Sidewalk shoveling sense Jessup St. residents cleared their narrow street for safety's sake.

Posted: February 12, 2010

Call it the tale of two Center City streets.

The 200 blocks of South Jessup and South Quince, just off Locust between 11th and 12th, are both narrow, with charming centuries-old houses, neighbors who wave hello, and no parking allowed.

But after Wednesday's monster snowstorm, the two blocks looked quite different.

Quince's sidewalks were mostly clear, but the center of the street was piled unevenly with heavy snow.

Jessup was scraped clean, with snow tossed onto the sidewalk and narrow paths to front steps carved out.

Lynn Landes helped organize residents of the 20 or so houses on her block of Jessup to shovel the street, not the sidewalk. During the last big snowstorm, she put notes in people's windows.

"We need special rules for the small streets," said Landes, 57. "The street needs to be clear for fire trucks and ambulances, and we want to make sure we're not ticketed for doing what makes sense."

Under the city code, residents who fail to shovel their sidewalks could face tickets and fines. But on many narrow Philadelphia streets, Landes argued, if you clear your sidewalk, there's no place to throw the snow but the street, and that means emergency vehicles won't have access.

She has reached out to a number of city officials, from Streets Commissioner Clarena Tolson to members of City Council. Landes said she hadn't gotten far.

At a news conference yesterday, Tolson said that what the Jessup Street crew was doing was "an interesting, creative twist," but that she couldn't "give a blanket statement saying that's OK" because people's definition of a small street varied.

But, she said, the Jessup neighbors "are not getting ticketed."

At midafternoon yesterday, neighbors emerged from their homes on Jessup. Landes worked with a rake and a shovel, clearing the last of the snow from the street.

Jessup resident Christy Reardon freed her car from a nearby parking space while her children played. She was glad to comply with Landes' suggestion that they clean the street, not the sidewalk.

"Everybody came out at different times," said Reardon, 40, of the efforts Wednesday during the storm. "People didn't just do their four square feet. Everybody pitched in."

Residents weren't just thinking about emergency-vehicle access. After December's snowstorm, Bonnie Schorske noted, the city sent the wrong-size plow down Jessup, and the too-wide equipment took off pieces of curb and granite blocks surrounding trees.

"This is a historic cartway," said Schorske, 65, using an old term that describes a road for carts or vehicular traffic. "We don't want more damage."

Dennis and Sharon Carlisle said they took pride in their house, built in 1813 for 32 pieces of silver, Dennis said. They figured it was safest to shovel the street.

And no, they said, they didn't worry too much about getting a ticket for their sliver of snow-clogged sidewalk.

"I figured it takes the city forever to get around to ticketing people anyway, so we'll be fine," said Dennis Carlisle, 29.

"We don't really take the threat of a ticket seriously, anyway," added Sharon, 37.

On Quince, Dan Pepersack stuck his shovel into the snow and tossed some into the center of the road.

It wasn't that he was afraid of a ticket, Pepersack said. It's just that neighbors didn't organize to clear the street. Maybe next time, he said.

"I guess," Pepersack said, "it's too late for this storm."

Contact staff writer Kristen Graham at 215-854-5146 or kgraham@phillynews.com.

Inquirer staff writer Patrick Kerkstra contributed to this article.

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