sort of like saying, well, let’s close the Falls of Schuylkill Library, since our resources are limited, and focus our fight for a better library at Mifflin. Obviously, the two are not the same, and similarly, a playground at Mifflin is not the same as putting a playground in McMichael Park.

      As for putting our resources “toward fighting for our local elementary school,” and “let’s try to make a difference in East Falls where it could have the biggest impact,” I’m sorry, but parents, myself included, who send (or sent) their children to elementary schools other than Mifflin (for a whole host of reasons, some religious, some other) may not necessarily view Mifflin as “our” local school. We all have enough on our plates as it is to support the schools we send our children to without having to worry about supporting a “local” school to which we may have only a tenuous connection. I support a playground at McMichael Park, and that is what this fight is all about. It’s not a fight about a playground at Mifflin, and dragging Mifflin into the current discussion is, in my view, a unnecessary distraction and a deflection. And so, I intend to focus my own resources on the fight for a playground in McMichael Park which I think will make a big impact for the families of East Falls and the community at large.

      Whether you like it or not, I don’t have a “dog in the fight” for a playground at Mifflin. I certainly do not, and would not ever, oppose a playground at Mifflin, and in fact I think that all schools should have playgrounds as a matter of course – but a playground at Mifflin is an issue for the school and its principal, for the parents of the children who attend Mifflin, for the Friends of Mifflin, and for the School District of Philadelphia. It’s not my issue or my fight.

  • Bree

    Carolyn – I will read that book! I recommend the recent NY Times Magazine article – http://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/12/magazine/choosing-a-school-for-my-daughter-in-a-segregated-city.html

    Steve – I agree with most of your points. I was livid about the missed grant in 2015. Lesson learned and Friends of Mifflin did apply for an EFCC grant this year. And let’s not over-emphasize one “fuck off” from a Philadelphian. 🙂 He’s not the only one to curse a blue streak while struggling with carseat buckles, and getting filmed in your everyday life could make a normal dude hostile. When people are passionate, they are not always as gracious as they might otherwise be.

    Have a great weekend and I look forward to more discourse.

    • Steve Fillmore

      EFCC grants is a good start. Re the “fuck off,” it wouldn’t be a problem if that was the only time. It’s one of many instances of rude behavior going back to the very first time we met him and he refused to shake our hands (and still to this day won’t say why). It also isn’t the first time we’ve run into community leaders who either refused to talk or were outright hostile (back to our point of excluding those who want to help). Sorry, but we can’t excuse that sort of behavior, especially when Mifflin and McMichael are at stake. Enjoy your weekend too! PS Thanks for the Times link.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *