Ronnie Polaneczky: The Piazza's neighbors grow weary of visionary Blatstein's trash

YOU KNOW what stinks? My car. Last week I used it to haul two bags of Bart Blatstein's putrid trash off the empty lot he owns on the 100 block of West Allen Street in Northern Liberties.

For weeks, neighbors had complained to Blatstein-run Tower Investments - owners of the adjacent Piazza at Schmidts - about overflowing Dumpsters on the lot. Scavengers routinely ripped into the garbage, which then blew down the street.

The receptacles were supposed to hold only construction debris from the under-construction Arrow Swim Club across the street. But that's not what was fouling up the block.

"There's beer cans, restaurant trash, tampon applicators, coffee filters," said disgusted longtime resident Marie Frisbie. "Kids play here. It's embarrassing."

Frustrated that Tower wasn't maintaining the site, neighbors called the Daily News for help.

The day I visited, the Dumpsters had finally been moved. But oozing trash bags remained. Inside were beer cans and bottles, wet garbage and restaurant receipts from the just-opened Arrow (chicken panini, anyone?).

"This still isn't cleaned up," fumed Frisbie. "How would Bart Blatstein like to look out his window and see this?"

Only one way to find out. So I loaded two Hefty bags of garbage into the back of my Toyota.

My destination? Blatstein's home on the Main Line. Maybe if I scattered stinking trash over his lawn, he'd understand how insulted his Piazza neighbors felt.


 

Blatstein's fans (I'm one of them) call him visionary. He transforms urban dead zones into hot spots - like Riverview Plaza in South Philly and Avenue North near Temple University - and life perks up.

Surely that has been the case with the Piazza at Schmidts. A decade ago, Blatstein was called crazy when he announced plans to turn the blighted, multi-acre former site of Schmidt's brewery into a hipster mecca.

A decade later, the dazzling Piazza's funky residences, eateries and outdoor events have brought sparkle to an area that hadn't buzzed since Schmidt's workers broke for lunch.

When some neighborhoods gentrify, old-timers complain about the culture clash that ensues. You know - yuppies shelling out expendable income alongside working-class folk who suddenly feel like outsiders.

But in this case it's not a clash of cultures causing the problem.

It's a lack of manners.

Neighbors are enraged that Tower's commitment to keeping the Piazza pristine - honestly, you could eat off its paving stones - doesn't extend to the little streets that fall outside its boundaries. Which is unfair, given that Piazza events are geared toward partiers who urinate and puke their way through the neighborhood afterward.

"We're sick of it," said Amanda Clark. "At big events, they park port-o-johns on our block. Drunks fight in the street. Tower brings them here, but they won't be responsible for them."

The Dumpsters, it seems, are merely the latest incivility.


 

Reached for comment, Blatstein would say only that, "We are sorry if there was any temporary inconvenience due to the finishing up of the construction."

Far as I can tell, though, the work isn't finished. A huge shipping container remains on the property. On Wednesday, a trash bag had been tossed on top of it, and piles of wood lay next to it.

That irked Streets Department operations chief Donald Carlton, whom I called about the site. He ordered Tower to clean it up. The trash was gone that evening.

Which raises the question: If Tower is able to clean its messes within hours of the city telling them to, why can't Tower clean its messes within hours of neighbors asking them to?

Speaking of messes, I never tossed that trash on Blatstein's lawn - an act, I sadly learned, that could've gotten me in legal hot water.

I feel for Tower's neighbors. But I wasn't willing to risk arrest to teach Blatstein some manners. So I left his beery waste at my own curb instead.

My neighbors must think I'm quite the party girl.

Email polaner@phillynews.com or call 215-854-2217. For recent columns:

www.philly.com/Ronnie. Read Ronnie's blog at www.philly.com/RonnieBlog.