Earlier this summer, before the excessive heat ruined everyone’s mood, I found myself standing outside the Mt. Airy store. It was one of those glorious Philadelphia June days, as warm as it can get without feeling hot, and all of Mt. Airy Village was bustling.
There must have been 30 people outside. Pairs of neighbors standing on the sidewalk, engaged in conversation. Groups having lunch at the tables outside the Co-op. A crowd spilling out onto the sidewalk at the High Point. People scurrying in and out of Big Blue Marble and the Nesting Place. Kids, dogs, bicyclists and joggers all playing their supporting roles in the street theater.
Just another day in Mt. Airy Village. A man I had never seen before came up to me with an incredulous look on his face. He was from another part of town and had never been here before. Shaking his head and gesturing to the corner, he asked me, “What is this place?”
There are more than 21,000 intersections in Philadelphia. Arguably Carpenter and Greene is like no other. And on a beautiful afternoon in June, from the perspective of someone visiting for the first time, the effect was simply enchanting.
Yes, Mt. Airy Village is just about perfect. Except when it isn’t.
For not a small number of people, living at Carpenter and Greene is a drag. People around here aren’t known for being shy, so over the years Weavers Way has taken our fair share of complaints. Some of them, you might be surprised to learn, have been pretty angry. (I know, I was shocked too!)
To hear some of our neighbors talk, you’d think they’d rather live down the street from a meth lab than the Co-op — at least the neighborhood meth cooks don’t preach about how they’re the heart and soul of the community while taking all the parking spaces.
Fortunately, most of our Mt. Airy Village neighbors are pretty happy living near the Co-op, and even when they do have a gripe, they raise it respectfully and understand the inherent challenges associated with running a busy grocery store.
For starters, there’s the constant in-and-out of delivery trucks, often arriving while folks are still in bed. You have no idea how loud a truck lift gate can be until you’ve heard one at 6:30 a.m.
Trash trucks visit us six days a week, snarling traffic when they do, but without their regularity our dumpsters would become even more fragrant. Shoppers — about 7,000 in a typical week — start arriving before the doors open at 8 in the morning and when the weather’s nice tend to still be around long after we close at 8 at night.
And then there’s the dogs.
Mt. Airy’s baby boom may have overshadowed our doggy boom, but our four-legged friends are everywhere around here, of every size and every disposition.
In Philadelphia, it is illegal to leave one’s dog unattended, but it is a long-standing practice around here to leave dogs tied up outside while shopping at the Co-op or grabbing a cup inside the High Point Cafe.
Most of the dogs are pretty easygoing, so they just sit there patiently, taking in the scene like everybody else. But some are jumpy or, much worse, aggressive, forcing people to give them a wide berth. And even the easygoing ones more than occasionally will sprawl out onto the sidewalk, blocking ingress, egress and progress.
The dogs are just one more obstacle on sidewalks already crammed with tables, chairs, bike racks, trash cans, flower containers and newspaper boxes. The French call this stuff mobilier urbain, and they say it adds to the urbaneness of the city. Maybe so, but it also clutters up the sidewalk.
In recent months we’ve taken a few steps towards making the sidewalks more passable. We’ve posted signs to discourage shoppers from leaving their dogs outside — though we’re not getting into the code-enforcement business. We’ve moved some of our street furniture around to give pedestrians more elbow room.
But short of moving to bigger digs elsewhere, there’s only so much we can do to relieve the hurly-burly at Carpenter and Greene. And most of our neighbors recognize there’s an overall net gain to living near Mt. Airy Village. I want everyone to know that Weavers Way understands that there’s a downside too and that we’re constantly thinking of ways to be the best neighbor possible.
See you around the Co-op.