Letters: Condo tower will ruin Jewelers Row

Barricades on Jewelers Row, where Toll Bros. City Living is beginning geo-technical work in preparation for its planned condo-tower project

Tower will ruin Jewelers Row

My jewelry store is at 704 Sansom St., where I continue a business founded by Louis Neff in 1905. I have worked on Jewelers Row for 45 years - my whole professional life. As the city considers allowing suburban developer Toll Bros. to destroy my end of the row to make way for a 29-story luxury condominium tower, I want Mayor Kenney and everyone to know what would be lost if that were to happen.

The first thing that would be lost is my livelihood. Like many area jewelers who don't own their buildings, I depend on reasonable rents and constant street traffic to keep my business alive. Even if Toll Bros. were to find temporary accommodation for me, the disruption and the likely loss of a street-level shop would put an end to the work I have done for nearly half a century. And even if I were allowed to stay in my current location, surrounding demolition and street closures would have the same effect.

The debate about the future of Jewelers Row has mostly been voiced by property owners, architects, and Toll Bros. spokespeople. The Jewelers Row Business Association, which leans toward owner-occupants, does not speak for all of us and has not spoken to many of us. And Toll Bros. is doing its best to keep opponents of their plans silent, asking landlords to sign nondisclosure agreements, forbidding them to discuss the plans if they're even considering selling to the developer. These landlords have also been urged to keep their tenants quiet.

Also lost would be Jewelers Row itself. This project would not "revitalize" the row. The disruptions that would kill my business would have the same effect on others.

Jewelers Row is the oldest diamond district in the country; its buildings have even more history. Preservationists have tried to put them on Philadelphia's historical register, only to have the city's Historical Commission shirk its duty. Toll Bros.' original plan for a 16-story tower might be allowed "by right," but there's no way the current plan is permissible.

I call on the mayor to step in while there's still time.

|Maryanne S. Ritter, Philadelphia

Christie worsened pension woes

Gov. Christie's policies made the pension problem worse ("Christie budget holes are deep," Monday). His tax cuts for the wealthy and subsidies for dubious ventures deprived the state of needed revenue. Had Christie funded the pension as obligated at the start of his term, the rising stock market would have significantly increased the value of the fund.

Christie and his friends blame public workers for the mess. But public workers made sacrifices. Years ago, the worker contribution was 3 percent; now it's 7 percent. Retirees took a 22 percent cut in cumulative benefits.

Christie blames the unions, but the pension began in 1953, while unions didn't come until 1983. Christie claimed the pensions were too generous, but studies show that government salaries are 15 percent lower than those in the private sector.

Christie's supporters say pensions are merely a "promise" than can be broken, but they are contractual obligations with the same standing as government bonds.

|Lee Winson, Yardley

Make sure hoverboards are safe

A hoverboard that was charging in a Harrisburg home apparently overheated and caused a fire, tragically killing two sisters, ages 10 and 3 ("Hoverboard linked to fatal house fire," March 12). A fire official responding to the blaze was killed in a car crash.

While the incident is under investigation,this would be the first reported case of a fatal fire caused by hoverboards. Last year, more than 500,000 units were recalled. Some models contained lithium-ion battery packs that could overheat, which could lead to the products smoking, catching fire, or exploding.

In November, PennPIRG (Public Interest Research Group) urged consumers to check their homes for recalled toys and pay attention to third-party online retailers who might be selling them.

Hoverboard owners should check the Consumer Product Safety Commission's website about the recall and their hoverboards for a UL certification sticker. When appropriate, they should notify the manufacturer for a refund.

And the CPSC should take steps to ensure that consumers are notified so we can prevent avoidable accidents.

|Dev Gowda, toxics advocate, PennPIRG, Philadelphia

Colorful cast behind People Paper

Now that the names of the Daily News brass are appearing on the Inquirer masthead, it's only proper to pay tribute to some of the folks who devoted their lives to the People Paper ("Escobar named editor of PMN; new roles for Marimow, Day," Tuesday).

J. Ray Hunt, the managing editor, who spent nearly every waking and most sleeping hours at the paper. Bill Blitman, the pugnacious city editor, who chased real Nazis (George Lincoln Rockwell) out of the newsroom. Larry Merchant, who scowled while hiring the likes of Stan Hochman, George Kiseda, and Jack McKinney, and creating the model of modern sports coverage.

John Praksta, whose brilliant headlines continue to influence the Inquirer and Daily News. Jim O'Brien, the editorial page editor, who created a cantankerous character, Lucky Pierre, whose letters filled the void when there weren't a sufficient number from the public. Tom Livingston, the managing editor known as "Captain Video" when he converted us from hot type to a computerized countenance.

Zack Stalberg and Gil Spencer steered the tabloid through a sea of corporate threats while scoring a couple of Pulitzer Prizes for Rich Aregood and Signe Wilkinson.

Finally, let's not forget immortals like Pete Dexter, Chuck Stone, and lunatic attractions: Frank Dougherty's Phantom Rider; Carol Wallace's Polly Pothole; the Road Warrior and the Tipoff column, authored by yours truly, who blew kisses to his readers, referring to them as Ears Dears.

|Don Haskin, Philadelphia, dhaskin34@gmail.com

American jobs, but foreign steel

What seems to have been lost in the announcement of President Trump's approval of the Keystone XL oil pipeline was that he also approved the use of foreign steel - breaking another campaign promise ("Trump gives green light to Keystone XL pipeline," Saturday). Every steel company chief executive officer and every steelworker in America should be outraged. The pipeline was justified by the American jobs it would create - not the work it would outsource.

|Tom Taft, Ambler, tomtaft@comcast.net