GERMANTOWN: Late last week workers from Seravalli Contractors Inc. constructed the newest sections of granite block on Germantown Avenue between Coulter Street and Church Lane.  Seravalli had trouble with the first two sections of block roadway, between Ashmead Street and Queen Lane and between High and Tulpehocken Streets, where the top face of the mortar joints has crumbled and many of the blocks have loosened. This time, after several practice “mock-ups” of new sections off-site, PennDOT decided to alter the grout mortar to a wetter mix, according to Project Manager Lou Marrafino. And now, with a seven-day cure at the corner of Coulter Street, he said, “We’re pretty happy with the way it looks.”   

Old, New Boards Join to elect YMCAOfficers


Staff Writer

On Thursday August 6, the two former Boards of Managers for the YMCA of Germantown joined forces to elect new officers to the helm of the struggling organization. Of the 18 current Y board members, 10 came from what was formerly an insurgent group elected by members to sit along side the “old” board.

Now, as perhaps the strongest evidence that things are finally moving forward, most of the new officers come from the newer group.

“At this point I think it’s fair to say that any animosity between the standing board and the new board is a thing of the past,” said Jim Foster, publisher of the Germantown Chronicle and Mt Airy Independent and the new board president.

In addition to Foster, the new officers include, as vice president, Derek Green, an attorney and aide to City Councilwoman Marion Tasco; as second vice president, Peter Bentivegna, a retired architect and business owner; as treasurer, Floretta Tiggett, a financial services professional, as secretary, Constance Billé, an organizational development professional; and former board chair Marian Taylor as president emeritus.

A presence in Germantown since 1871, the Y’s public facilities have been closed since last summer following a flood caused by a burst pipe. In the year since, struggles over the Y have lead to staff layoffs, a lawsuit, extended insurance settlement negotiations and the loss of the national YMCA charter.

Getting the fitness portion of the building up and running again will still take time, according to Billé. There are extensive repairs to be done and lots of money needed to do it, but while settlement talks with the Y insurer New Hampshire Insurance Company continue, the board has been working to get the larger community involved and re-activate the membership.

“Fixing a building isn’t getting the people back,” Billé said.

One recent effort to reach out was a YMCA table, staffed by volunteers, at the People’s Festival in Vernon Park August 1. The intention was to survey local community members about what they would like to see in a new Y and whether they would be willing to volunteer to make it a reality.

“We got a tremendous response. In fact we ran out of forms,” Billé said. “A lot of people wrote, ‘Please open the Y’ and ‘we really want it. We really miss it.’”

But for all the good work, some former employees reported recently getting strong messages of condemnation by representatives of the Y because of their efforts to speak out about the events after the flood in the newspaper.

In response, several board members said in response that if such a message was ever sent it did not come from the YMCA board.

A $68,000 lawsuit against the Y from Proaction Carpet Cleaning and Restoration, the company that dried the Y out after the flood, is still on the list of troubles, but board members and legal counsel report that settlement talks with New Hampshire Insurance Company are going well enough.

“They have not yet admitted that they owe coverage other than for a relatively small amount of money for damages caused by a lighting strike,” said Jay Levin, counsel for the Y. But he expects to be in contact with the company this week about further settlement discussions, he said. 

While all the Y’s troubles my not be behind it, Billé, at least seems optimistic, and perhaps a little wistful, about the future.

“We open every meeting with a prayer,” she said. “Because that’s what this building needs, it needs a prayer.”

Organization to File for Conservancy of NWProperties


Staff Writer

The non-profit Germantown Conservancy plans to file an omnibus petition to the Court of Common Pleas this week for control of more than 300 blighted properties in Germantown, Mt. Airy and Chestnut Hill. The move, aimed at hitting urban blight where it lives – in the property owners’ ability to sit on stagnated buildings - would be the first such attempt to take over a large group of abandoned properties under the state’s new Abandoned and Blighted Property Conservatorship Act (Act 135), which became law early this year. 

Peter Wirs, a Germantown Conservancy founder, calls the move “the Second Battle of Germantown” as a nod both to the profound impact of urban blight on areas like Germantown, and to the large number of historic properties on his list. Included on that list are the Germantown Town Hall, which is owned by the city’s Redevelopment Authority and has sat unused since 1996, the Tulpehocken Train Station, which is owned by SEPTA, the Garrett-Dunn House at 7048 Germantown Avenue, which burned in a fire last weekend, and the industrial building at 21 East Collom Street, which partially collapsed two weeks ago and is now being demolished by L&I.

Wirs viewed the two recent calamities as prime evidence that the Court should move quickly to finalize its rules for Act 135 petitions, something it has been very careful about because of the newness of the law.

“One of the properties that was on our list has burnt to the ground,” Wirs said. “Another property on our list has collapsed on the house of a neighbor.” He wondered just how much more impetus the court required.

But the Deputy Court Administrator for Legal Services for the Court of Common Pleas, Dominic Rosse, said the court was ready for Act 135 petitions, it just isn’t all that eager to get them.

“We would prefer that they not [file], but they can file,” he said of conservatorship petitioners.

The major reason for the court’s hesitation lies in the newness of the law. Act 135 allows a number of possible interests, including individual neighbors to blighted properties, area non profits, churches and even businesses who are directly impacted by an abandonment, to be named the property’s legal conservator for the purpose of renovating it, selling it and returning any proceeds to the original owner.

Yet since there is no history of property conservatorship in Pennsylvania there is very little assurance that even the simplest of filing procedure mix-ups would not lead to years of expensive appeals. Procedures like notifying absent property owners, heirs, or multiple lien holders of the conservatorship petition could get pretty sticky, Rosse said. And when you’re talking about 300 properties at once, as Wirs wants to do, the number of notifications can easily get into the thousands – for just one case.

Nevertheless Wirs believes the law allows an omnibus petition, and his approach has attracted some attention. A number of churches and non-profit groups have signed on with the Conservancy as well as some for profit construction firms like Domus Inc. of Germantown and Shoemaker Construction Company LLC who are set to co-manage what Wirs expects to be a half billion dollars in construction projects resulting from the petition.

Some critics of the law, like State Senator Shirley Kitchen (D 3rd) worried about just the kind of relationship Wirs has set up between a non-profit group and for-profit developers. Specifically she worried about the potential for trading the property rights of poor people for the interests of deeper pockets, so she inserted a provision in the law requiring any non-profit applying for conservatorship to have a history of similar activity close the targeted property, something the brand new Germantown Conservancy may have difficulty demonstrating.

Another major question that Wirs’ approach brings up is, where would that half billion dollars in financing come from?

Nancy Wagner-Hislip, the managing director for housing finance at The Reinvestment Fund (TRF) did not know about every penny but she did say that, as a non-profit community development lender, her organization would be interested in doing some projects with the Conservancy, as many as 10 to 20 possibly.

“We have said that we would be more than happy to consider individual projects that arise from the conservatorship of all these projects,” she said. “TRF will not be the solution… [but] a lot of what they want to accomplish is dead on to our community development mission.”

For the bulk of the funding, however, Wirs and Wagner-Hislip agreed the Conservancy would have to look elsewhere. 

One more potential roadblock could come in the murkiness of determining just what properties apply to Act 135. Some property rights safeguards of the law include that the property cannot be legally occupied in the 12 months prior to petition for conservatorship, it cannot have been marketed for sale within 60 days prior, or subject to foreclosure, or sold within six months prior to court petition.

On Wirs’ list, the Germantown Town Hall was shown to a potential buyer August 10 (active marketing), Tulpehocken Train station is set to receive $400,000 in renovation work from SEPTA (elimination of blight), and a property the Conservancy featured in a May announcement for conservatorship, the historic Keyser House at 6314 Germantown Avenue is in the middle of zoning variance proceedings for a mixed use commercial and residential renovation.  

“I’m in the process of getting zoning,” property owner Christian Murray said. “I don’t really know how he thinks he can take my property – it’s not abandoned.”

Murray, who purchased the Keyser House through a sheriff’s sale a year ago, accused Wirs of going after properties that were not really abandoned through Act 135.

Difficulties like these seem to lend weight to Rosse’s opinion that an omnibus petition for conservatorship is unworkable (though he emphasized the court has not actually ruled on omnibus petitions). But to Wirs it is merely emphasis that Act 135 is doing its job. The whole point is to spur movement and eliminate blight.

“If [the owner] can go in and show the court ‘I’ve got the money… hey, we’re all the more happy,” Wirs said. “But if he doesn’t have the money, we can’t allow the buildings to continue to be blighted. Act 135 is the last chance for the building owner.”

Businesses Plan How to Survive Avenue Reconstruction

Baron Roane repairs furniture outside his store Recycle Studios at 5310 Germantown Avenue. Roane says that the lack of through traffic on his block is killing his business  - and the reconstruction phase of the project has not yet even reached his block.


Staff Writer

Baron Roane’s store, Recycle Studios at 5310 Germantown Avenue, is a throwback to an earlier era. From antique chairs and tables to bicycles, from art deco sculptures to bright green Fiesta Ware, he sells it all on the sidewalk in front of the store. And most days as he works there restoring things and listening to classic rock, jazz or Motown (on vinyl, thank you), he collects a persistent crowd. 

But despite Recycle Studio’s apparent harmony with its environment, the near total two-month closure of its block due to PennDOT construction on Germantown Avenue is taking its toll.

“It’s killing me, and they aren’t even up here,” Roane said. “Wait till they get up here.”

PennDOT completed its first block of reconstruction a little over a month ago between Bringhurst Street and Queen Lane, stopping car traffic from the south about 50 feet from Roane’s store. Now traffic coming from the north is waylaid more than two blocks away at Church Lane and this hurts the area even more.

“As soon as they did that my business dropped 80 percent,” said Dan Gainey, owner of Dan’s Gallery across the street from Recycle Studios.

For added help Gainey draws up signs on neon colored poster board announcing “chairs for sale.” He uses them to direct traffic back to Germantown Avenue from Greene Street, where most of the cars now go.

What Gainey calls “flow by” is critical to business on this section of the Avenue and right now it is virtually nonexistent. Worse, neither man expects it to get better anytime soon.

Construction will start on that very block in the fall, making even pedestrian customers a near impossibility. And then there is the inevitable lag time getting cars back to Germantown Avenue once the road is finally open again. With all the traffic confusion and roving block closures, many business owners in the area see the Avenue work sending a single powerful message to their customers.

“It all says ‘Keep Out,’” said Saadiq Jabbar Garner at the second meeting of the Lower Germantown Business Association held Thursday, August 6, at 5219 Germantown Avenue.

As the newly elected interim president of the association Jabbar Garner, who owns Quality Motors at 5229 Greene Street and Sadika Fashions at 5149 Germantown Avenue, sees a critical piece of the association’s mission as being able to help out with the circumstances of businesses like Roane’s and Gainey’s.

“Those types of situations have to be looked at,” he said. Each time the roadwork changes, the association should be able to respond with some kind of effective marketing strategy drawn from the individual stresses of affected businesses, he said. “That’s how you move out.”

Yet other concerns seemed to dominate the business association meeting August 6,  especially larger and more lasting questions of how to create a new and vibrant Lower Germantown business sector after the PennDOT construction and all the other capital improvement efforts likely in the area are complete.

“There’s an opportunity for the businesses to improve, for people to feel safer and better on the corridor,” said Roger Kern, commercial corridors business organizer for the city Commerce Department. “And the businesses are key in making that happen.”

It’s an argument that many at the meeting seemed to acknowledge. The money flow to Germantown Avenue includes the $9.2 million PennDOT project, and starting next year there will also be a comprehensive streetscapes improvement project designed to hit all the sections of Germantown Avenue that are untouched by PennDOT. Beyond that, there is an expanded façade improvement program which Germantown Avenue businesses are eligible for through competitive grant applications to the city. All in all it represents a potentially transformative impact on the whole of the Avenue if businesses can organize and make use of it, Kern said. 

But there was still some confusion over just what to do about construction impacts now. The general consensus at the beginning of the meeting was to use some of the $25,000 secured by the Wister Neighborhood Advisory Council (NAC) for business marketing during construction as seed money to re-brand the Lower Germantown business sector in a way that would match the new look of the Avenue once all the sections are open again.

Members seemed to favor flying business association flags from the new SEPTA trolley stanchions along the Avenue to give it a new look once the construction is done, but there was some question as to whether the grant money would cover such expenses. For the $15,000 coming through the Commerce Department, at least, Kern thought that use was a little out of order.

“That’s stretching it a lot,” he said. “Our funding was for the marketing of businesses from the impact of construction… what we thought you were going to say was that these blocks were shut down for three weeks and have a banner [in response].”

For Karyn Conway, program manager for the Northwest Philadelphia Business Association, a business association incubator spawned by the Ogontz Avenue Revitalization Corporation, these questions highlighted how difficult it is to get a healthy business association off the ground. She stressed that most associations did not have grant funding at all but relied instead on their membership dues, which means primarily marketing and organizational work, she said.

However, for Wister NAC, getting business participation in the marketing plan through the new business association seemed critical for making both things work.

“To get credibility, to be the association we want to be, the businesses have to step up,” said Debra Roberts, director of operations for Wister NAC.

And several of them did step up. In addition to Jabbar Garner, area developer Frank Bruno accepted the post of vice president; the owner of Bargain Thrift Center at 5245 Germantown Avenue, Sue Quinn, accepted the secretary position; developer Stan Smith became the treasurer; and Wister NAC agreed to act as the association’s business manager.

While the association made no concrete decisions on how to spend that $25,000, it did set three things out as major agenda items for the next several weeks. One: develop an initial strategy for that money. Two: design a logo for the business association for use on communications and signs. And three, connect with and recruit new members, like Recycle Studios and Dan’s Gallery, from the 80 estimated area businesses so the new post-construction era of Lower Germantown Avenue won’t leave any businesses from older eras behind.

Tax Policy

The Mayor’s Task Force on Tax Policy and Economic Competitiveness is developing recommendations to improve Philadelphia’s future and is calling for public input into its work of evaluating the City’s real estate development environment, tax policy and structure and how they compare to competitor cities and neighboring jurisdictions.

It will meet on Thursday, Aug. 13, 4-6 p.m. in City Hall, Room 400. This meeting will provide the public an opportunity to give feedback on the Task Force’s preliminary proposals about Philadelphia’s tax structure and real estate development environment. The group is charged with providing recommendations and accompanying legislation by September.

To testify at the Task Force’s second and last public meeting, email or call 215-686-6569 to be placed on the speakers list. Attendees should bring copies of their testimony or email them in advance. A photo ID is required for building access.

Make Philadelphia Greener

Want to reduce your carbon footprint? Looking for great ideas to make Philadelphia a greener City? Learn how at The Green Cities, Clean Waters exhibit, presented by the Philadelphia Water Department. The exhibit is on display from August 17 – 21 at the Central Library, 1901 Vine Street. Visit Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Friday until 6 pm.

The exhibit offers ideas to help improve local sources of drinking water and green the neighborhood. It also shows the many ways the City and its partners are working to improve Philadelphia’s water and land environment. For more information, visit  or call 215-499-3756.

The Northwest Gardening Association is hosting a workshop on “Native Plants in the Landscape” on Saturday, August, 22, 10-11 a.m. at Awbury Recreation Center, 6101 Ardleigh Street. Environmental horticulturist Paco Verin will teach why native plants provide a beautiful, hardy, drought-resistant, low-maintenance landscape while benefiting the environment. Admission is free.  For more information or to R.S.V.P., please call 215-224-5872.

Students’ Posters at City Hall

Community health centers in the Philadelphia area marked National Health Center Week, August 9-15, with a reception, poster contest award ceremony, and art opening on Thursday, August 13 at City Hall.

Six young artists, including Angelique Benrahou of Mt. Airy (2nd prize winner, ages 14-18), received prizes ranging from $250 for first place to $100 for third place for their outstanding posters on health center related themes.  An additional 30 young people ages 9-18 from all over the five-county area were selected as finalists in the poster contest. Their work will be displayed along with the prize winners’ on the fifth floor of City Hall in an exhibit organized by Art in City Hall. The poster contest and event are sponsored by Health Partners, with additional support from HealthPort and other community sponsors.  Following the City Hall exhibit, the posters will be displayed in the lobby of HealthPartners’ corporate headquarters at 901 Market Street in Center City. 

In addition to the joint event at City Hall, Health Centers are holding community health fairs in their neighborhoods throughout National Health Center Week.

The Northwest EPIC (Equal Partners in Change) Stakeholders Group invites the Northwest community to our Social Network/Recruitment Meeting on Thursday, August 20,  at 1 p.m.  The meeting is held at 4700 Wissahickon Avenue, Suite 101, Building C. Individuals who live and or work in the Northwest community are invited to become a part of the EPIC process by attending the meetings.  We encourage you to be the “Change In Your Community.” For more information contact EPIC Coordinator Nan Rhone at 215-549-2686.

Health Fair for G’town’s Mind, Body, Spirit


Staff Intern

Health care isn’t an issue reserved for bigwigs in Washington, it’s every single citizen’s concern. That’s why Faith Community United for a Healthier Germantown, a coalition comprised of eleven area faith-based organizations, will host its second annual health fair on Saturday, August 15 in Vernon Park.

“The purpose is to focus on the bodies, minds and spirits of the 46,000 Germantown residents by increasing health awareness, and making people pay attention to their well-being,” says event chairperson Saadiq Jabbar.

Festival-goers will not only be able enjoy music, food, vendors and children’s activities - the Philadelphia Fire Department will have an fire-truck on display - but will also have free access to health screenings and health information.

Planning for the fair started in January. “It’s really been a collaborative effort,” Jabbar emphasizes. “We’ve reached out to the community and beyond it. We’ve tried to connect with as many people as possible.” 

Congressman Chaka Fattah is this year’s Honorary Chairman and will be giving addressing the crowd; health agencies such as Blue Cross and the American Cancer Society will be providing their services; and Weavers Way Co-op and a number of other local businesses will be participating.

“On the day of the event,” Jabbar says, “we’ll even be driving up and down Chelten Avenue with microphones and everything in order to spread the word.”

FCUHG expects a good turnout this year because of Vernon Park’s central location. “We hope people will come out to get screenings and information,” says Jabbar, “but we’re also creating a wholesome environment in general. We hope people come out just to have a nice day. We hope they come to have fun.”

The fair will be held Saturday, 10 a.m. – 3 p.m., in Vernon Park off Germantown Avenue. For more, contact Hildegarde Freeman at 215-520-2466.

‘Carnival for a Cure’ at Enon

The third annual “Carnival For A Cure” will take place on Saturday August 15, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., on Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church’s Athletic Field across from the main church. The carnival is organized by the Enon’s HIVAIDS Ministry which is committed increasing awareness of this epidemic that plagues the world. Every 91/2 minutes someone is infected with HIV and more than I million people in the United States are living with this dreaded disease.  The Carnival will focus on confidential testing and distributing information on health and HIV/AIDS.

There will be rides, food, games, prizes, a talent show and entertainment.

Admission is free and the community is invited to attend

For more information call 215-276-6200.

Due to an increase of car  break-ins in our area, the 39th District wants everyone to be aware and help us combat this problem.  Remember, it is important not to leave any personal items or packages inside your vehicle unattended, including iPods,  cellphones, digital cameras,  pocketbooks, GPS units or laptops. A thief will smash your car window causing you needless expense. Please report any suspicious persons or activity to 911 immediately. Additionally, call Officer Joseph Lukaitis, 39th District Crime Prevention Officer, at 215-686-3390 or 215- 686-2751 with any critical information you may have.

Do’s and Don’ts: do remember to always lock your car. Never leave valuables, ID, or cash in your car. Keep your registration and license with you.

For the 48th Year, It’s Folk Music Time

By Nathan Lerner


The Philadelphia Folksong Society, headquartered in Mt. Airy at 7113 Emlen Street, is in the final stages of preparing for their 48th edition of the Philadelphia Folk Festival. Once again, the event will take place on the Old Pool Farm, outside of Schwenksville in Montgomery County. Headliners will include The Decemberists, Derek Trucks Band, Sonny Landreth, Del McCoury Band, Iron and Wine, Tom Rush, and the Rebirth Brass Band.

Lisa Schwartz is the president of the Philadelphia Folksong Society. She has a long history with both the festival and the Society.

Schwartz said, “My big sister, Victoria, took me to my very first Folk Festival in 1974 and I have not missed a year as a volunteer since.  I also worked as the office manager for the Folksong Society from 1981-1982.” Schwartz was asked to join the Board of Directors in January, 2007 and was elected to fill a vacant seat the next month.  In June, 2007, she was appointed President of the organization and was recently reappointed for her third term.

Schwartz loves the festival. “This event has such a rich and valuable heritage. It is a marvelous event that combines the traditional with the contemporary, but never loses sight of its roots.  We offer dancing and crafts and camping and, most of all, music!” 

She added, “There is just nothing else like the Folk Festival anywhere.  You really do have to experience it to truly understand why people love it so much.  It is a place where you can rendezvous with your youth, escape the day-to-days, embrace your inner child and spend time with folks who are your musical brethren.  Music is the universal language and whether you play an instrument and sing, or feel more comfortable just clapping and tapping along, you can.” She added, “The passion and devotion of our volunteers and customers is absolutely evident everywhere you go on the Folk Festival site. 

It’s an inter-generational experience, Schwartz pointed out. “We have folks who helped to produce the very first Philadelphia Folk Festival in 1962 , who still volunteer today and are joined by their children and grandchildren.”  She lauded the role of volunteers at the festival, saying, “They are completely dedicated to the success of the event and work tirelessly to ensure that everything comes together and appears to be effortless to the general public… in many cases, the volunteers have built festival families and see the Folk Festival as a great family reunion.”  

Last year, Rich Kardon and Jesse Lundy from Point Entertainment took over the programming of the festival.  Kardon  explained, “Our goal is to try and grow the festival fan base by reaching out to whole new group of music fans, who have never experienced the event.  I think the festival has gotten a reputation of being skewed to an older demographic. I think that if the younger audience comes just once, they will be back. It’s such a great time, especially if you camp! I think the programming reflects an effort to attract that younger demographic, without losing the roots music.

Lundy added, “The biggest challenge in programming the festival is making sure that what we book will appeal to all the different parts of our audience. Though there is a lot of newer music being presented this year, it’s extremely important to us that we bring in the traditional acts that made this event what it is, as well as putting together some good dance programs.”

Kardon said, “This festival has a lot of tradition, and a lot of diversity within its heritage. There’s a realization that with contemporizing the line up while staying true to the roots, you’re not going to be able to satisfy all the different genres that the festival may have had in the past.”

Lundy addressed the somewhat controversial issue of having the Decemberists as a festival headliner, He conceded, “There’s no question that some people will say that they are not a folk act. They are certainly not a traditional folk act.” However, Lundy  staunchly defended the programming decision, saying, “The Decemberists are constantly talking in interviews about how 99 percent of their influences come from folk music. So they are just straining the traditional stuff through contemporary eyes.”

The Philadelphia Folk Festival takes place from Friday, August 14 to Sunday, August 16. For further information about or tickets to the Philadelphia Folk Festival, call 215-247-1300 or 800-556-FOLK. Alternately, visit their Web site at

Nathan Lerner serves as Liaison for Central Control at the Philadelphia Folk Festival. He welcomes feedback at

Reasonable Recipes: Tomato Mandarin Orange Salsa

Cornmeal-encrusted sea scallops with Tomato Mandarin Orange Salsa.


In these times of fiscal uncertainty, good food can be a comforting pastime. Many feel they cannot afford to eat out, but it is possible to prepare and serve extraordinary food at home. In this column, Chef Pat O’Donnell, of Germantown’s Urban Café, will provide tasty, nutritious recipes and practical cooking advice, so that one can prepare and serve gourmet meals with a pauper’s pocketbook right at home, with minimal effort. In addition, Chef Pat will answer any questions submitted about food and cooking.

I hope that everybody is enjoying their summer and I’m glad to see the huge response to these Reasonable Recipe articles. I received quite a bit of e-mail, and I’ve tried to answer as quickly as possible. I find it interesting to talk to so many people who are into cooking or who are just looking for tips.

It seems that we have a good amount of men out in the community who love to grill. The most asked question has been: “How do I keep things from getting charred?” I hope you’re now getting good results with “slow and low.” Most chefs will tell you to cook on a low fire for a long time when grilling bone-in chicken and meat, as this keeps it moist and tender without charring the skin or meat. The second most common mistake is adding the sauce too soon, as the sugar has a tendency to burn quickly. So leave this for the last 5 minutes and brush it more than once.

A lot of customers come into the restaurant and write later, requesting a recipe for their favorite dish. Unlike most chefs I’m more than happy to help, as I believe most people go out to eat for the joy of being out. So I don’t see it as giving away secrets. Besides, if you give 10 people the same recipe, it will probably end up tasting 10 different ways.

One such customer is Christy, from Roxborough, who tried the cornmeal-encrusted sea scallops with fresh Tomato Mandarin Orange Salsa, and decided to write for the recipe. In her e-mail she explained how she was having a party down at the shore and how she loves to stop on the way and get a basket of Jersey tomatoes at one of the local stands. Christy explained that she and her friends like to sit and drink Margaritas, and she thought that the salsa would be a hit with that drink.

My sous-chef Jarrod Oliver came up with the recipe, and as I was talking to him, my first cook, Lou Henninger, overheard us and got the idea to sell virgin Margaritas with small plates on Saturday and Sunday. So, the first week, we came up with six Southwestern appetizers, and offered them – your choice- at 3 for $15, plus virgin Margaritas for $8.  I’m glad to say that my readers inspired my chefs. Thanks, Christy!

Salsa is quite easy to make, and with so many people growing tomatoes and buying Jersey tomatoes I thought this was a perfect recipe for this week’s article, as tomatoes and the shore are now starting to hit peak season. We’re finding lots of things with which the salsa goes well, so I hope you’ll try it and please put your own spin on it. I’ve already added it to Mexican spiced catfish, fish tacos, scallops, and egg and cheese quesadillas, and only imagination limits the possibilities. The salsa just seems to get better as the tomatoes marinate with the mandarin oranges, so don’t be afraid to make this one ahead of time to use a day or two later. When you’re having a party, you can pull it out and just add it to something simple, like scallops, and have more time for your friends. 

This recipe calls for a blender, but it’s not a must. I recommend that you use a serrated knife to cut the tomatoes as the skin can be a little tough unless you have a really sharp knife. The easiest way to dice tomatoes is to cut six slices, then take half the tomato, and place the flat side down, round side up. Cut four or five times down through the slices, rotate ninety degrees, and do the same. Repeat with the other half, and remember to take your time so you don’t cut yourself.

I, like most chefs, don’t follow strict recipes. Cooking is an art, so you learn to be guided by taste. The time of year can change what you’re making, so taste as you go and learn to season a few times throughout the preparation of the Tomato Mandarin Orange Salsa

You will need:

2 ripe tomatoes

1 red onion

1 jalapeno pepper

1 small can Mandarin oranges

Small bunch of cilantro

2 limes

Salt and pepper

When cutting a jalapeno pepper, most of the heat comes from the seeds, so if you like it hot, add the seeds; if not, remove them - and don’t forget to wash your hands when you’re done.


Dice the first 3 ingredients and set to the side.

Wash and dry cilantro.

Chop the cilantro.

Place the tomatoes, onion, and orange in a mixing bowl.

Slowly add the jalapenos, mix, and taste to judge the heat.

Add the cilantro slowly, and mix a little at a time, until it looks equal in proportion to the rest of the ingredients.

Add the juice of 2 limes, and salt and pepper to taste.

Take half the salsa, and pulse it in a blender, then add it back to the rest. This will give it texture, while still letting it help to mix the flavors.

Let the salsa sit for an hour in the refrigerator and taste.

This is when you can add more jalapeno, but you can’t take it out, so go easy. Enjoy!

If you don’t grow your own tomatoes or have a preference for the legendary Jersey-grown tomatoes, consider that truly, locally grown tomatoes are available at several venues here in the Northwestern Philadelphia area. Among these venues are Weaver’s Way Co-op, at the corner of Greene and Carpenter Streets, which offers not only tomatoes grown in the NW Philadelphia area, but also a variety of other herbs and produce grown – often organically- in these city precincts. Also, the historic Wyck House, at Germantown and Walnut Lane Streets, grows tomatoes and other herbs and produce which are offered for sale at that site on Fridays from 4 – 6 p.m. Since local production and sustainability is a paramount theme of this column it is important to be aware of and support these efforts, as the Urban Café itself does.

I hope you enjoy the dish, but if you’re not sure and want to try it, feel free to come to the Urban Café. Also, please feel free to write me at The Urban Café, 5815 Wayne Ave., Phila., PA, 19144, or .

Bon appetit!

This article is part of a regular series that is presented by Chef Pat of The Urban Café, and Dan Jefferson, author of “Dining Out in Desperate Times, a Guide to Affordable Eating.”                            

Youth Troupe Performs New Play, ‘The Return’

Dimitre Rodriguez of Germantown and Derrick Gregory of Kensington practice a scene from The Return.

On Thursday, August 13, 2009, the Yes! And high school troupe, Shadow Camp, will be performing their newly-written play The Return at 7 p.m. in the sanctuary of the historic Germantown Mennonite Church, 21 West Washington Lane. The performance is free to the public, appropriate for teen and adult audiences, and runs approximately one hour.

The Return, based on Fernando Sorrentino’s short story of the same name, follows a love-lost narrator as he is destined to grow up watching, but never winning his true love’s heart. His devotion and careful watching allow him to observe a supernatural reunion. Set in an Argentinean village in the mid 1800s, the story is revealed to the audience one important piece at a time.

Shadow Camp is run for and by teens in the Philadelphia area. They began the process of creating this play a few months ago and have spent two weeks putting together everything from the script and acting to lighting and sound design. The performance will also feature a talkback session with the teens.

Yes! And is a collaborative arts education company, working with some of Philadelphia’s most underserved populations, bringing programs such as summer theatre camps, after-school literacy programs, a Winter Sort of Thing, high school leadership development and Shadow Camp. Their programs strive for excellence in artistic and educational training.

This production will also be performed Friday, August 14 at 7 p.m. at Trinity Baptist Church, 2720 Poplar Street and Saturday, August 15 at noon at the Treehouse Coffee Shop, 120 West Merchant Street, Audubon, NJ.

Give Your Views on Water Issues

Philadelphia’s waterways supply essential drinking water and destinations to play, fish, relax and reconnect.  That’s why the Philadelphia Water Department is submitting a 20-year plan to the Environmental Protection Agency that outlines how to improve our waters and green our city.  Citizens are strongly encouraged to attend a public meeting and provide important feedback to City planners. 

Meetings will be held from 6 to 8 pm throughout the City.  Water ice will be provided to attendees.

In the Northwest, the meeting will take place August 18 at Waterview Recreation Center, 5826 McMahon Street.

Other meetings will be held August 19 at the Northern Liberties Community Center, 700 North 3rd Street; August 20 at Columbus Square Recreation Center, 12th and Wharton streets; and August 25 at Mercy Hospital, 54th and Cedar streets, 7th Floor Chapel Conference Room

The Green Cities, Clean Waters program commits $1.6 billion over 20 years to capture 80 percent of the sewage and storm water that flows into the Schuylkill and Delaware Rivers and the Tacony and Cobbs creeks. A major part of the solution focuses on greening our streets, schools and public facilities. 

“The program is designed to make our waterways cherished and thriving destinations, and lay the groundwork for revitalizing Philadelphia in areas of public health, recreation, housing and neighborhood values,” says Joanne Dahme, Public Affairs Manager for PWD.  “But we need citizens to tell us what they think before we present to the EPA on September 1.”

For more information, visit  or call 215-499-3756. 

Philadelphia ACORN is offering free assistance to anyone who needs help getting out of or preventing foreclosure, or improving the affordability of their mortgage. Whether people are already delinquent on their mortgage, worried about falling behind, or don’t understand the terms of their mortgage, ACORN can help. ACORN works to help families get loan modifications that are affordable to them based on their income and expenses. ACORN will be holding intakes every Tuesday at 5 p.m. at their office, 846 North Broad Street, 2nd floor. To reserve a space please call 267-234-7308 and ask for Fred. Feel free to contact ACORN with any other questions or concerns as well.

ACORN stands for the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now.   ACORN’s website is

Poet-ify at GCB

“Poet-ify: Poetry to Edify,” will meet on Sunday, August 23, 3:30 – 8 p.m. at the Germantown Church of the Brethren Fellowship Hall and Family Life Center, 6601 Germantown Avenue. Poet-ify is where poets, spoken word artists, word crafters, lyricists and others lift you out of your comfort zone and set you down in deep  thought.

Come celebrate their first anniversary at this location and the third anniversary for Poet-ify. Share on open mic, maybe with a surprise or two, and enjoy the musical talents of the MTM Gospel and Jazz Ensemble. 

This is a family-friendly environment – keep it real, make it plain, but not profane. Tickets are $8, $10 at the door, $5 seniors and children. Refreshments will be served. For more information call RuNett Nia Ebo at 215-495-8679 or 215-438-1809, e-mail, or visit,

The Northwest Gardening Association is hosting a workshop on “Native Plants in the Landscape” on Saturday, August, 22, 10-11 a.m. at Awbury Recreation Center, 6101 Ardleigh Street. Environmental horticulturist Paco Verin will teach why native plants provide a beautiful, hardy, drought-resistant, low-maintenance landscape while benefiting the environment. Admission is free.  For more information or to R.S.V.P., please call 215-224-5872.

Twenty-three peace groups will demonstrate near the home of Senator Arlen Specter from 2-4 p.m. on Sunday, August 16, on West Schoolhouse Lane at Vaux Street. They want Specter to cut off funding for the U.S. occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan. On this date in 1966 the U.S. House Un-American Activities Committee began investigating the peace movement opposing the U.S. occupation of Vietnam. Demonstrators disrupted the meeting, and fifty people were arrested. For information call 215-843-4256.

The Independent would like to clarify one aspect of last week’s story on the closing of the Germantown Settlement Mature Adult Center. Dot Newton, former Director of Aging Services for Germantown Settlement, bore no responsibility for the financial management of the center.

Pharmacy Flourishes in ‘Generic’ Niche

Left to right: Howard Brooker initial owner and now staff pharmacist at Adams, and Sam Siri, current owner and pharmacist.

If you’re  a newly-started small business in the same field as large, established chains, how  do you compete for your share of consumer’s dollars? One way is to find a niche offering services those chains don’t, and that’s the route Adams Discount Pharmacy in Glenside has taken from the beginning.

Adams was one of the first drugstores in the area, perhaps the first, to automatically inform its customers about generic equivalents for the prescription medications they’re taking. “Generics,” as they’re called, are medications whose patents have expired, making them available for manufacture and sale by any drug producer, not simply the company that developed the drug. They’re the same drug as their brand-name equivalents, but much less expensive.

Founding owner Howard Brooker says that the impetus behind Adams was his experience working as a hospital pharmacist. “I decided that the cost of prescription medication was way out of control,” he says. “I cashed in my 401k and started this.”

Regarding the Adams’ policy of informing patients of generic equivalents to their drugs, Brooker says, “They’re [generics] cheaper for us, and we pass on the savings to the consumer. If they come in and mention the brand name they don’t have to mention the generic – we automatically do that.”

Brooker emphasizes, “All medication is FDA-approved and made in the U.S.”

Brooker says that Adams pioneered this approach in the area, doing so a year and a half before what he terms the “big box” chains did the same.   “The customer response has been overwhelming,” he claims.

Brooker has since sold the business to another pharmacist, Sam Siri, remaining on staff as a pharmacist, but the founding policy remains in intact, he says. “We do whatever is cheaper for the consumer.” 

Adams takes all insurance plans and offers free local delivery – “within a 10- or 15-minute drive,” he says. “We’re full service and will match any price.”

For more information about Adams, call 215-572-1118.

On the web, visit

Vendors Sought for Wadsworth Day

State Senator LeAnna M. Washington and Community Outreach 200, Inc. are gearing up to celebrate the 14th Annual Wadsworth Day.

“This day is a great way for the community to come together for family fun, activities and great food,” Washington said. 

The event, which is free to the public, will be held Saturday, September 12 from 11 a.m. - 7 p.m. on the 1500 and 1600 blocks of Wadsworth Ave. The rain date is Sunday, September 13. The day features free refreshments, drill teams, free health screening, children’s rides, face painting, entertainment and fun for the entire family. 

Washington’s office is still accepting vending applications and non-profit organization are also encouraged to call the district office at 215-242-0472 to set up resource tables.

The head liner for this year’s event will be Glen Jones, who sang “I’ve Been Searching” “Show Me”, and “We’ve Only Just Begun.” to name a few.

MALT Offers 250 Courses This Fall

Mt. Airy Learning Tree’s Fall catalogue has arrived boasting over 250 courses. Visit MALT at  and see our featured speakers, dance, computer and art classes, the variety of ways to get into shape, talks, walks, cooking classes and more. Among the wide variety of courses are:

Look foxy dancing the foxtrot, spice up your life with salsa dancing or learn ballroom dancing this fall with Debra Klingler. All classes begin on September 24 and will run for 8 weeks at Summit Presbyterian Church.  Cost is $79 for each class. 

Is there a connection between quilting and the Underground Railroad? Some say each quilt tells a story passed down through generations, describing, with signs and symbols, secret directions for enslaved Africans on their journey north. This class, for novices and experienced quilters alike, is hands-on, enabling you to acquire a basic knowledge of quilts and their construction, in addition to exploring the possible significance of the squares as they relate to the Underground Railroad. The result is a piece of history and a family heirloom. Class runs Monday evenings September 21-November 16, 7-9 p.m. (no class on 9/28) at Fabrics on the Hill.

To register for any class call the MALT office at 215-843-6333 or register on line at

Tony Williams Jazz Festival

The 19th Annual Tony Williams Scholarship Jazz Festival in memory of Pernell “Percy” Council will take place on Labor Day weekend (Friday, September 4 - Monday, September 7) at the Embassy Suites Hotel (Airport), 9000 Bartram Avenue, Philadelphia. The Scholarship Festival will welcome world-renowned headliners including trombonist Don Collins; saxophonists Louis Taylor, Tim Warfield and Bruce Williams; vocalists Nina Bundy, Ella Gahnt, Barbara Morrison and Jackie Ryan; pianists Aaron Graves, Roy Meriwether, Dick Morgan, Dave Posmontier and Phil Wright; and drummer Lucky Thompson.

This year’s honorees include musical educators Mike Boone, Jamal Dickerson and Mark Mitchell; founder of the Council of Jazz Advocates (COJA) Thelma Anderson, and festival publicist/supporter Verna Edwards. Special festival guests include Philadelphia’s own Bill Cosby, and Dr. Verolga Nix and the Intermezzo Choir.

Festival honorees will be presented with their awards Saturday evening preceding Jackie Ryan’s concert at 8:30 p.m. Additional events include a reception each night in the Atrium, pool-side jam, vendors, workshops, and more.

Festival weekend packages, day passes, and individual event tickets are available. For more information please contact MACC at 215-753-0232 or 215- 248-4415, or visit the Website at

Obituary: Shirley Melvin

On Tuesday, July 21, Shirley Melvin died peacefully in her home at the age of 84.  For more than eight decades, this native Philadelphian shared her devotion, convictions, and unflagging energy with family, friends, and the community she loved.

The door to Shirley’s home was a wonderfully inclusive revolving door, where family members were joined by people of all races, identities, and backgrounds.  

Over the years, anyone needing assistance of any kind was met at that door by Shirley’s open heart and helping hands. With her love, she taught people to embrace each other as Family. She saw everyone’s strength and potential, encouraging them to use their gifts to make a contribution to the world.

She survived the devastating loss of her first daughter, Janet, to cancer and continued to embrace life with a full heart. Janet’s partner and son became valued members of her family. Her “adopted” kids brought precious grandchildren into her life, with whom she shared a deep love and commitment.

Shirley was born October 16, 1924, arriving 30 minutes after her “big” sister and identical twin, Doris. Born to Esther and Jack Blumberg, Shirley, Doris, and Aaron, grew up in Gray’s Ferry, where they were one of a few Jewish families in the neighborhood.

Shirley’s father, Jack Blumberg, owned a real estate company, where he helped working-class families purchase their own homes.  Her mother, Esther, worked to get Jews out of Europe during World War II, opening the Blumberg home to refugee children.  Jack and Esther’s qualities of fair play, hard work, and community activism made indelible impressions on their children.

In 1942, while still teenagers, Shirley and Doris were recruited directly out of Girls’ High to work as mathematicians for the U.S. Army. They worked six days a week for the next three years to help the U.S win World War II.   When the war ended, Shirley married Tom Melvin and assisted at his photography studio. She was then recruited by the Franklin Institute to work as a mathematician to help develop a stabilizer for commercial aircrafts. Shirley was also part of the team that developed ENIAC, the first computer.

She had three daughters, Janet, Hedy, and Nini, and Doris had five children. They raised their children as one family. 

During the years they were raising their families in the neighborhood of West Mt. Airy, both Shirley and Doris became community activists, helping to found West Mt. Airy Neighbors and the Allens Lane Arts Center.  

By the early 1960’s, the unethical real estate technique of blockbusting threatened to disrupt the inclusive and welcoming environment the twins valued in their community. Spurred on by personal conviction, in 1965 Shirley joined her sister Doris in forming Twin Realty of Germantown. This woman-owned, woman-run real estate company was created to gently integrate the Mt. Airy/Germantown areas of Philadelphia.  For nearly 30 years they worked side by side as socially responsible agents, advocating racial harmony and neighborhood integration. Through their work, this neighborhood became the first stable, integrated neighborhood in the country.

While Doris retired 1991, Shirley continued to work in real estate, finally retiring last year at the age of 83.  Because of their business activities and their other community efforts, the twins have received many commendations for their civic work. 

Shirley Melvin is survived by her daughters Hedy and Nini; her twin sister, Doris; many nieces, nephews, “adopted” children, and grandchildren; and scores of beloved friends.

The family requests that in lieu of flowers, contributions to Shirley’s name by made to the Allens Lane Art Center:

601 West Allens Lane, Philadelphia, PA 19119-3300.

There will be a celebration of Shirley’s life at the Allens Lane Art Center on Saturday, August 22 at 3 p.m.

Saturday Services at Mt. Tabor

Mt. Tabor Baptist Church, 110 West Rittenhouse Street, will be starting a Saturday afternoon worship service. Pastor Melvin McAllister states that it will be a contemporary “Come As You Are” worship service. Saturday services will begin on August 15 at 5 pm. For more information call 215-844-2756.

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From the Chronicle • Germantown News Stories

August 13, 2009

Old, New Boards to Elect YMCA Officers

Organization to File for Conservancy of NW Properties

Businesses Plan How to Survive Avenue Reconstruction

Tax Policy

Make Philadelphia Greener

Students’ Posters at City Hall

The Northwest EPIC (Equal Partners in Change) Stakeholders Group

Health Fair for G’town’s Mind, Body, Spirit

‘Carnival for a Cure’ at Enon

An increase of car  break-ins

For the 48th Year, It’s Folk Music Time

Reasonable Recipes: Tomato Mandarin Orange Salsa                 

Youth Troupe Performs New Play, ‘The Return’

Give Your Views on Water Issues

Philadelphia ACORN

Poet-ify at GCB

The Northwest Gardening Association

Pharmacy Flourishes in ‘Generic’ Niche

Vendors Sought for Wadsworth Day

MALT Offers 250 Courses This Fall

Obituary: Shirley Melvin

Saturday Services at Mt. Tabor