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2 Great Letters from Philip Street Residents:


From: Sandra Williams
Sent: Tuesday, June 09, 2015 10:53 PM
Cc: Cynthia Eiseman; Jane Napoli; Jan Larson; Mr. Everett Katzen; Amanda Y Lehman; Steve and Claire DiNardo; Evan Coren; Thomas Williams

Subject: The 300 block of South Philip Street needs your attention now!!


Dear Mayor Nutter, Councilman Squilla, Commissioner Perri, and Director Farnham,

I am adding my voice to the conversation that you must be aware of around the issue of the 300 block of South Philip Street, in Society Hill, being left off the list of Philadelphia streets needing urgent repair this year.

As residents of the street for the last 29 years, we can attest directly to the fact that our sidewalk on the east side, from 307 to 309, and that of our neighbors next door, from 311 to 315, has steadily been declining, literally, over that time. It is apparent to the naked eye that the granite block street surface has been sinking and is taking the granite curbstones and brick sidewalk with it. When we came to Philip St., there was already a slope to the sidewalk. But over the last five years or so, it has become so bad that it is not navigable by pedestrians, much less by baby strollers. Inclement weather makes the entire stretch a terrible hazard. Residents cannot open car doors onto that area, since the street level is so far below that of the sidewalk. Our marble steps are being pulled away from our house.

As homeowners, we have long been told that the sidewalk condition is our responsibility. However, we cannot make any repairs without major work being done by the City of Philadelphia to discover the reason for the street surface to be sinking, and to find a permanent solution. In addition, we measured the width of Philip Street the other day, to satisfy our curiosity. We compared it to the width of American Street (which is on the final list, despite no apparent degradation of the street nor sidewalk--a real mystery to us while our street and sidewalks are so obviously failing). We discovered that American Street is ten inches wider than Philip Street (90 inches versus 80 inches and less). We believe that this issue is one that needs to be addressed as well, since a great deal of the damage to the bricks on the sloping sidewalk is due to heavy sanitation and other vehicles riding up on this stretch of sidewalk, and doing further damage. Currently,  a large chunk of the curb in front of our house has broken off, and is dislodged into the street. Our neighbors at 311-15 have an area of sidewalk that resembles a shelf, such is the pitch of the surface in relation to the curb. Again, we cannot sensibly make a repair that is temporary, and that rightly is dependent on the work that we hope the City will take on.


We appreciate the information and support we have had recently from Lynn Landes, of the Philadelphia Society of Small Streets. Without her advocacy and attention, we would still be waiting in vain for something to be done. We were not aware that any studies had been made of our street, until she informed us.

We would ask that the condition of Philip Street be considered urgent at this time, and that more evaluation be done by engineers, the Water Department, and by whomever else is required to assure that the proper methods are used to address this issue. We would urge you to visit the street to understand the conditions. From the report we read about three weeks ago, it is impossible to know what the current recommended scope of work includes  (and for $68,000, we don't think it would be much at all). It is important to maintain the historic fabric of Society Hill, and we feel that our street is an integral part of that historic fabric. Philip Street is a historically certified cartway, which was originally called "Comptroller's Alley"--- earlier serving as stable block and courtyard for the Cadwalader mansion (c. 1751--1815) on Second Street.

We urge you to consider widening the street area, raising the granite curbstones to allow for a level sidewalk on the east side of South Philip street, and most of all, we ask that you include the homeowners who live on this block by informing them directly of any plans. Lastly, if plans proceed to work on American Street, it would only make sense to make repairs at the same time to Philip Street, as we are only 100 feet apart.


Sandra  and Thomas Williams

307-09 S. Philip St.

Philadelphia, PA 19106


From: Cynthia J Eiseman 
Sent: Sunday, June 07, 2015 8:49 PM
To: Michael Nutter
Cc: Mark Squilla; David Perri; Jon Farnham; Lynn Landes

Subject: Urgently Needed Repairs to Philip Street 


Dear Mayor Nutter:

I am writing to ask you to take steps with the Philadelphia Streets Department to include the 300 block of South Philip Street on its list of small streets to be repaired this year. Others have written to you about the misguided process used this year to choose small streets for repair. Let me tell you about the impact that further neglect of Philip Street will have on people.


For more than 20 years, this block of Philip Street has been slowly subsiding, taking the sidewalk on the east side with it. It is not clear why this is happening, and Philip Street’s residents’ efforts to get the Streets Department to identify the problem and take action to resolve it have met with no response. In the meantime, it is hazardous to walk on the east sidewalk, and in the winter it is impossible. Moreover, we are concerned that whatever the cause of the subsidence, it will result in a complete cave-in in the not-too-distant future, taking with it houses, cars, and possibly people.


The 300 block of South Philip Street is in the heart of Society Hill. It typifies the best of the small streets in this most historic part of Center City. It is precisely the kind of attraction that draws 40 million visitors to Philadelphia annually. It would be a disgrace—if not a tragedy—if the street were allowed to cave in, garnering the kind of attention that no city or neighborhood wants.


The 300 block of American Street, adjacent to Philip Street, has been slated for repairs this year. From a practical standpoint, there would be considerable economies to repairing Philip Street at the same time, when crews, equipment and materials will be in place.


Twelve houses line this block of Philip Street, ten of which were built in the early 1800s, six of them by Stephen Girard. These historic dwellings were thoughtfully restored during redevelopment in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Over the succeeding decades, they and the newer houses on the street have been maintained at no small expense by their owners in compliance with ZBA and Historical Commission regulations. The city’s neglect of the street itself jeopardizes the effort and expense that the owners have gone to.


Today, the twelve families that call Philip Street home include six children age ten and under, seven senior citizens, fourteen other adults and three dogs.  We all believe (actually, we are not certain what the dogs think) that repairing a historic, residential street in a part of the city that attracts thousands of visitors as well as serving as home to twenty-seven people takes precedence over repairing a street that is not residential, is faced with garages, is essentially an alley, or serves a primarily commercial purpose outside of Center City.

Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter.




Cynthia J. Eiseman
314 S. Philip Street

Cc: Mark Squilla, City Council
David Perri, Streets Department Commissioner
Jon Farnham, Executive Director, Philadelphia Historical Commission