Castor Gardens activist seeks to unseat state Rep. Mark Cohen

PHOTOS: GEORGE MATYSIK Jared Solomon , president of Take Back Your Neighborhood, is seeking to unseat state Rep. Mark Cohen. He kicked off his political debut on New Year's Eve in the Lower Northeast, going door to door when he greeted Morton Flashner, 94, of Castor Gardens.
PHOTOS: GEORGE MATYSIK Jared Solomon , president of Take Back Your Neighborhood, is seeking to unseat state Rep. Mark Cohen. He kicked off his political debut on New Year's Eve in the Lower Northeast, going door to door when he greeted Morton Flashner, 94, of Castor Gardens.
Posted: January 07, 2014

JARED SOLOMON, a Northeast Philadelphia native who has grown his Take Back Your Neighborhood group from five to 500, benefiting Castor Gardens and Oxford Circle, has thrown his hat into the ring.

Solomon, 35, does wear his black U.S. Army winter cap when leading neighborhood middle-school boys on winter runs to condition them for his youth-basketball team.

"The only rule I have is that you don't stop running and you don't give up," he tells the boys as they set out for a long jog through the streets around the Spruance School gym in Oxford Circle.

Sounds like a personal credo - and his campaign slogan.

He was hatless on New Year's Eve, going door to door in the freezing Lower Northeast, preaching the gospel of grass-roots power, shortly after entering politics to run against state Rep. Mark Cohen, who has held the 202nd District seat since 1974.

Nobody ever said that Solomon - a lawyer, community activist and captain in the Army Reserve - didn't savor a challenge.

Sharon Williams, who lives on Devereaux Avenue in a house she bought in 1994 around the corner from Solomon's mom, said: "I've been a committeewoman for 10 years. I've seen candidates introduced at ward meetings and after that, you don't see them anymore unless elections are coming up.

"Jared is always in the community, always hands-on, and he doesn't mind getting his hands dirty. You should have seen the trash that used to be out there on Castor Avenue. Now, thanks to Jared and Take Back Your Neighborhood, we have a clean Castor Avenue. Businesses used to move out. Now, they're moving in."

Solomon said it took Take Back Your Neighborhood two years, 1,000 residents' signatures and a dogged battle against bureaucratic red tape to get BigBelly solar rubbish-compacting bins and regular trash cans installed in the business districts along Castor and Bustleton avenues.

"I was relentless," Solomon said flatly, promising to be the same boots-on-the-ground activist if elected.

The key, Solomon said, is embracing the Lower Northeast's change from a white enclave to a diverse culture.

"The naysayers said, 'You can't get people together,' but the fact was they hadn't tried," he said.

Take Back Your Neighborhood brought together older white residents, new African immigrants, African-Americans, Latinos and Asians to turn an unused piece of Max Myers Rec Center land into a community vegetable garden.

That same coalition works diligently with 2nd District police to reduce crime in Castor Gardens.

If elected, Solomon said, he hopes to tackle the Lower Northeast's crippling poverty by creating community-development corporations to attract government and private funds for housing, schools and job training.

That's what he's running on, with or without a hat.


On Twitter: @DanGeringer

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