streetscape

Posted by Ellen

All 1,903 pictures snapped for Philly Photo Day last month can now be viewed online. We've selected a few to post here from time to time, just to remind y'all that things were really jumping that day in the City of Brotherly Love.

Posted by Ellen

Picking up the pieces last summer in the plaza at downtown Seattle's Westlake Mall.

Posted by Ellen

Self-portrait of the artist as three young girls, in Athens, Greece.

Posted by Ellen

Around the middle of every October comes a day declared Philly Photo Day by the Philadelphia Photo Arts Center. Anybody who happens to be in Philly that day with any kind of camera, even a cellphone, is invited to submit a snapshot that captures a smidgen of what's going on, on that day, in this city.

The nineteen hundred photos turned in this year, for the fifth iteration of the event, will be displayed next April in the new Dilworth Park plaza at City Hall.

Above is Katrin Maldre's submission, showing the action behind the back counter at Gavin's Cafe in Fitler Square. Below is my entry, featuring Grand Opening balloons outside a new pet-supply store on South Street.

Posted by Ellen

The penthouse dilemma story in yesterday's Good Morning was evidently inaccurate and incomplete.

Among the dozens of onlookers who spent much of the day Saturday supervising the crane assembly and glass-lifting from the sidewalk was a neighbor, Carolyn, not pictured above, who had the real scoop.

The crane, she reports, arrived on seventeen tractor trailers. The guys assembling it say it's one of three of its kind in the entire country. 

And the glassworkers were from Local 252, not 262 as written in these pages.

Several commenters observed that the estimate of a quarter million dollars to pay for new windows was likely on the low side. They believe the actual expense could be two or even three times as high.

But the main thing is: a good time was had by all.

Posted by Ellen

This is the story we heard Saturday on the street. Of course, none of it is confirmed.

So. There's this guy who bought a penthouse atop a nice new condo tower on 18th Street, half a block north of Rittenhouse Square. His unit includes a nice big terrace that wraps around at least two sides of the building; his views must include virtually all of downtown Philadelphia and beyond. Expansive, and no doubt expensive.

But not good enough. He didn't like his windows, we're told. He wanted to replace them with better windows and, apparently, more windows. He wanted lots and lots of really, really big windows. Three long trailer trucks full of windows.

Problem was, the new windows wouldn't fit in the elevator to get them up to his penthouse.

He needed a crane, and not just any crane. To operate in the cramped confines of a narrow city street laid out in the days of William Penn, the crane had to lift glass straight up for hundreds of feet and then rotate without bumping into any of the buildings thereabouts and deposit the glass gently on the penthouse terrace. Vehicular traffic could be blocked during this process, but not pedestrian traffic; nearby businesses wanted to keep their doors open the entire time.

There were only three cranes on the east coast, we were told, that could handle this sort of job. One of them was hauled to Rittenhouse Square on Saturday morning. In pieces.

Another crane was needed to help put the big crane together. In case you were wondering, the pieces are held together with big cotter pins.

Police officers were needed to direct traffic around the closed-off block. City buses were rerouted and sometimes delayed, forced into attempting painstaking tight turns onto streets not really suitable for them.

Two large crews of workmen were on duty all day, a crew of heavy equipment guys and a crew of glaziers from Local 262.

So there's the cost of the new windows, and of a rare, expensive crane that had to be assembled by a second crane, plus three tractor trailers to haul in the windows, various vehicles to haul the parts of the cranes, two crews at union wages, lots of expensive permits to block a street and redirect traffic and park all the trucks all day . . . 

And then later, after all the new windows are up on the penthouse terrace, there will be the expense of removing the old windows, redoing the walls to accommodate the new windows, installing them . . . 

We were told $250,000. Does that sound right to you?

Posted by Ellen

The neighbors who live along the west side of a block of 21st Street near Kater had noticed that their cold water wasn't cold any more. Right out of the tap, it was hot; one of them took its temperature and found it feverish, over a hundred degrees, which is hot enough for a nice hot shower.

They called the water department, which promised to look into it. But the guys we talked to Friday morning who'd been sent to look into it might be described as less than entirely sympathetic. "They're getting free hot water," is how one of them put it. "Free hot water, and they're not happy."

The water guys suspected a leak in the steam line that runs under the sidewalk along 21st Street, which sounds like a dangerous situation, though nobody was acting particularly worried.

The guys from the steam company, on the other hand, suspected erosion under the sidewalk in the aftermath of a water main break a couple of years ago; they believed there was no longer enough dirt down there to insulate the steam line.

For reasons we cannot fully fathom, both sets of guys were looking for evidence in the sewer lines. The crew pictured here took the low-tech approach, using shovels and eyeballs; another crew had fancier technology, basically a snake with a video camera at its head, transmitting images onto a screen set up in the back of a van.

We asked what they were seeing on the screen. "Nothing yet," they said. "Just sewer."

We asked what they were looking for. They kind of snorted. "Steam," they said.

By mid-afternoon, everybody had packed up and gone home. We're not sure if they saw any steam, but the neighbors are still getting free hot water.

Posted by Ellen

It's an important project, replacing century-old water mains underneath this stretch of Kater Street near us. It's also been a crazy dragged-out project, beginning last fall and not quite finished yet.

In the wintertime, the digging had exposed the water main and also the connecting water lines that served houses all up and down the street. Of course the pipes froze. Repeatedly. Ice and snow interrupted the work, repeatedly, often leaving our neighbors with no water.

In the springtime, the neighbors enjoyed the noise of heavy equipment at their doorsteps, all day, every day.  All but one of the trees on the block were cut down. There was mud when it rained and dust when it didn't rain, and of course no parking. 

Now it's July, and the workmen have closed their hole back up and are finally preparing the block for new asphalt and curbs and sidewalks. They promise new trees next fall.

All along, the work has been hard: cold, hot, and dangerous, with people living right there in the construction site. The street is so narrow and the houses so close to the hole that the excavator has to back up all the way to the end of the block to turn around between scoops of dirt. 

As hard as it is, it's critical work for our children's future.  We need a whole lot more investment like this, or our problems will no longer be the first world sort of problems.

Happy birthday, America.

Posted by Ellen

Cyclists take a break outside the Look Mum No Hands cafe in London.