I am the Parkway — hands off!

I am the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. I turned 100 years old in 2018. The city celebrated.

Now the City Hall clown car wants to “improve” me.

If there is a God in heaven, help me!

French landscape architect Jacques Greber designed me to emulate the grand Champs-Elysees in Paris. He created an axis from our magnifique Second Empire City Hall to a hill in Fairmount that would later be home to the world-famous Museum of Art.

Greber delivered the vision that was imagined by department store innovator John Wanamaker, whom I call Grandfather. The execution of a grand, tree-lined artery was so successful I am called Philadelphia’s Champs-Elysees, and I am the main reason Philadelphia often is called America’s most European city.

Now, the municipal gnats who couldn’t open the schools on time, got an F on vaccine distribution, and misplaced $33 million dollars are going to “improve” me?

The Philadelphia Police Department’s Mounted Unit has fewer horses’ asses.

I found a city news release that says this will be a joint project between Philadelphia Parks & Recreation (think the Parks and Recreation TV series, but without the daffy charm), and a syllabic jumble known as OTIS — the Office of Transportation, Infrastructure and Sustainability.

The city is requesting proposals from “renown design teams” with — here comes the kicker — “professionals with experience addressing diversity, equity and inclusion in public space and public realm design.”

“Diversity, equity and inclusion in public space.” What does that scramble of progressive code words even mean?

Red, yellow, green traffic signals will add brown and black lights for “inclusion?” Traffic lanes will have different widths for “equity”?

Do they mean the kind of “diversity” hapless Mayor Jim Kenney permitted when he allowed a horde of homeless people to turn me into an open sewer for three months during the summer?

That is the reality of the civic clown car when they are in progressive panic mode.

Is the Louvre putting out bids for Parisian middle schoolers to “improve” the Mona Lisa? I mean, she is so white and, and, you know, European! We can’t have that. 

And far be it for me to inject some reality into the “improvement” plan — which is being demanded by no one in the general public — but the COVID-19 pandemic has blown a $450 million hole in the city budget, so where will the money come from to ruin my good looks? A bake sale? A tax on cheese steaks?

Not to brag, but I am good looking.

Once warm weather arrives, the trees sprout leaves and create a green pathway across the midsection  of our downtown. The leaves are joined by the beautiful flutter of international flags, arrayed in alphabetical order, except for two — Vatican City outside the Cathedral Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul, and the Israeli flag adjacent to the Monument to the Six Million Jewish Martyrs. 

My vista is unique. In one of the earliest expressions of urban renewal, Philadelphia cleared a lot of undistinguished housing to create a wide space in Center City, sacrificing tax ratables for open sky and fresh air. (The city later did the same thing when it created the jewel-like mall setting for Independence Hall. That was back when city leaders were visionaries.)

I am lined with museums, public buildings, fountains, and statuary that are — ahem — inclusive of everything from Rocky to Joan of Arc to Kopernik. 

I have always been a public space. In recent decades more and more Philadelphians want to enjoy me, so many more it has begun to annoy residents of Fairmount. My biggest concerts are July 4th and Made in America, which our idiot mayor almost lost, until he surrendered to Jay-Z. Even bigger was Pope Francis’ visit, for which I was cordoned off.

The rest of the time I am easily accessible by foot and have wide, well-paved sidewalks for walking and biking, and a lot of grassy areas above the Swann Memorial Fountain. Bring the kids, bring the dog.

But now the hacks are heading my way.

From the news release: The city wants “pedestrian-centric, permanent changes that will dramatically improve the appeal, use, safety, functionality, and beauty of the Parkway.”

Enhance my beauty? It’s like letting the Seven Dwarfs reorganize the Mr, Universe competition.

These ideas for improvement come from the same dick wads who spent $50 million on a new police headquarters in West Philly before walking away from it, to spend $280 million to buy the Inquirer building.

“The Benjamin Franklin Parkway is Philadelphia’s grand boulevard, an incredible cultural epicenter,”  said Philadelphia Parks & Recreation Commissioner Kathryn Ott Lovell.

So let’s ruin it. 

From the news release: “The resulting plan for the future revitalization of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway will be based on innovative people-centric design ideas and creative approaches to transportation, economic development, and storm water management along with phased implementation.”

Storm water management? Is the city planning on curbless intersections, like in Center City, that turn into moats every time it rains?

By the way, “people-centric” in Philly translates to anti-car. They don’t seem to understand that people are in cars.

The Big Idea seems to be to make me more friendly to pedestrians than I already am, and sure, a tweak might be welcome. I am so wide, crossing me can be difficult. Here’s an idea for free — traffic signals set for longer on green. Crazy, I know.

What I didn’t see in the news release was any mention of things pedestrians would really like — refreshments and bathrooms, for instance.

The Champs-Elysees is lined with restaurants, hotels, and apartments, too. Why not me?

Because while both of us are about a mile long, Champs is 230 feet wide, while I am a slim 140 feet at my narrowest point. Putting in permanent structures would destroy the vista, my main selling point. Do you want me to look like Washington Avenue, for God’s sake?

I don’t need year-round restaurants. A good idea, easy to do and seasonal, would be food trucks, or, better yet, colorful tents for food service, exactly the same type that set up on me during the summer festivals I am happy to host. Closing my outer lanes would accomplish this.

At 100+ I am looking good. I might need a trim or a tuck, but that’s all.

Keep the goons with the chainsaws away from me. 

14 thoughts on “I am the Parkway — hands off!”

  1. Great piece, Stu. Chock-full of truth, reality, and common sense. My first thought was that maybe “Mayor” Kenney is kowtowing to his princess. Maybe they watched that ridiculous Oprah Winfield show and got the idea. They’re already laying the groundwork for raising property taxes, again, to fix that hapless, unfixable school system that’s been broke since Jim Tate was mayor. And they want to pump millions into our Parkway? Give us tax-paying, law-abiding, literate citizens a break, why don’t you?

    to quote Joni Mitchell;
    “They paved paradise and put in a parking lot “

  3. OTIS — the Office of Transportation, Infrastructure and Sustainability
    This fine city agency is headed by Michael Carroll and his department has oversight regarding the Philadelphia Water Department. Mr. Carroll has received, on numerous occasions over an extended period, correspondence containing serious and fact based issues of unethical and improper conduct and decision making in the PWD including financial mismanagement of HELP loans, unsafe, dangerous operation of PWD equipment, failure to properly notify petitioners of an additional appeal before Tax Review Board, etc.
    Deputy Carroll coordinates and sets the policy direction for critical functions, including the PWD.

  4. How do we get asswipe Kenney out of office? Oh and Kranser and Outlaw too? The Three Stooges running this beautiful city, err ruining this city.

    1. Kenney leaves when his term ends, almost impossible to impeach. New mayor can appoint new police commissioner. Krasner up for election in November. Register Dem and vote for Vega in May primary.

  5. What a marvelous coincidence! I’m reading the essays of P.J. O’Rourke (who outgrew liberalism and became a champion of free thought), one of which contains this observation appropriate to the Parkway topic: “…liberals are always championing laws and social programs which are theoretically good for a class of people while being provably disastrous for people themselves…” Spot on, P.J.

  6. Stu,

    What can we as admirers of the Parkway, do to insure it remains as it is today?

  7. Philadelphia, PA

    Dear Stu,

    Agreed. The Parkway doesn’t need “improvement.” These ideas are apparently not coming from the citizens and residents of the city. Its clearly a political project. Politicians like to “leave their mark.”

    The Parkway was built with the ideal of providing a vast perspective from one end to the other. Its like the perspectives between the major government buildings in Washington, D.C. Did you ever notice that it is quite a hike from the Capitol building to the White House, for instance? It’s a matter of large-scale spaces designed to make us a bit more contemplative. Thus, the absence to food trucks, steak sandwiches, hot dogs and pretzels with mustard.

    The aim was a touch of class and a bit of grandeur. That is its “function.” Why else imitate Paris? Why even build City Hall in “French Empire” style or the Art Museum after classical Greek models? If its not broken, don’t fix it.

    H.G. Callaway
    —you wrote—
    The city wants “pedestrian-centric, permanent changes that will dramatically improve the appeal, use, safety, functionality, and beauty of the Parkway.”

  8. The amount of money spent on consultants, before a plan is put into place would be welcomed by Dr. Hite. Schools and education should be the main priority.

  9. The Inquier Editoral Board has culture canceled the Parkway. I only made it through the first paragraph. Click

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