2011 News Year in Review: Comings and goings


When one door closes, another opens and there are a lot of doors in South Philly.

Kmart made its exit in January, but by November, Burlington Coat Factory opened its doors in its place. 2011 also saw the closing of the Stiffel Senior Center. Construction is expected to cover the mural “Autumn,” while Edwin M. Stanton School and Manton Street Park await their fates.

Even so, there were a few bright, or clean and green, moments this year when Passyunk Avenue Revitalization Corp. announced its comeback, refugees created a garden and UnLitter Us made its South Philly initiative launch. Heading into the New Year, South Philly awaits April’s Xfinity Live! debut in hopes of many more doors opening throughout ’12.



""After 30 years, South Philadelphians said goodbye to the Whitman Plaza Kmart, 424 W. Oregon Ave. While citizens embraced the deals, they could not ignore the economic repercussions as 114 people lost their jobs.

Teleconferencing had allowed Pennsport resident and then-principal Stephen Hewitt to teach higher-level mathematics to fifth- and sixth-graders at St. Richard School, 1826 Pollock St., along with 30 other students from a trio of Archdiocese of Philadelphia facilities. The two-year pilot program, “Math Matters,” hopes to have students finish with ninth-grade algebra to lead toward high school credentials.

The 16th annual Greater Philadelphia King Day of Service brought out a record-breaking, 75,000 volunteers throughout the city. World Communications Charter School, 512 S. Broad St., and members of the Church of the Redeemer, 1440 S. 24th St., volunteered at the Tindley Temple United Methodist Church soup kitchen, 750 S. Broad St., while the nonprofit OPPORTUNITIES helped some formerly homeless residents restart their lives with a shopping spree at IKEA, 2206 S. Columbus Blvd.

Although denied more money through the U.S. Department of Education’s Promise Neighborhood implementation grant Dec. 19, it had awarded Universal Companies, 800 S. 15th St., a $500,000 planning grant to develop a cradle-to-career package of health and social services and improved schools in Point Breeze and Grays Ferry.


After 60 years as a City employee, Packer Park resident and Council President Anna Verna retired. The Point Breeze native’s achievements include keeping seniors from losing their homes due to real estate taxes, banning public drinking, cutting down the number of vacant spaces, assisting with the expansion of the Philadelphia International Airport and the Philadelphia Naval Business Center, along with chairing the Columbus Day Parade that her late husband Severino co-founded.

SS United States Conservancy members announced the $3-million acquisition of the historic ship. While the final resting place and $200 million in renovations were still drifting, its owner hoped the vessel’s strong historical ""connections keep it docked in Philadelphia and become part of the thriving waterfront community.

With the July ’10 sale of the former site of the St. Charles Borromeo School, 2019 Montrose St., the Archdiocese left Messiah Dance Works Productions Inc. to find a new home. After nine years in the space, its founder Duane Wilkins hoped faith would help to relocate the dance company.

A trio of “STOMP” cast members treated students at Philadelphia Performing Arts Charter School, 2600 S. Broad St., to some dance lessons. The troupe was one of many that stop by to get the students excited about the arts. ""


GlaxoSmithKline announced its headquarters would relocate to The Philadelphia Navy Yard. Its new office, 5 Crescent Drive, which is expected to carry a LEED certification, along with the nearby expansion of fashion retailer Urban Outfitters Inc., 5100 S. Broad St., will bring an additional 1,000 new jobs to South Philly.

When the School District of Philadelphia proposed to make Charles Y. Audenried Sr. High School, 3301 Tasker St., part of the Promise Neighborhood Partnership, Hope Moffett spoke out against the district, which removed her from the classroom after she provided a student SEPTA tokens to attend a protest, but her employer later let the teacher return to her duties.

Invisible Children Uganda’s Teacher Exchange program chose Amanda Bankert to spend six weeks abroad. The seventh-grade teacher at Girard Academic Music Program, 2136 Ritner St., was looking forward to making a difference with her new students, many of whom were child soldiers from The ""Lord’s Resistance Army insurgency.

Cleanup crews returned to East Passyunk Avenue when Passyunk Avenue Revitalization Corp., 1137 Wharton St., resumed the duties that Citizens Alliance for Better Neighborhoods suspended in the midst of ex-state Sen. Vincent Fumo and its former head Ruth Arnao’s federal and state litigation.


Residents across South Philly partook in the City’s fourth annual Philly Spring Cleanup. While the West Passyunk Neighbors Association organized a five-hour cleanup, Newbold Neighbors Association distributed recycling bins — with the help of Mayor Michael Nutter and his wife, Lisa — and encouraged community members to sweep up their blocks.

Flavors of the Avenue included food tastings and demos from diverse eateries along East Passyunk Avenue, including a few new establishments. The East Passyunk Avenue Business Improvement District, 1904 E. Passyunk Ave., event also included Crafty Balboa April Showers craft show, Flavors Fashion Crawl and Beer Tasting Block Party.

Fifteen science and technology loving students make up the Rambots at South Philadelphia High School, 2101 S. Broad St. After reaching the Philadelphia Regional FIRST — For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology — Final semifinals, the competitive robot building team competed in the U.S. FIRST Robotics FRC National Championship in St. Louis.

SEPTA launched a six-month pilot program for Route 47, which runs north on Seventh and south on Eighth Street, to determine the effectiveness of measures such as eliminating stops in order to boost the bus’ punctuality, which is 75 percent below SEPTA’s average. While some changes remained, the stop consolidation was reverted back to its original form in October.


After 83 years of service, Jacob and Esther Stiffel Senior ""Center, 604 Porter St., was slated to close as it needed more than $400,000 in repairs, including some to the roof and the boiler. When supporters were unable to raise the needed funds, the senior center closed its doors over the summer.

The Mural Art Program’s Journeys South used art to tell stories of immigration throughout the Italian Market and along East Passyunk Avenue. Consisting of four aspects, the project included footprint murals detailing immigrants’ road to Philly; poems honoring locals who attributed to the area’s ethnic diversity; mural awnings commemorating businesses at the market; and a memory box containing historic South Philly photographs.

The 800 block of Percy Street in Bella Vista received a green makeover. The City installed porous asphalt that absorbs rain assisting with stormwater runoff and limiting basement flooding.

The National Shrine of St. Rita of Cascia, 1166 S. Broad St., was a full house an hour before worship even had began. The Archdiocesan Boy Choir of Philadelphia made its initial stop at the church on its namesake’s Feast Day.


""The “Growing Home Garden” on the 700 block of Emily Street has brought together 70 Nepalese and Burmese families. Under the direction of Nationalities Service Center, the green space provides a communal boost to residents, some of whom have spent up to 14 years in refugee camps.

Pangaea Saunders, a seventh-grader at Christopher Columbus Charter School, 1242-46 S. 13th St., won first place in the junior division at the National History Day competition. Her project, “Apple Indians: Red on the Outside, White on the Inside” explored the American government’s plan to assimilate Native American youths into the Caucasian culture in the late-1800s.

The Cambodian Association of Greater Philadelphia’s South Center, 2416-18 S. Seventh St., created a computer “Hot Spot” courtesy of the Free Library of Philadelphia and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. The center features two Early Literacy Stations with 50 educational software programs, as well as components to help adults use the Internet to find health information and search for jobs.

A neighborhood survey indicated 70 percent of South of South residents wanted more trash receptacles to help to clean up the streets, so the South of South Neighborhood Association raised the funds and brought in three BigBelly solar waste units with more receptacles in the works.

The principal of Girard Academic Music Program, 2136 Ritner St., Dr. Angelo F. Milicia, decided to retire a few years early in order to lessen budget issues for the cash-strapped institution. The decision saved two teachers’ jobs and salvaged portions of its music program.


The CHI Movement Center, 1316 S. Ninth St., served as the host site for Dance for Parkinson’s — a 75-minute session geared toward assisting sufferers of the neurological condition.

""The archdiocese announced the merger of the 118-year-old St. Casmir Parish, 324 Wharton St., with the Fairmount-based St. Andrew’s Parish, due to declining number of parishioners. The church is being utilized as a worship site.

Whitman resident Joe Kirin traveled to Washington, D.C., where he was awarded the Jefferson Award for Public Service. His charitable work has included 21 years of helping wheelchair athletes enjoy basketball, track and other sports.

Girard Estate’s La Stanza, 2001 W. Oregon Ave., received some national publicity as a May visit from Food Network personality Robert Irvine and the “Restaurant: Impossible” crew appeared on TV. The 12-year-old establishment received a major design and menu overhaul.


Julia Parmisciano, of the 2400 block of South Alder Street, was at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia awaiting a heart transplant, which she received Nov. 22. The 13-year-old Lower Moyamensing resident was admitted following a May incident at Epiphany of Our Lord School, 1248 Jackson St., that led to her going into cardiac arrest.

Minh Nguyen, Boat People SOS, 600 Washington Ave., Asian Youth Empowerment Project organizer crafted a program to breed an understanding of funding allocation to communities through an analysis of bicycling opportunities. Through the group’s documentary, they hope to advocate the need for more bike lanes in South Philly.

As part of the Green Machine Initiative, the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society teamed up with Friends of the Chew Playground, 1800 Washington Ave., to create a garden filled with edible endeavors ""including blueberries, raspberries and figs.

Filmmaker Eugene Martin documented the Anderson Monarchs, a girls’ soccer team of African-American youths. The West Passyunk-based team’s story was focused on overcoming stereotypes and scarce resources to achieve greatness.

Joey Vento, the founder of Geno’s Steaks, 1219 S. 9th St., died suddenly in August.


Family and friends were preparing to host a benefit for Joanna Galdo, a resident of 3100 block of South 18th Street, who was continuing a 12-year struggle with brain cancer and was told she may succumb to its grip within a year.

Passyunk Square resident Donna Bachety commissioned a stained glass window in her home to honor the memory of the 2,977 9/11 victims. Former Marine, Frank Sorrentino of South Philadelphia Stained Glass, 1605 E. Passyunk Ave., designed the 26-by-16-inch window.

Committed cleaners — 150 in total — devoted four hours to sprucing up Franklin Delano Roosevelt Park, 1500 Pattison Ave., during the eighth annual Growing the Neighborhood Volunteer Day.

Former U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Sandra Day O’Connor visited the Andrew Jackson School, 1213 S. 12th St., to swear in the school’s initial student council. She also announced her Civics Impact Challenge contest in hopes of increasing student participation in civics.

The interfaith movement Philadelphians Organized to Witness, Empower and Rebuild, which was made of members from nearly four dozen congregations, held a one-day convention at Tindley Temple to share a vision of unity among diverse religious beliefs.


October ""

Neighborhoods like East Passyunk Crossing, Lower Moyamensing and Newbold jumped aboard the UnLitter Us campaign to promote a cleaner, greener South Philly by signing up blocks and businesses to vow to keep their properties free of debris.

A former East Passyunk Crossing resident, Anna Frangiosa, and Grays Ferry inhabitant, Erika Bell, assisted the growing social crusade, Occupy Philly, at Dilworth Plaza. The occupiers represented the 99 percent and aimed to rid corporate greed.

David Guinn’s Bella Vista mural, “Autumn,” hung in limbo as a developer proposed to build a one-family town house in the vacant lot at 631 S. Ninth St. that the artwork overlooks. The Zoning Board of Adjustment has since approved the development.


Timothy Luko Jr., a native of the 100 block of Mercy Street, has devoted 13 years to defending his country. Family and friends, along with Mummer string bands, welcomed home the former Mummer captain of the Satin Slipper New Years Brigade, 1444 S. Second St., from his latest assignment in Afghanistan at its club.

""BalletX and Andrew Jackson School teamed up for its third workshop through the “Inside the Mind of the Choreographer and Composer” residency project. The result was “Jackson Sounds,” a 27-minute ballet that the company performed at The Wilma Theater.

First lady Michelle Obama presented Zulmarie Nazario, a junior at The Academy at Palumbo, 1100 Catharine St., and Matt Braun, executive director at Fleisher Art Memorial, 719 Catharine St., with the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award for the institution where Nazario has developed her craft.

As a part of East Passyunk Crossing Civic Association and Town Watch’s charitable giving committee, Millie Ruffino and Josephine Cardillo filled five carts with food that the Philadelphia Access Center, 1832 S. 11th St., dispersed to 16 local needy families.


Dr. Pasquale Nestico and his coworkers at Filitalia International, 1834 E. Passyunk Ave., ran their sixth annual Christmas Seals Program, which provides unwrapped clothes and toys to struggling local families.

Nour Sardab, an 18-month-old Sudan native, and nine other youngsters made their debuts as naturalized citizens Nov. 30 at ""Settlement Music School’s Mary Louise Curtis Branch, 416 Queen St.

Under the impression Manton Street Park, 405-11 Manton St., was City park, residents learned the City had sold the land as part of a empty lot bundle. The group of volunteers were revitalizing the space since June, and are now working with the developer in hopes of salvaging at least a portion of the land.

Comcast-Spectacor, The Cordish Companies and Comcast Corp. announced an update for Xfinity Live!, a massive entertainment complex set to open its first phase in April. The development will create 750 jobs with amenities that will include a marketplace, NBC sports arena, on-demand theater and various establishments such as Spectrum Grille and Broad Street Bullies Pub.

Contact the South Philly Review at editor@southphillyreview.com.