Thursday, July 31, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Weeks after fire Old City intersection is still a menace

Allen Haynes and DeAnne White, visiting from Queens, N.Y., snap a picture across from the Suit Corner. Fire destroyed the building just weeks after its neighbor, the Shirt Corner, collapsed.
Allen Haynes and DeAnne White, visiting from Queens, N.Y., snap a picture across from the Suit Corner. Fire destroyed the building just weeks after its neighbor, the Shirt Corner, collapsed. TOM GRALISH / Staff Photographer

There is an accident waiting to happen in Old City.

It has been more than seven weeks since the fire that gutted the Suit Corner clothing store on the southwest corner of Third and Market Streets.

Ever since, pedestrians walking on the south side of Market or the west side of Third have been forced into the path of oncoming traffic by a construction fence that takes up all but 18 inches of the sidewalk.

Seven weeks! I know because I've been one of those pedestrians pushed off the pavement by Belfor Property Restoration's fence.

Worse, I have been leading groups of people - sometimes as many as 20 schoolchildren on class trips - through this dangerous squeeze between cars, trucks, taxicabs, and duck boats, while leading walking tours through the historic district.

Three times a day I make the sign of the cross and pray for the best as I lead groups through this minefield of busy traffic on the way from Christ Church at Second Street to Franklin Court, between Third and Fourth.

What makes it especially dangerous is that, because of a parking cutout in the sidewalk just west of the construction fence, pedestrians just suddenly appear out of nowhere from behind parked cars in front of eastbound traffic on Market.

It is impossible for two people to pass each other on the tiny strip of sidewalk without one of them stepping off the curb into the street. I've seen cars that were trying to beat a yellow light miss a line of pedestrians by inches.

Plus, that sliver of sidewalk is cracked and uneven. I've stumbled a couple of times off the curb, and I wear sensible shoes, not sandals or high heels.

Did I mention that it's been seven weeks? And this is the height of the class-trip season for schools from Richmond, Va., to Syracuse, N.Y.

"It's a disgrace," said Jim Kenney last Saturday at the Independence Visitors Center at Sixth and Market. But he's only a councilman at-large. "Why do you think I'm running for mayor? That's the only position to get anything done by the city."

Kenney said he had complained a number of times to the Department of Licenses and Inspections about the perilous situation at Third and Market. He's also complained about the construction fence on the west side of the 200 block of Arch, directly across the street from the Betsy Ross House.

Call it the Battle of the Bulge. Pedestrians must either cross at the traffic light on either corner, or risk peaking around the construction fence and trying to maneuver through traffic that is frequently crawling due to parked tour buses and slow-moving horse-drawn carriages.

"What kind of impression do you think this makes on tourists?" Kenney asked. "There's new construction going on all the time in New York City and you never see this mess. They're required by law to have pedestrian tunnels and scaffolding built within days."

On Tuesday, the eve of the seven-week anniversary of the Suit Corner fire, I tried to file my own complaint with L&I. My call was routed through the city's non-emergency 311 hotline. During a long wait on hold, I heard directly from Mayor Nutter.

"Hi, this is Mayor Mike Nutter," said the recurring recording, which sounds like the mayor is speaking in a train tunnel. "Thanks for calling 311, your connection to City Hall." After multiple assurances that my call would be handled in the order it arrived, and after innumerable interludes of bad jazz played underwater, my call was answered by a nice lady named Leona.

I explained the hazard to pedestrians at Third and Market. Leona told me she would file a report and that an inspector from L&I would visit the site within five business days.

That's a load off my mind.

 


Clark DeLeon's column appears regularly in Currents. deleonc88@aol.com

Clark DeLeon
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