Monday, July 27, 2009

What we can learn from Philly

After spending a weekend in Philly, it's clear that we are doing some things pretty well already, but STL can stand to learn a few new tricks.

Philadelphia seemed a bit like a Canadian New York City; not quite as big or rich, but cleaner, quieter, and more comfortable. Which is parallel number 1, STL plays little indignant brother to Chicago, and Philly does the same for New York.

One of the largest similarities I found between St. Louis and Philadelphia was the number of people from Philly who stay there.

The city itself doesn't take up that much space, but makes up for it in the sheer density of buildings. You can walk from place to place without too much trouble, and the buses, trains, and trolleys take you further faster when you are feeling on the lazy side.

MetroLink scores a surprise victory over SEPTA, both on price, and because on SEPTA, you have to actually, physically buy a ticket of an employee who walks down the aisle (This concerned me when I arrived and realized I had neither cash nor debit card on my person).

The city is still heavily segregated, with large minority majorities in West Philadelphia. Center City reminded me of parts of downtown Denver, great infrastructure, but few people on the streets for such a big city.

St. Louis City may be suffering from a large number of vacant lots, but it has nothing on Philly's 30,000, more than any other city. Urban guerrilla gardening and mural making has helped with some of the eye-sores, but it still leaves much to be desired.

On the topic of urban gardening, Philly is all about it. Everyone grows something in their backyard (and not the California type of growing something). We could definitely stand to benefit from more urban gardens in St. Louis, both as a beautification measure, as well as a community building and educational measure.

This is why we are so excited to create the urban garden at the Next Dor house. It will serve many different needs at the same time.

I was able to stay at the Moishe House in Philly, and had the opportunity to see a bit of what they do. I think the probably beat us in terms of organization, but they have also been around a few more years and have had more time to establish themselves and connect with people.

After an erev Shabbat service at the Moishe House, we had an awesome potluck, which was kicked off with an activity called "pimp my dish", in which each person had to describe the food they brought and try to make it sound as tasty as worked.

For a city known for its cheesesteaks, there sure were a lot of vegetables coming out of the concrete jungle.

1 comment:

Susan said...

I was just in Philly over the weekend too for the first time. I too was surprised by the lack of people on the downtown streets and the subway.