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In the News Index

Source: Philadelphia Daily News
Date: June 22, 2005
Byline: Jill Porter


For the LOVE of Phil...

WAS IT A hallucination?

Was that Phil Goldsmith walking through LOVE Park yesterday afternoon – or an incarnation making a spiteful appearance?

Yup, it was the real thing, the former city managing director who can be thanked for yesterday's raucous demonstration: he shoved the skateboarders out of this sacred ground.

Did he come to gloat?

Or better yet, did he come to denounce his decision, made on the mayor's behalf a year ago, to ban the skateboarders?

No and unfortunately, no.

Goldsmith, who's retired but still actively involved in civic affairs, came to town from his suburban home to attend a series of meetings.

When he found out about yesterday's demonstration against the banishment of skateboarders from JFK Plaza, he dropped by "for a silent five-minute protest against skateboarding."

"And to get some sun," he said, sitting on a bench and raising his face to absorb the afternoon's glorious rays.

At least he doesn't take himself seriously.

Goldsmith's vehemence about keeping skateboarders out of the park was one of the few times I thought he was boneheaded and just dead wrong.

Yesterday, in the quiet moments before hundreds of protesters swarmed over the plaza, he insisted he was right.

"Look at this," he said, pointing to groups of mothers and children basking in the cool spray of the fountain, and lunchtime workers eating al fresco.

"It wouldn't be like this if people were skateboarding here."

It was a year ago that negotiations to share this sacred turf with skateboarders fell apart – cementing the city's reputation as a stodgy place that turned its back on the young and hip and failed to capitalize on a natural attraction.

"This is the Middle East of Philadelphia," Goldsmith said yesterday.

That is, everyone's fighting over the same turf.

Then he reiterated the Street administration's shortsighted sentiments that it's too dangerous, too disruptive and too destructive to let skateboarders use the plaza.

Sigh.

For a crazy second, I thought about outing him, standing and shouting to the few protesters who'd begun to gather: "THIS BENIGN LOOKING GUY OVER HERE IN THE GOLF SHIRT AND SPORT JACKET IS THE GUY WHO THREW YOU OUT OF HERE!"

Maybe they'd kidnap him at skateboard-point. Or maybe they'd put him on a skateboard and let him fend for himself. (No, he can't skateboard.)

But I like Phil. And everybody's entitled to a mistake. So I kept quiet.

Soon the park was surrounded by skateboarders clutching their banned paraphernalia and chanting "Free LOVE Park! Free LOVE Park!"

After a brief standoff, police smartly allowed them to indulge in a few moments of civil disobedience: they let them onto the plaza where some jumped into the fountain and others briefly skated over the sacred ground.

For a moment, the ghost of Phil Goldsmith was banished from LOVE Park – and then he was off to his meetings, gone in the flesh, as well.

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