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Philly parking Wars: The median strip wins

The South Philly parking situation just got a whole lot better... or worse, depending on how you look at it.
philly median parking
Photo credit: AD Amorosi

The twin Hurricanes of Harvey then Irma created raging waters and wrathful winds in other parts of the country, but that did not distract a local judge from ending an epic battle in South Philly, so that calmer heads could prevail – at least for the time being.

Before last weekend, Common Pleas Court Judge Daniel J. Anders tossed a law suit filed by 5th Square which sued the Philadelphia Police Department (PPD) and the Philadelphia Parking Authority (PPA) to get officials to enforce ticketing on the legendarily crowded South Broad St. median – that long strip of empty space straight down the middle of the block where neighbors who can’t find parking elsewhere work their magic.

Think of “Game of Thrones” and the art of war. Some men fight White Walkers for survival. Some women fight for Iron Thrones. We all have our battles to pick.

In South Philadelphia, since July 2017, Jake Liefer and his 5th Square social-political action committee have had shields and swords at the ready, suing the PPD and the PPA get officials to enforce ticketing on the medians along Broad Street. Like the wars in “Game of Thrones,” this wasn’t a new fight or one without (supposed) blood as Liefer has been waging this battle since August 2015, claiming that having to park along the median – a practice almost as old as the auto industry – was dangerous to bicyclists, pedestrians and drivers.

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No studies have ever proven that the illegal practice of Broad Street down-the-center parking – an area tradition since the turn of the century – has created notable havoc, but that didn’t stop Liefer’s 5th Square from stating that the PPD and the PPA refuse to do their jobs when neglecting to ticket or even to tow cars from the median.

“The parking on the median has forever been essential; necessary, a way of life,” said Marc Ferguson, a dialysis patient who often uses the median for parking and the administrator at Taking Our South Philadelphia Streets Back – yet another area social-political action committee – upon the creation of an August petition to legalize free median parking on South Broad St.

As stated in the petition signed by over 1,200 citizens: Businesses and residents along the corridor and in the surrounding blocks rely on the approximately 200 parking spaces that the median provides. Elimination of these spaces will hurt the small and large businesses on Broad Street, create additional parking congestion for the already crowded neighborhood streets, and inconvenience residents, possibly prompting them to leave the city.

In August, the city sought to dismiss Liefer’s lawsuit, claiming that ticketing all cars along the South Philadelphia media would divert the attentions of an already strained PPD and PPA. Anders upheld the city’s objection and dismissed Liefer’s suit “with prejudice, meaning 5th Square can’t sue the city over the issue again. (Judge Anders is unable to comment on his decisions and Liefer was unavailable at press time).

Upon hearing the news of the judge’s decision, Ferguson stated that he was “pleased, of course, as businesses and neighbors can count on that parking, but that we have a long way to go,” he said. “I know that Councilman Mark Squilla is on our side on this. Our next step in that process is to get that same median made legal and free. It's an antiquated law that has to change for good. Once I start, I’m not going to stop.”

That’s what the spoils of war sound like in South Philly.