Free LOVE Park
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In the News Index

Source: Philadelphia CityPaper
Date: October 2-8, 2003
Byline: Andrew Hohns and Job Itzkowitz

Love Love

Show support for the skateboarders.

If you're between the ages of 15 and 35, Philadelphia is one of the best places to live and work and create in the United States. Period. No qualifying statements. No caveats. You can see it: We've got something going on here — there is a palpable feeling in the air about the climate for youth and innovation, about all the great things that are happening here.

Walk through Bella Vista any night and see the young and hip mix it up with the old Italian locals at Low Bar or the Royal. Drive through Northern Liberties and you can smell it too — a sense of åbeing there' amid something really special. We've got great young writers that are getting published, great young musicians that are being heard, great young theater (just look at the Fringe Festival) — and it has all come up in the last 10 years.

There is an excitement here that is all its own — and as far as we're concerned, you can keep Williamsburg, Lynchburg, Austin and L.A. We've got Philly.

The fact that so much is going on is what it makes it especially frustrating when our local politicians inadvertently stymie the source of our growth. They're busy calling summits of the region's gray hairs to figure out how to keep more green hairs here, but they're missing the point entirely. Cool is not something you can engineer — that, in fact, would be uncool — cool is the way that something just happens, just is — and one place where we've got cool is Love Park.

You want to grow the region with youth and youth culture? How about opening up the world's best-known icon for skateboarding (a sport with more participants than baseball last year) and just sitting back. No money to spend, no summits to call. Just sit back and watch the press come in, the kids come in, the tourists come in, the students come in, the new residents come in.

But hold on, you say — how about the damage that's done to the park by skaters? How about the serene atmosphere for lunch? These are very valid points — and that's why we've made them our focus within our balanced solution to return skateboarding to Love Park, calling for a self-funding mechanism to provide for periodic maintenance to the park's physical plant and a restriction on skateboarding hours to after 3 p.m. weekdays. The Coalition to Free Love Park has put together a plan here that has something for everyone — and we are passionate about it.

So are eight members of City Council. So is the city controller. So are the editorial boards of the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Daily News. So are 70 percent of Philadelphians, in a recent poll. So is Ed Bacon, the park's designer. So is Richard Florida.

All that's needed to let skateboarding back into Love is for the Street administration to say: "OK, let's do it." We released our plan almost three months ago, and having received widespread public endorsements and national press coverage (Washington Post and CNN), it seems that the momentum and the city are both going in the right direction.

Forget all of the campaign controversy you've read about this election year. Molotov cocktails and leaked memos make for good reading, but they are not a good basis to vote about the future of the city.

Neither is skateboarding.

But our campaign is not about skateboarding. It is about a growing Philadelphia, a vibrant Philadelphia. A Philadelphia that attracts students and young professionals. A Philadelphia that recognizes its opportunities and moves quickly to capitalize on them. A Philadelphia that endorses fair compromises where its constituents have competing concerns. Love Park, an international magnet for young people, is a catalyst for Philadelphia's growth. The decision that will be made about Love Park will, in part, determine whether we are a growing city, fast approaching 2 million residents and leaving Phoenix in its ashes or whether we are a fading city, slowly making more permanent our entry in the world's encyclopedia of vanished cities.

So, let's make the right decision about the future of Love Park, about the future of Philadelphia. There's a rally to free Love Park this Sunday, Oct. 5. Let's put our issues on the map. This is a decision about Philadelphia's future — let's show our city some love.

Show your love this Sunday at 1 p.m. at Dilworth Plaza. Come out to the rally to free Love Park. Tell everyone you know. Show Love some love.

Andrew Hohns and Job Itzkowitz are organizers of the Coalition to Free Love Park. They are also board members of Young Involved Philadelphia. homepage

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