From the Chronicle • Germantown News Stories

April 22, 2010 • April 22 Chronicle.pdf

In This Issue


  1. New Ideas for Maplewood Mall

  2. Years in the Making: Groundbreaking on Johnson

  3. Residents Learn, Voice Views at 2nd Community Café

  4. Historic Sites Team Up for ‘A Great Day on the Great Road’

  5. ‘Chrysalis’ at the School of Circus Arts

  6. Barnstorming: Black Baseball Before the Organized Leagues

  7. Shop the Avenue, Help NPIHN Help the Homeless

  8. Meetings on WHYY Local Coverage

  9. Budget Hearing in Northwest

  10. Young Voices Speak Out at 4th G’town Poetry Festival

  11. Butkovitz Criticizes Charter Oversight

  12. At Reformation Lutheran Church

  13. Candlelight Gospel Music

  14. Deaf/Hearing Tea

  15. ‘Second Passover’ at Chabad

  16. Foregiveness Lecture at SDA

  17. Porch Sale at Germantown Friends

  18. FOW Bird Walks in Wissahickon

  19. CH Home & Garden Festival is May 2

  20. Help Clean the Creek From End to End

  21. PMBC Block Cleanups

  22. PL Cookbook

  23. Candidates Forum

  24. Zoning Input

New Ideas for Maplewood Mall

By TOM ROSSI and CLAIRE SALMONS

Guest Writers


Landscape architecture students from Philadelphia University spent the afternoon of  Wednesday, April 7 unveiling a series of blueprints they had created in the hopes of helping revitalize the Maplewood Mall business district in Germantown.


As part of their undergraduate design class, the nine students were required to draw up blueprints of their own “green” visions of the mall, and make it more appealing and accessible to the community.


Working in conjunction with Dr. John and Nancy Churchville, directors of the Greater Germantown Business Association, the university’s Landscape Architecture program plans to use the mall project as the first installment of its studio course. In the fall, students will analyze the expense of the mall project proposals.


The director of the undergraduate program, Claudia Goetz Phillips, expressed enthusiasm about the project because it was more than a classroom exercise.


“The students were leery at first, but now seem very excited about it,” said Phillips. “If the students are designing for real clients they will do a better job.”


Though Phillips says there is a lot more work to come — final drafts of the projects are due in early May - she has seen improvement in the students’ work already. Their proposals included the construction of playgrounds, day care centers, outdoor stages, parking garages, and the planting of maple trees along the strip of the mall.


After the students present their final blueprints next month, the Maplewood Business Association and the Greater Germantown Business Association will meet to discuss which proposal best fulfills their expectations.


Phillips acknowledged that a revitalization project could take years – and funding for such a project is still a question mark - but students are excited about the prospect that their work would help transform a part of Germantown.


The class went above and beyond going “green” in the mall, as they analyzed traffic patterns, parking, and the location of bus stops to see how the largest amount of people could be drawn to the site, she said.


Throughout the spring semester, the students were required to research various “green” technologies they could incorporate into their design. The projects were assigned just six weeks ago.


“The students did exactly what we wanted to see,” said John Churchville. “They used imagination and dealt effectively with the main critical issue, which is what to do with storm water runoff. Each student proposed a solution that would help the Water Department and also save business owners a lot of money.”


James Bonney, one of the students, said that during the project’s preliminary stages the class spent time visiting the mall, researching the history of the area, and looking into sustainable options that would be energy efficient.


Matt Tanicello, one of the students who unveiled a project, said students felt their work was part of something bigger than coursework to fulfill a class program requirement.


“It feels good in a sense of helping the businesses out and helping the environment,” he said.


Tom Rossi and Claire Salmons are students in La Salle University’s community journalism class.



Years in the Making: Groundbreaking on Johnson

By PATRICK COBBS

Staff Writer


For neighborhood residents like Ethel Forrest, the president of the Pomona Cherokee Civic Council, last Wednesday’s groundbreaking at the soon to be built Presser Senior Apartments on Johnson Street was a sight for sore eyes.


“Things are coming together after all these years,” she said as a string trio played to the crowd. “The wait was worth it. I’m glad to see it coming to this point.”


The wait Forrest was talking about stretches all the way back to 2002, and even before, when neighborhood pressure and local news reports lead to the closing of the former Mt. Airy Commons for a string of code violations that put the residents in the personal care facility in potential danger.


Since that time the buildings, known as the Presser and Nugent buildings, have sat vacant but the effort surrounding them has been anything but absent. Groups like Pomona Cherokee, the Duvall Improvement Association and West Mt. Airy Neighbors waged a long and bitter battle with a string of owners and potential developers who bandied plans to demolish the buildings to open the entire site up for new development.


“I think it was two years worth of community meetings,” recalled Eighth District City Councilwoman Donna Reed Miller.


The result of all this conflict was historic designation for the two buildings and the protections from demolition that go along with it. And then a new challenge evolved – to find a developer who wanted to use the massive campus with the old and deteriorating buildings intact.


Dollars-and-cents-wise it wasn’t a popular notion, but for James Nolen, owner of Nolen Properties, that desire proved out.


“We were the only developer who did not want to demolish the building and I think that’s why we won the bid,” he said.


According to Nolen any plan for the site would have required a zoning variance, which in turn would have required neighborhood support. Better for any seller to go with a buyer the neighbors would support, he guessed.


But that was 2006. Since then ten-year tax abatements have waned, the economy has slowed and real estate development has gone below the radar.


“This was a tough project in 2006, it was an even tougher project in 2009,” said John Gallery, executive director of the Preservation Alliance of Greater Philadelphia. “There are not many developers who would have stayed with it.”


The key to sticking around, according to Nolen, and getting those silver shovels into the ground on April 14, was bringing a mix of funders on line so innovative that Nolen, himself, had never conceived of such a combination before.


In addition to the primary loan from PNC Bank, Sherick Project Management helped Nolen assemble a $2.25 million federal loan from stimulus funds, $779,000 in low-income housing tax credits, and a $650,000 loan from the Federal Home Loan Bank in Pittsburgh to round out the $14 million project.


The Presser Senior Apartments is the first stimulus-funded housing development in the city, and at the groundbreaking Mayor Michael Nutter noted with pride that the project would create 138 new construction jobs.


In addition to the 45-unit age- and income-qualified apartments planned for the huge Presser building, Nolen plans a similar 31-unit renovation of the architecturally impressive Nugent building down the road on Johnson Street on the  other end of the lot. And last week the city announced a $2 million loan commitment for that project, which most at the groundbreaking seemed to view as a tandem effort.


After so many years and such turmoil over the fate of the Johnson Street campus the mood at the ground breaking was festive. West Mt. Airy Neighbors Executive Director Lizabeth Macoretta explained why.


“Everybody is so excited. Honestly the notion is ‘we can’t believe it’s finally happening,’” she said.  “Aesthetically it’s going to be gorgeous, which does so much for the surrounding neighborhood.”


Cindy Bass, senior policy advisor to U.S. Congressman Chaka Fattah agreed. “One thing that this is going to do is add to the overall pride of the neighborhood.”


Nolen Properties hopes to have Presser occupied by next February and to break ground on the Nugent property by this coming fall, according to an earlier conversation with the company’s Director of Operations, Rick Sudal. And Nolen confirmed his plan to build a large new mixed-use commercial and market rate residential development on the site eventually. He hoped to begin that as soon as the housing market started to grow again.


But before the crowd dispersed, John Gallery held up a poster-sized picture of the Nugent building for the state and city officials in the crowd to see. He wanted to hold them to the vision of keeping the entire campus preserved. The caption on the picture read simply, “next.”


“If you look at the Nugent building not only can you tell that it is fabulous architecturally,” he said. “But it’s fabulously expensive as well.”


The hint to funders was more than clear.


Residents Learn, Voice Views at 2nd Community Café

By LAUREN HERMAN

Guest Writer


Residents of the neighborhoods of the Northwest came together last weekend to discuss important issues at a “Community Café” sponsored by Northwest Philadelphia MARCHinG for Change and Philly Neighborhood Networks. About 100 people gathered at Mt. Airy Presbyterian Church on Sunday, April 18, to enjoy coffee and food while talking about the topics that matter most to them in five different focus groups.


The free event was designed to  give area residents the ability to learn about issues concerning them as well as the opportunity to contribute to in-depth discussions that took place after the presenters first talked about the matter.


Following a short time to informally discuss issues, attendees were then able to take part in two workshop sessions of their choice, led by presenters who were experts in the topic. Subjects included the mortgage and foreclosure crisis, campaign finance reform and co-housing. The creation of a job bill to get Americans back to work and also the local food movement were other workshop topics that the community members engaged in.


The cohousing workshop, led by Gloria Hoffman of the Philadelphia Co-housing Initiative educated Northwest Philadelphia residents on the organization and goal to establish a co-housing community in the Mt. Airy area. In cohousing, residents participate in the design of the community so that it meets their needs. Residents manage their own communities and also perform much of the work required to maintain the property. They participate in preparation of common meals.


Glenn Bergman, general manager of Weavers Way Co-op, told his workshop about the advantages of keeping food local and how Philadelphia could benefit from making locally grown food a priority.


Alex Kaplan from Common Cause of Pennsylvania discussed campaign finance reform while in another group, Ben Sears of Jobs with Justice got people thinking about a jobs bill for Americans to get back to work. This workshop brought together a group of people passionate about the issue who are now planning on meeting in the future to work on getting a bill passed.


Tim Styer of the Philadelphia Unemployment Project educated people on the problems he sees with mortgage foreclosures and the effects they have on families, especially children.  “It’s more of a human crisis than a financial crisis,” Styer said to the attendees at his workshop.


Styer said he was also glad to have an opportunity dispel myths about the mortgage crisis in America today. Out of the 194 clients he dealt with this year facing foreclosure, he said, only eight of those families have actually lost their homes. He went on to discuss the roles banks and investors play in the mortgage crisis and the assistance opportunities that are available to those facing mortgage problems to a fully engaged crowd.


“I’m always surprised of the amount of people who don’t know about some of the benefits and services,” he added.


Rep. Mark B. Cohen, D-Philadelphia, attended the home foreclosure workshop and said he learned a great deal even though he was active in setting up Pennsylvania’s Homeowners’ Emergency Mortgage Assistance Program. “I’m very enthusiastic about what I learned here. I’m very enthusiastic about the dialogue,” he said.


After the success of the first Community Café, which took place in November, 2009 at the Sedgwick Theater, organizers tried to make this year’s event even better by spreading out the discussion groups to ensure people got the best experience possible.


Rev. Aisha Brooks-Lytle, pastor of  Mt. Airy Presbyterian Church, was elated to have the Community Café held at her church. She said, “I think it’s creating safe spaces to have conversation. To say that you can’t just talk and complain and gripe, you have to participate together.”


At the end of the event the attendees and organizers reconvened to sum up the ideas that were explored in each workshop. Every workshop also presented an action item or a suggestion that the group felt should be implemented. The individuals attending the local food group said the group wanted a fresh produce section in every market in the city to be mandatory.


Rep. Cohen said: “I think the community challenge here in Germantown, Mt. Airy and throughout the city is to come up with new ways to solve old problems. There’s very little that’s new in terms of problems in Philadelphia. What we need is things that are new in terms of solutions and I think activities like these are good in terms of finding solutions.”


Event organizer Margaret Lenzi said she hopes to continue holding Community Cafés on a somewhat regular basis.  She also said the forums have been successful in educating area residents and expanding dialogues on the issues discussed because they gather people in one place to discuss important topics. The discussions also help bring people together to work on solving problems.


“There are a lot of issues and challenges, but it’s a lot easier if we come together and talk together as interested people,” Lenzi said.


She added, “If we see that other people are interested in the issues that we are interested in that we can create a movement that can make a real change in the United States, but it all starts at the local level and it moves up from there.”


The authors work for Philadelphia Neighborhoods at www.philadelphianeighborhoods.com at Temple University’s Department of Journalism.


Historic Sites Team Up for ‘A Great Day on the Great Road’

By ALLISON CRONK AND DAMIEN CHECK

Guest Writers


The smell of barbeque and the sounds of live jazz wafted throughout Vernon Park on a blustery Sunday, April 18 during Germantown’s community history festival, “A Great Day on the Great Road.”


Celebrating its second year, the festival offered opportunities for attendees to learn about Germantown’s history through information booths and historical reenactments.


“I’m pleased with how this turned out,” said Anne Burnett, program director of Historic Germantown. “It’s early to tell but it looks like we got a good crowd to come out today.”


All of Germantown’s recognized historical sites had booths providing information.


For example, visitors could learn about the Underground Railroad stop at the Johnson House or details about the Battle of Germantown fought on the Chew property, now Cliveden of the National Trust.


At the Ebenezer Maxwell Mansion table, visitors could try out a coffee bean grinder, a green bean cutter and an apple peeler. Karen Stevens, education director, noted how children who visited the table were fascinated by the apple peeler and loved trying it out. At the La Salle Art Museum table, kids were able to color images of historic artwork.


“It’s great when all the sites come together and provide this information for the community,” said Zac More, a Germantown resident. “I was never familiar with Hood Cemetery but thanks to today, I now know about it and plan on visiting the site soon.”


In addition to the historical sites’ booths, the festival featured tables that demonstrated aspects of historic life and allowed patrons to purchase products.  Maryanne McDevitt, president of the Philadelphia Guild of Handweavers, demonstrated how intricate weaving can be with a table loom.  Another table sold traditional “sweet-meats.”  


“A sweet-meat was the name given to any sweet food that was imported into Colonial America many, many years ago,” said Deborah Peterson, who was efficiently chopping various candies into sample pieces for those who stopped by her tent. The treats were also accompanied by various teas to help wash down the sweets.    


“I think it’s a great day. This is just another example of reaching out to the community. We’re very excited about the event,” said Erika Griffin, the director of community and governmental affairs for Ogontz Avenue Revitalization Corporation, which co-sponsored the event with Historic Germantown and State Rep. John Myers’ office.


Festival-goers also were treated to various re-enactors who performed monologues and mingled through the crowd, educating those about the background of the historical person they were portraying. Noah Lewis assumed the role of Edward “Ned” Hector, an African American who fought with the Third Pennsylvania Artillery Company  during the Revolutionary War .


“I’ve been doing this for 13 years,” says Lewis, proudly displaying his gun and period garments. “It’s important for everyone to know about the past of this man and his contributions that he made during his time here in Germantown.”  


“Reenacting has taken me to Arkansas, Connecticut and most of the tri-state area, but here in Germantown you can actually see a portrait in Cliveden that depicts four cannons bombarding the Chew family house during the Battle of Germantown,” said Lewis, who is working on a biography of Hector. “This painting is said to be through Edward Hector’s point of view.”


In addition to Lewis, re-enactors who played abolitionist Fredrick Douglass and   Dinah, an enslaved servant who was credited with saving the Stenton mansion from being burned by the British during the Revolutionary War, captivated their audience with their portrayals.


Anne Gerbner, an English teacher at Germantown Friends School, was drawn to the festival by her curiosity about Germantown’s rich history. 


“About a few months ago, I heard David Young, executive director of Cliveden, give a speech about Germantown’s history and it piqued my interest,” she said.  “Coming here today helped to give me more background on the many sites that are present here in the community.


Allison Cronk and Damien Check are students in La Salle University’s community journalism class.


‘Chrysalis’ at the School of Circus Arts

The Spring performance of  “Chrysalis” by the staff of the Philadelphia school of Circus Arts will take place April 23-25, 8 p.m., at the school, 5900 Greene Street. Tickets are $10. Seats should be reserved in advance by calling 215-849-1991, visiting www.phillycircus.com, or at the school.


This is the first-ever staff performance at the Philadelphia School of Circus Arts.  Fourteen teachers are presenting a performance that includes juggling, illusions, tightwire, aerial silks, trapeze and more.  The “through-line” of the evening is transformation - overcoming obstacles while trusting there is something better on the other side, finding your way through life and not just settling for “standard.”  


Tickets will also be sold before performances, but seating is limited.  Enter the school off the corner on Rittenhouse Street. Free parking across from the school on Rittenhouse Street.


Black Diamonds

Barnstorming: Black Baseball Before the Organized Leagues

By CHARLES BENDER

Guest Writer


Most Americans who saw a baseball game before the 1940’s saw a  “barnstorming” team play a local team for a portion of the gate receipts.  This was especially true for African American players, who were excluded from the professional teams beginning in 1887.


Black and white Americans played the sport on sandlots, fairgrounds, factory yards and fields across America.  But until the late 1950s, professional baseball only had teams above the Mason Dixon line (except for the Washington Senators) and only as far west as St. Louis. Most Americans never saw or even heard a professional baseball game until the widespread broadcast of games beginning in the 1930s.


Barnstorming baseball was generally a segregated affair, with traveling teams playing against local teams of the same color.  But as traveling teams of all-star players became more popular and well-followed, their appearance in a town against a local team could draw large crowds and large gates for the owners of the local ballparks.  Many Americans followed these travelling all-star teams with as much or often more interest then they did the professional teams playing in the eastern cities.  The vibrant African American newspapers of the day heavily covered and promoted these teams.


Owners of both the black and white teams quickly found that games between their all-star teams could draw huge crowds.  There are over 450 documented games between white professionals and black barnstorming teams before Jackie Robinson reintegrated pro baseball in 1946.


The Philadelphia Giants were a very popular barnstorming team that played between 1902 and 1916.  While they played in some of the earliest black organized leagues of the day, they also played white professional and all star teams.  At the end of their first season, they played two games against the American League Champion Philadelphia Athletics, losing both contests in close games.


Barnstorming remained the staple for African American ballplayers, even with the establishment of the Negro Leagues in the 1920s.  Americans couldn’t get enough of seeing black stars like Satchel Paige and Josh Gibson play against Babe Ruth and other stars of the day.  Black teams also played throughout Latin America and as far away as  Japan. Satchel Paige was reported to have played in over 2,500 games, and black teams won many games against white professional all-star teams in the 1920s through the 1940s.


While the re-integration of professional baseball by Jackie Robinson brought about the decline of the Negro Leagues, barnstorming continued on.  The Philadelphia Stars played until the early 1960s and the Indianapolis Clowns carried on the tradition until 1988.


Editor’s note: this is the second in a series of articles called “Black Diamonds”  on the history of African American baseball,  commemorating the 25th anniversary of Mt. Airy Baseball. Mt Airy Baseball honors this great tradition by calling its senior and tournament teams the “Stars,” paying tribute to the former Philadelphia Stars team of the Negro Leagues.


Shop the Avenue, Help NPIHN Help the Homeless

On April 25 from noon-6 p.m., Northwest Philadelphia Interfaith Hospitality Network (NPIHN) in collaboration with local Mt. Airy shops Artista, Infusion, Earth, Bread + Brew, Wine Thief, Video Library, Dirty Girl Brigade, Sandanga, Jean-Jacque, One, Blackbone Gallery and McMenamins, will raise money to try to help homeless families by dining and shopping on the avenue.


Balloons with the NPHIN logo will be outside the stores to help identify them. A portion of purchases made will go to NPIHN to help support the families in shelter.


NPIHN is a small family shelter located in Mt. Airy. Its mission is to marshal resources and volunteers among the diverse congregations and communities of Northwest Philadelphia in direct response to the needs of homeless families for temporary support.  Rachel Falkove, executive director, refers to NPIHN as “shelter that is not like a shelter.”  The families receive hospitality from local congregations who provide shelter and dinner. The congregants as well as other volunteers enjoy meals with the guests.  We do not use the word “feed the homeless” to describe our services.


Not only does NPIHN provide services to their current families but for their alumni families as well.  This support comes in the way of school uniforms, holiday meals and the Christmas wish list.


Representatives will be available at the stores on the day of the event to answer your questions.


If you can’t attend the event and would like to donate, please make your checks payable to NPIHN, 7047 Germantown Ave. Philadelphia, PA 19119.


For more information about the organization or for volunteer opportunities, call Neva Pryor at 215-247-4663 ext. 138.


Meetings on WHYY Local Coverage

WHYY would like to get your input on its plans to expand local news coverage into Northwest Philadelphia.


Initially, this will mean news coverage of Manayunk, Roxborough, East Falls, Chestnut Hill, Mt Airy, and Germantown.


As you know, the internet is revolutionizing how people get news. The Corporation for Public Broadcasting has agreed to fund WHYY’s plan to create a hyperlocal news website for these neighborhoods.


It’s still in the planning stages, but by fall 2010 WHYY expect to have its websites up and running.


WHYY is planning public meetings to explain the project and to get your ideas of what we should cover, how we should cover it, and who we should be talking to. We’ll also be asking you to help us identify the things that help define your neighborhood.


Everyone who attends will learn something about their community and about their neighbors. It will be a structured conversation with direction from Penn Project for Civic Engagement, so all this will be discussed in small groups.


Upcoming meetings include:

Thursday, April 29, 6:30 - 9 p.m., Germantown Friends School, 31 W. Coulter Street. Parking available at school lot.

Wednesday, May 12, 6:30 - 9 p.m., St. Martin-in-the-Fields Church, 8000 Willow Grove Avenue. Parking available at church lot across Willow Grove Avenue.


RSVP by emailing Linda Breitstein; ppce@gse.upenn.edu, or callling 215-898-1112.


If you go, you can register to win a brand new Apple IPAD. WWHYY will hold a drawing after all meetings, and everyone who takes their survey at the meeting will be automatically registered to win.


Budget Hearing in Northwest

Join Philadelphia City Council for a  budget hearing for the 8th and 9th City Council districts on Tuesday, April 27, 4 - 7 p.m., at Mt. Airy Church of God in Christ, 6401 Ogontz Avenue.


Public testimony is welcomed regarding the 2011 City Budget.


Written testimony is strongly encouraged and should be kept to three minutes when read. RSVP is not required.


Contact your District Council office to testify:


8th District - Office of Councilwoman Donna Reed Miller, City Hall Room 312, phone 215-686-3424, fax 215-686-1937, email william.nesheiwat@phila.gov


9th District - Office of Councilwoman Marian B. Tasco, City Hall Room 577, phone 215-686-3455, fax: 215-686-1938, email derek.green@phila.gov.


Young Voices Speak Out at 4th G’town Poetry Festival

The 4th Annual Germantown Poetry Festival packed the house at Germantown Friends School on Saturday, April 17, with over 60 youth poets performing. The capacity audience snapped, cheered and applauded as one spoken word artist after another took the stage. As GFS English teacher and Festival director Yolanda Wisher had predicted, this year’s festival “took it back to what it’s all about: empowering youth voices and uniting communities.”


The GPF Youngbloods, who had honed their poems in a series of biweekly workshops, gave powerful performances. The Youngbloods include high school students from Germantown Friends School, Martin Luther King High School, Dobbins, the High School for Creative and Performing Arts, and City Year. The Art Sanctuary North Stars, an after-school program in North Philadelphia, along with the Philly Youth Poetry League from Germantown High and six other schools, young poets from The Lyrical Playground,


and the Philly Youth Poetry Movement all stepped up to the mic. The youngest participants were 4th graders from the Miquon School, who had worked with their teacher and Festival coordinator Mark Palacio.


This year’s line-up made room for the GPF All-Stars, high school and college students who have performed at the Festival since its inception in 2007, including GFS seniors Jalessa Mungin and Johanna Velasquez. GPF Workshop teachers, including Josh Robinson, Just Greg Corbin and Denice Frohman, shared their work. MC Lindo Jones and others performed from On Point Ink, a collective that seeks to encourage young people to embark on a lifestyle that focuses on art, awareness, and activism.


The Festival was sponsored by Youthadelphia, a program of The Philadelphia Foundation, and was broadcast live by gtownradio.com.


Butkovitz Criticizes Charter Oversight

By PATRICK COBBS

Staff Writer


City Controller Alan Butkovitz released a report last Thursday that slams the School District’s Charter School Office for failing to keep adequate tabs on the district’s 63 Charters. The 14-month study looked at 13 schools in depth and found what Butkovitz called “fraud vulnerabilities” at all of them, including some with Northwest ties.


“We found highly questionable practices, suspect relationships and potential vulnerabilities which create the opportunities for fraud at all thirteen schools,” the Controller said at a press conference.


The report charges that the Charter Office kept incomplete records on 51 charters in all; it did not communicate with charter school boards, and it did not meet its annual reporting requirements to the School Reform Commission.


Problems with the 13 schools the investigation focused on included charter administrators who took multiple salaries from different schools, or ran non-profit and for profit entities with intermingled personnel, or set up financial relationships that removed school properties and funds from school district oversight.


“There was a complete and total failure on the part of the Charter School Office to monitor charter schools and hold these schools accountable for how they spend taxpayers’ dollars…” Butkovitz said.


Prior to releasing his report, Butkovitz removed findings from three of the schools to make sure their release would not interfere with ongoing U.S. Attorney’s Office investigations, he said.


The Controller cited Imani Education Circle Charter School in Germantown as an example of problematic financial relationships.


According to the report, the school purchased its building at 100-126 West Chelten Avenue in 2007 for $8 million. It then leased the entire building to a non-profit called Imani Foundation for $9.66 per square foot, and then rented over half of the building back from the foundation for $11.98 per square foot. And while both the school and the foundation have by-laws requiring any profits to be returned to the school, Butkovitz could not find indications of that re-payment in any tax filings.


Butkovitz also claimed that Imani founder and CEO Dr. Francine Fulton operates a for-profit pre-school in the same building and her rent rate, per square foot, is about half what the other for profit tenants in the building pay.


Fulton declined to comment on advice from legal council, she said. Imani Education Circle has met federal testing standards five out of the last six years.


Of the 13 schools he examined closely, Butkovitz found ten with similar lease-back agreements to related entities. State subsidy is available for charters that lease their spaces, but Butkovitz thought these kinds of arrangements amounted to a transfer of taxpayer funds to non-profits that were protected from school district review. He  recommended changes to charter school laws to increase transparency in these relationships.


Benjamin Rayer, head of the district’s Charter School Office, said he and Superintendent Arlene Ackerman welcomed Butkovitz’s report, but that parts of it were inaccurate.


“I don’t think there has been a complete lack of oversight. I don’t think that is correct,” he said.


Rayer acknowledged that his office wasn’t perfect, but he said Butkovitz’s report focuses on a time before he took the helm. Since he came on board two years ago, his office has increased its staff from three to six, and it makes sure to communicate with each school about its yearly reports as required, he said.


In the press conference Butkovitz complained that the school district has adopted a “mind your own business” attitude to his efforts in general. Rayer wasn’t surprised to hear it. His office has had this discussion with him before.


“The City Controller’s job is not to audit charter schools in the state of Pennsylvania,” Rayer said. “That’s the State Auditor’s job.”


A spokesman from State Auditor General Jack Wagner’s office acknowledged that looking at Philadelphia charter schools was indeed its business, but he did not reply to a request for details of recent efforts.


To Butkovitz, the reason for that might be obvious.


“The fact is, nobody else is looking into charter schools in Philadelphia,” he said.


As this story was going to press Steve Havonick, a spokesman for the State Auditor General’s office,  called and said that the office did audit charter schools but gave no other details.


At Reformation Lutheran Church

Senior health care and women’s issues are the focus of spring activities at Reformation Lutheran Church, 1215 East Vernon Road.


Yan Yuam, outreach coordinator, Philadelphia Corporation for the Aging, will discuss senior health issues on Wednesday, April 28. The free event, sponsored by Reformation’s Esther Circle Ministry, begins with 10 a.m. registration and social networking, followed by an interactive discussion on senior health issues, 12 noon luncheon and door prizes.


Reverend Dr. Leslie Callahan, pastor, St. Paul’s Baptist Church in Philadelphia, is the featured speaker at a Prayer Brunch and Fashion Show on Saturday, May 1, 10 a.m. until 1:00 p.m. The intergenerational event is sponsored by Reformation Women’s Ministry to support its outreach work with children and families. Tickets are $15 and must be purchased in advance.


The public is invited to attend these activities.  For information, please contact Reformation at 215-548-4332.


Candlelight Gospel Music

On Sunday, April 25 at 5 p.m., the Wright’s Gospel Choir of Grace Baptist Church of Germantown, 25 West Johnson Street, will host their Annual Candlelight Service  concert of gospel music.


All are welcome to come and experience in person a spiritual soul-connecting sound from our own community.


The president of the choir is Ethel Johnson, and the director is Patricia S. Beach. They have a team of voices that reaches every level of musical notes. You don’t want to miss this one.


For information call the church during normal business hours at 215-438-3215.


Deaf/Hearing Tea

The 9th annual Deaf/Hearing Women’s Tea sponsored by Germantown Deaf Ministries Fellowship and Friends on Saturday, April 24, 2-5 p.m., at Germantown Friends Meeting House, 47 West Coulter Street.


The theme will be “You Are the Light.” Learn how to say “Jesus the Light of the world” in 10 languages.  Interpreters will be available for the deaf.


There will be  poetry book signing tables to meet the authors and buy a book. Enjoy our teapot and teacup displays. Attire will be elegant. The donation requested is $20, $25 at door. Lunch is included. Call for discounts and multiple rates.


For information and tickets call 215-848-7279 (voice) or 215-275-6853 (text). Reservations are on a first-come, first-served basis.


‘Second Passover’ at Chabad

Chabad-Lubavitch of Northwest Philadelphia will be hosting a celebration of Pesach Sheini, the “second Passover,” which occurs exactly one month after Passover on the Jewish calendar. The significance of this day will be studied and discussed over a light dinner, including the customary hand-baked Shmurah Matzah. The event will take place on Wednesday, April 28, 6:30-8 pm at the home of Rabbi Yitzchok and Pessy Gurevitz, 7334 Rural Lane.  The suggested donation is $5.


To RSVP or for more information  contact Rabbi Gurevitz at rabbig@chabadnwp.org or 215-438-5327.


Foregiveness Lecture at SDA

A lecture on “Forgiveness – the Mightiest Sword” will be offered on Sunday, April 25, 5 p.m., at Seventh Day Adventist Church, Rex and Germantown avenues, Chestnut Hill.


Author and psychotherapist Jennifer Schwirzer, MHS, NCC will speak about the latest research on healing power of forgiveness. She will lace her talk with personal experience and hard-won insights into human nature, the nature of relationships, and the mending of relationships. All of us have been wronged and have tasted the bitterness of betrayal. Fortunately, hearts still change hopeless estrangements still heal. These miracles begin with forgiveness.


A dinner, “Spring World Fusion,” will follow with Pan-Seared Tofu with Grape Tomato Chutney and Panko Parsley Crumb Topping, Coconut and Ginger Scented Jasmine Rice, Spring Vegetable Medley, Roasted Green Beans and Mushrooms with Carmelized Onions and Hazelnuts, and Vegan Shortbread and Rice Dream. The cost is $12 adults, $7 children. RSVP to 215-247-7022 or www.chestnuthillsda.org/smartsupper.


Porch Sale at Germantown Friends

On Saturday, May 1, Germantown Monthly Meeting of Friend­s, 47 West Coulter Street, will hold a porch sale from 9 a.m. – 2 p.m. to benefit the Germantown Meeting’s Assistance Committee and the Bududa Vocational Institute and Children of Peace Project in Uganda.  The sale will offer homebaked goods, lunches, home goods, linens, toys, books, furniture, fabric, and arts and crafts. For information contact Meeting Secretary Wendy Wells at Germantown Meeting, e-mail gmm@gsfnet.org.


FOW Bird Walks in Wissahickon

The Friends of the Wissahickon are offering relief for those with “birder’s neck” along with their spring bird walks this year. At walks offered on May 13 and 19, massage therapist Jonathan Hale Sills of Wyndmoor will offer free neck massages to all participants.


Sills has 12 years of experience and specializes in relieving stress, chronic pain and tension, headaches, injuries, inflammation, edema, and lymphedema using Pfrimmer Deep Muscle Therapy, Vodder Manual Lymphatic Drainage, and Swedish massage.


He is nationally certified by the NCBTMB and a member of the American Massage therapy Association. For more information on his practice in Wyndmoor, contact him at 215-233-2680 or jghsills@aol.com.


All bird walks are led by experienced birders: Steve Lawrence and Richard Berman from FOW, Debbie Carr and Trish Fries from Fairmount Park, Paul Good, and Robin Mattison. The walks are free and each lasts for two hours, sometimes longer if the day is productive. They include:


Sunday, April 25.
Meet at 9 a.m. on Forbidden Drive at Bell’s Mill Rd. for a two-hour walk to the Covered Bridge and back. This is a  good time for early migrants and permanent residents, ranging from wood ducks and belted kingfishers to phoebes, Louisiana water thrushes and some other early warblers, as well as towhees, catbirds, wood thrushes, Baltimore orioles, and chicadees, titmice, woodpeckers, and possibly some predators.


Thursday, May 13.

Meet at 8 a.m. at the West Ellet St. entrance to Carpenter’s Woods for a two-hour walk through one of the best places in Philadelphia to see a great variety and large number of migrating songbirds during the high point of spring migration. At the end of this walk, Sills will offer free neck massages.


Sunday, May 16.

Meet at 8 a.m. on Forbidden Drive at Bell’s Mill Rd. for another two-hour walk to the Covered Bridge and back. This is often an excellent time to see wood ducks and their young as well as many local breeders that have established nests in this area.


Wednesday, May 19.

Meet at 5 p.m. at the Wissahickon Environmental Center for a late afternoon walk up to the Andorra Meadow to see how the restoration is already producing results in the number of species now nesting there, including tree swallows, eastern bluebirds, yellow warblers, red-eyed vireos, field and chipping sparrows, and numerous active mammals including woodchucks, red squirrels, cottontails, and other small creatures. At the end of this walk, Sills will offer free neck massages.


For information or directions, contact FOW’s office at 215-247-0417 or office@fow.org.


CH Home & Garden Festival is May 2

It’s Chestnut Hill’s 14th Annual Home and Garden Festival on Sunday, May 2.


From 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Germantown Avenue shuts down between Rex and Willow Grove avenues while the street and stores come alive. Many festival-goers mellow into the evening with friends and more music by ducking into one of the Avenue’s many great pubs and restaurants, where informal parties continue well into the night.


Over 150 home and garden vendors, artists and craftsmen will display their wares, including a wide selection of tomato plants and flower seedlings; lush orchids, hanging baskets and garden sculptures; home design, hand-made furniture, quilts, jewelry, art and collectibles; Eco Alley, featuring more than 20 vendors offering sustainable products from organic plants to electric bikes…all thanks to GRINCH (Green in Chestnut Hill); live music by City Rhythm Orchestra, 56 Men, Urban Drawl and Six Pack; a display of the latest car models by Subaru; games and giveaways by B101 Radio; a one-man side show with juggling, sword-swallowing and fire-eating; yoga for children; and much more.


For a schedule and list of performers and vendors visit www.chestnuthillpa.com or call 215-247-6696.  Features and other promotions can also be found in www.hillontheavenue.com and www.thechestnuthilllocal.com.


Admission to the festival is free.  $5 parking will be available on select Chestnut Hill lots.


Help Clean the Creek From End to End

Friends of the Wissahickon (FOW) and the Wissahickon Valley Watershed Association (WVWA) are celebrating Earth Day by joining together to clean the Wissahickon Creek from top to bottom on Saturday, April 24, 9 a.m. to noon.


This spring marks the 40th anniversary of both Earth Day and the Wissahickon Valley Watershed Association’s annual Creek Clean Up. This is the first year the two groups partner to clean all 21 miles of the Wissahickon Creek. Volunteers of all ages will clean the creek, the surrounding trails, and the many tributaries of the  creek. Armed with bags, volunteers will be assigned to sections of the creek to collect anything from plastic bags and swing sets, to mattresses and tires.


Following the clean up, all volunteers are invited to WVWA’s Talkin’ Trash picnic in Fort Washington State Park, with food provided by Whole Foods Market of North Wales.


To help out in Montgomery County, all volunteers must be pre-assigned a section of the Wissahickon Creek to clean. Contact Bob Adams at 215-646-8866 ext. 14 or bob@wvwa.org.


To work in Philadelphia, meet at the pavilion along Forbidden Drive, at the intersection of Forbidden Drive, Northwestern Ave., and Thomas Road.


Register by contacting FOW Volunteer Coordinator Kevin Groves at 215-247-0417 ext. 105 or groves@fow.org.


PMBC Block Cleanups

On Saturday, May 15, the Philadelphia More Beautiful Committee (PMBC), part of the Streets Department’s Sanitation Division, will continue its 2010 volunteer cleaning season with the first of three clean-ups scheduled for the 5th, 14th, 35th, and 39th Police Districts.  Block Captains and Community Group Leaders in the area who wish to schedule their block(s) for the first clean-up are urged to call their PMBC Clean Block Officer three weeks in advance of the cleaning date.  The following Clean Block Officer should be called for the corresponding Police District: Sara Jones, 5th and 39th Police Districts, 215-685-3976; and Santa Conix, 14th Police District, 215-685-3982.


Blocks that wish to organize and elect a Block Captain, and blocks that wish to revitalize an inactive block club should contact the Philadelphia More Beautiful Committee at 215- 685-3981.


PL Cookbook

As part of its 40th anniversary celebration, Project Learn School, 6525 Germantown Avenue, has published a cookbook containing recipes for dishes cooked by its students and children who attend the school’s free Saturday cooking classes.


The book, titled “Kids Can Cook,” contains 200 recipes for appetizers and beverages, main dishes, breads and rolls, desserts, and cookies and candies.


Many recipes are for ethnic dishes prepared while students were studying the country of origin. Others are from the Saturday classes, where the emphasis is on healthy eating, cultural diversity and culinary arts. Even math classes, where students are engaged in weighing, dividing and measuring ingredients, are represented in the recipes.


The book includes a history of the school and a description of how cooking is integrated into the curriculum. It can be purchased at the school or at bookstores in the area for $15. A book signing will be held from 3 to 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, April 24, at the Big Blue Marble Bookstore, 551 Carpenter Lane.


For information call the school at 215-438-3623.


Candidates Forum

On Wednesday, April 28, 7 p.m., at the Brossman Center of the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia, 7301 Germantown Avenue, several Philadelphia organizations have joined together to host a political forum for invited U.S. Senate, gubernatorial, and lieutenant governor candidates.   


It will be moderated by Sheinelle Jones, co-anchor of Good Day Philadelphia of Fox 29, and Elmer Smith, columnist and Editorial Board member of the Philadelphia Daily News. 


The following candidates have confirmed their attendance:  U.S. Senator Arlen Specter (contingent upon voting schedule); U.S. Representative Joe Sestak (contingent upon voting schedule); Auditor General Jack Wagner; State Senator Anthony H. Williams; Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato; Montgomery County Commissioner Joe Hoeffel; and the Honorable Doris Smith-Ribner.


Zoning Input

The Philadelphia Zoning Commission invites all to attend a series of community meetings to review and provide input on the Draft New Zoning Code: Zoning Districts and Uses. The agenda will include a summary of work to date, proposed changes to zoning district and uses, opportunities for public input, and next steps. No RSVP is required. In the Northwest, the meeting will be held Tuesday, May 4 at Roxborough Hospital, 5800 Ridge Avenue, from 6-8 p.m. For information call the Zoning Code Commission at 215-683-4677.


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Breaking a Pattern

All smiles on April 14 at the official ground-breaking at the Presser Senior Apartments on West Johnson Street were, from left, owner and developer James Nolen; Eighth District City Councilwoman Donna Reed Miller; Holly Glauser-Abel, director of development for the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency; Mayor Michael Nutter and Vice President of Acquisitions for PNC Bank Peter Kaplan. For more about the project, which has been a long time coming, see story below.