Date: July 17-23, 2003
Byline: Daniel Brook
Love and PoliticsA forum sponsored by Young Involved Philadelphia (YIP) on the politically charged issue of Love Park drew a crowd of over 100 Philadelphians (most of them young, many of them involved) to a Center City community center on July 9. The panel included Scott Kip of the Skateboard Advocacy Network, Dan Pohlig of the Sam Katz mayoral campaign and Daniel Keating, the developer of The Phoenix, a luxury apartment building that abuts the park. But the unlikely star of the show was Ed Bacon, the cantankerous 93-year-old urban planner who first envisioned putting a park at the base of the Ben Franklin Parkway as an architecture student at Cornell. Bacon says his intention was to create "a place to stand and see the whole grandeur of the Parkway."
Faced with the architectural challenge of creating a square city park on a slope, Bacon came up with the park's signature staircase design decades before he ever saw a skateboard. "It just happened to be completely perfect for [skateboarding]. Goodness knows how we did it," Bacon said, to much chuckling and applause from the fresh-faced YIPsters who perhaps appreciated him for remaining young at heart. Bacon insisted the skateboarder community has been too eager to compromise with administration officials who redesigned the park for pedestrian use.
Pohlig, a youthful Katz representative, assured the crowd that a Mayor Katz would stand with skaters and young Philadelphians in general. By tossing skate rats out of Love, Pohlig said, "the administration is saying, ŒThe city's closed [to young people]. Don't come here.'"
That was certainly the message received by Kip, who told the crowd, "I moved here in 1995 to skateboard and to go to college, but primarily to skateboard."
Even upscale developer Keating called himself "an advocate of the skateboarders" who, he said, "create life in the park."
Though one was listed on the agenda as a panelist, a representative of Mayor Street's re-election campaign wasn't present.
Troy Madres, a co-founder of YIP whose goal is engaging young people in civic life, says his group contacted the Street campaign and was assured that a representative would show. Campaign spokesperson Mark Nevins disputes this. "I never talked to anybody at YIP. I would have loved to have been there [but] I heard about it secondhand." Now, Nevins says, "I'm getting chastised for not showing up to an event I wasn't invited to."