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A Vancouver Sun writer falls for the City of Brotherly Love

A travel writer for the Vancouver Sun is surprised to find himself "smitten" with Philadelphia. 

It is a city that has taken me by surprise and made me happier than I imagined with its innate spirit of creativity, inventiveness, progressive thinking and generosity. I love, love, love its unswerving focus on freedom and tolerance. I think it is a city that deserves more attention...

When I came to Philly for the first time to see the flower show, which is an amazing work in itself, I was not expecting to be dazzled also by the quirkier side of the city’s personality, such as walking into the shoe department at Macy’s and finding the world’s biggest pipe organ or the Magic Garden of Isaiah Zagar, a whimsical mosaic garden built on a back street, composed out of tens of thousands of pieces of found art and ceramics.


Original source: The Vancouver Sun
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Layover Lift: The Free Library opens outpost at the airport

Bored travelers now have an exciting new distraction -- the Free Library has come to Philadelphia International airport.

The Free Library of Philadelphia recently opened an outpost in the Philadelphia International Airport in the form of a book-themed lounge with free Wi-Fi access to the library’s digital catalog.

Passengers are encouraged to relax in the reading room, in the concourse between the D and E terminals, and download books or author podcasts from the library’s collection of nearly 30,000 titles.

"We brought our high-speed line out to the airport in that little area. That Internet connectivity is extraordinarily robust, it matches what we have in the library," said Siobhan Reardon, president and director of the Free Library.

The idea was inspired in part by an especially snowy winter, she said.

"We were having extensive blizzards here in Philadelphia, and we knew that there were thousands of people camping in the airport," Ms. Reardon said. "We thought, 'What if we put a library in?'"


Original source: The New York Times
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Public transit use at highest level since 1956

According to the New York Times, ridership on public transit is higher than its been in a generation.

More Americans used buses, trains and subways in 2013 than in any year since 1956 as service improved, local economies grew and travelers increasingly sought alternatives to the automobile for trips within metropolitan areas, the American Public Transportation Association said in a report released on Monday.

The trade group said in its annual report that 10.65 billion passenger trips were taken on transit systems during the year, surpassing the post-1950s peak of 10.59 million in 2008, when gas prices rose to $4 to $5 a gallon.

The ridership in 2013, when gas prices were lower than in 2008, undermines the conventional wisdom that transit use rises when those prices exceed a certain threshold, and suggests that other forces are bolstering enthusiasm for public transportation, said Michael Melaniphy, the president of the association.


Original source: The New York Times
Read the complete story here.

High tech gadgets improve quality of life for urban dwellers

New high-tech solutions are changing the way renters and homeowners interact with their environments.

In San Francisco, a homeowner gave his house a Twitter account that posts an update when there is unanticipated movement on the first floor, and welcomes him home when he walks through the door. A tech-savvy renter in Philadelphia programmed a gadget to chart how often the temperature in his apartment changed, and proved to his incredulous landlord that the air-conditioner was not, in fact, functional...

Still, it seems that as long as consumers are on the winning end of the cost-benefit analysis, the Internet of Things will continue to bulldoze its way into America’s living rooms. Especially if the rest of us can make the technology work as well for us as it did for Thomas Murray, a tech-savvy designer who tinkered his way into a brand-new apartment.

Mr. Murray, 34, configured a rubber box filled with sensors to take the temperature in his home regularly, record the results on an online chart...For weeks he and his wife, Heather, watched as the chart zigged and zagged through temperatures in the low 80s and back down. The landlord sent maintenance workers in by the droves. But every time they declared victory, Mr. Murray showed them a chart bearing unequivocal proof that the apartment was still an inferno.

Eventually, the landlord gave up, and moved the couple into the apartment down the hall, which was almost twice as big as their old place, didn’t cost any more, and had a working air-conditioner to boot.


Original source: The New York Times
Read the complete story here.

2014's greatest battle: Fox 29 weatherman versus the snowplow

An epic moment between one Philadelphia man and one plow goes viral. Click here for all the GIF-goodness.

Original source: Fox 29 (via The Atlantic Cities)


Hidden City tackles the 'complicated' CHOP expansion

Hidden City takes an in-depth look at CHOP's expansion to the eastern banks of the Schuylkill.

Doug Carney, CHOP’s senior vice president of facilities, said his hopes were that CHOP would continue to “be attractive to the world-class researchers we compete for.”
 
Carney’s invocation of “world-class,” however, left an opening for those in the audience unhappy with CHOP’s plan for a 23-story, half-a-million-square-foot tower right next to the low-rise neighborhoods of Graduate Hospital and the Devil’s Pocket, which would bring 1,000 CHOP researchers to the site each day. (Note that this is not going to be a place for patient care, as with CHOP’s complex across the river, but an office building for research.) “Is it world-class,” a follow-up questioner asked the CHOP team, “to drive 76 then take a ramp into a parking garage?”

It doesn’t seem that CHOP’s institutional ambitions and the city’s ideal planning needs will coalesce. But CHOP, which is currently undertaking a remarkable amount of expansion, has goodwill on its side -- it is, after all, devoted to the care of children -- as well as, frankly, considerable leverage to do what it wants. The Graduate Hospital Area project serves as a good insight into CHOP’s role in the city and illustrates the influence it wields.


Original source: Hidden City Philadelphia
Read the complete story here.

Al Jazeera looks at transportation funding via SEPTA

Flying Kite contributor Jake Blumgart writes about transportation funding struggles in Al Jazeera, using SEPTA as a prime example.

In late November, after two no votes, a transportation bill scraped through the state legislature. It allows for baseline repairs and vehicle replacement, including, finally, trolleys that are accessible for handicapped riders. SEPTA pleaded for $454 million in 2014, with increases to follow. Instead, the bill will ramp up to giving the agency $345 million annually, an amount that will not be reached until 2018. The message from Harrisburg was clear: Preservation, not expansion, is the name of the game.

Philadelphia’s brush with disaster is typical of the perpetual crisis of public transit in the United States. Ridership levels spiked during and after the recession, but local and state budgets were forcibly contracted, forcing almost 80 percent of the nation’s transit systems to raise fares or cut back operations. In 2012, Boston suffered fare increases and service cuts, and ridership fell, and Pittsburgh faced a transit crisis similar to Philadelphia’s. In 2013, Detroit lost $7 million in funding for its buses.


Original source: Al Jazeera
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SEPTA mulls extending subway service to 3 a.m. on weekends

SEPTA is considering a return to late-night service on the Broad Street and Market-Frankford lines.

Because of increasing nightlife and residential activity in Center City, SEPTA may continue service after midnight, when subways now are replaced by "night owl" buses, general manager Joseph Casey said.

The service might continue until 3 a.m., officials said. Initially, it would be limited to Friday and Saturday nights, in a pilot program to test the response.

Chief financial officer Richard Burnfield said his staff was still assessing the costs - for security, operators, cashiers, and maintenance - to determine if a resumption of some late-night subway service would be included in the agency's proposed budget that will be released next month.

 
SEPTA halted late-night subway service in the early 1990s because of security and cost concerns. About 3,600 riders a day were forced to shift to nighttime buses.

Original source: The Philadelphia Inquirer
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Huffington Post lists reasons Philly is 'most underrated city in America'

The Huffington Post has put together a list of the reasons Philadelphia is "the most underrated city in America." Sure, it's click-bait, but it's also kinda great -- soft pretzels, Eastern State, beer! And even a couple of things to snark about -- the Citywide Special is actually $5.

Original source: The Huffington Post
Read the complete list here.

A loving ode to the Philadelphia regional accent

A wonderful piece in The New York Times' Sunday Review looked at our city's unique accent:

"The Philadelphia regional accent remains arguably the most distinctive, and least imitable, accent in North America. Let’s not argue about this. Ask anyone to do a Lawn Guyland accent or a charming Southern drawl and that person will approximate it. Same goes for a Texas twang or New Orleans yat, a Valley Girl totally omigod. Philly-South Jersey patois is a bit harder: No vowel escapes diphthongery, no hard consonant is safe from a mid-palate dent. Extra syllables pile up so as to avoid inconvenient tongue contact or mouth closure. If you forget to listen closely, the Philadelphia, or Filelfia, accent may sound like mumbled Mandarin without the tonal shifts....

Da prom here, we might say as we order our cheesteaks, is we don’ ave enuff akkers hew are willen to masser da Filelfia acksin. Nonsense. Offhand, I can name two native sons, Bruce Willis (Salem County, N.J.) and Kevin Bacon (Center City Philadelphia), who, at least in interviews early in their career, before accent reduction training kicked in, let their diphthong freak flags fly. And Upper Darby, Pa., native Tina Fey’s shout-outs and occasional youzes are encouraging, as are stories of her singing “You Light Up My Life” in full Brotherly Love voice ('Yew loight up moy loif')."

Original source: The New York Times
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The New York Times visits Midtown Village's Little Nonna's

The New York Times' travel section visited Philadelphia's thriving Midtown Village neighborhood, checking in on Little Nonna's, Marcie Turney and Valerie Safran's latest.

The menu is packed with classic dishes as they might be prepared by a modern-day nonna — Italian for grandmother — using ingredients from local farmers: an antipasto board of roasted veggies, parmigiana with Japanese eggplant and Thai-basil pesto, Concord grape water ice.

But on a chilly evening in November, I couldn’t resist the Sunday gravy. A heaping portion of “gravy” (marinara made with San Marzano tomatoes) and paccheri (the macaroni of the day) arrived on one platter, and on another were assorted meats — pork braciole, spicy fennel sausage, meatballs stuffed with fontina. Other memorable dishes deviated from the traditional tried and true, like bruschetta with roasted figs, Gorgonzola dolce, celery hearts and crunchy hazelnuts. And a standout pasta dish featured braised duck, pecorino and turnips atop chestnut ravioli stuffed with roasted heirloom squash.


Original source: The New York Times
Read the complete story here.

Comcast makes a move to buy Time-Warner Cable

Comcast makes another big move, making a play for Time Warner Cable.

Already the dominant player in providing pay television services to American consumers, Comcast announced on Thursday a deal to buy Time Warner Cable, which will create a behemoth that will dominate the media industry.

It is the second transformative deal for Comcast in recent years, coming just months after it completed an acquisition of NBC Universal, the TV and movie studio. And the deal, if completed, could have impacts on consumers across the country, though it is unlikely to reduce competition in many markets.

Describing the deal as “a friendly, stock-for-stock transaction,” Comcast will acquire 100 percent of Time Warner Cable’s 284.9 million shares outstanding, in a deal worth about $45.2 billion in stock value.


Original source: The New York Times
Read the complete story here.

Brutal winter bruises the local economy

The relentless cold and snow has had a big impact on small businesses, including those in Philadelphia.

At London Grill, a restaurant in the Fairmount section of Philadelphia, revenue is down 10 percent more than in the usual January slump, said Terry Berch McNally, a co-owner. But weather can also be fickle: On Thursday, just as Ms. McNally was fretting about whether her Valentine’s Day bookings would fall through, the afternoon brought twice as many drinkers as usual because local employers had closed early.

When weather strikes repeatedly, losses can build up. Valentine’s Day was blissfully sunny, putting an end to the immediate worries of both Ms. McNally, who got a flurry of last-minute reservations, and Susan McKee, at Old City Flowers in Philadelphia.

Thankfully, Ms. McKee said, the biggest day of the year for florists would not be a bust. But her revenue for 2014 is down about half from what it would usually be. Inventory has been hard to get because of grounded planes. Walk-in sales have been slow.

“It’s crushing me,” she said on Thursday, when Philly was blanketed by snow and ice. “I have thousands of dollars invested in perishable gorgeous flowers that I can’t get anywhere. I have three trucks parked outside the store, and I can’t move the trucks. This day is lost. There was no revenue today.”


Orginal source: The New York Times
Read the complete story here.


Local organizations partner behind new slogan, 'PHL: Here for the Making'

The Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, the Pennsylvania Convention & Visitors Bureau and other partners are putting forth a new slogan for the city -- PHL: Here for the Making. They hope to encourage not only visitors but businesses to head to Philly.

Rob Wunderling, president and CEO of the chamber, says it sparks a new energy at the grass-roots level.

“We really believe that the citizens in the greater Philadelphia region want to make something happen here,” he says. “They want to make it here. It can be made here.”

Wunderling says 42 percent of the leads for companies considering coming to the Philadelphia region come from individual Philadelphians who reside here.

“So we want everybody to sing from the same page,” he says, “and that is truly we are here for the making.”


Original source: CBS News
Read the complete story here.

'Michael Snow: Photo-Centric' debuts at the Philadelphia Museum of Art

The Philadelphia Museum of Art is presenting a survey of photographer Michael Snow's work.

But Mr. Snow is a bit of a polymath; he also paints, sculpts, performs as a jazz pianist and assembles photo installations that are as rigorously structural as his films but are also, surprisingly, quite playful. He hasn’t had a museum show of his photography since 1976, when the Museum of Modern Art gave him a small “Projects” exhibition. “Michael Snow: Photo-Centric” gives us a long overdue look at his work in the medium — starting with projects from the 1960s that overlap with film and performance and continuing to supersize staged color prints that reflect photo trends of the early 2000s.

Original source: The New York Times
Read the complete story here.
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