Thursday, June 17, 2010

Conflicted about the Friends of Rittenhouse Square

One of my favorite things about living in Philadelphia is Rittenhouse Square. It sits in the middle of a big bunch of hoity-toityness -- the people who live in the towers surrounding the park have a much higher level of wealth than I ever will. But the park is relatively egalitarian, and on a nice day it's a joy to visit: musicians, dancers, businessmen on lunch breaks, sun worshippers, gutter punks, mommies and kids and so much more.

The park itself is pretty spiffy, and I gather that one of the reasons for that spiffiness is a group called the Friends of Rittenhouse Square. The city doesn't -- or won't -- spend all the money needed to keep the park in top condition, the greens manicured and the fountain running, so the private group raises the rest of the money needed to keep the place in shape to welcome that diverse range of humanity.

I appreciate their efforts. Really I do. But.

I'm also conflicted about the fact that the Friends of Rittenhouse Square have basically shut down the center of the park this week -- made it off limits to me, and to my son, and to everybody else -- so that they can do their fund-raising with a black-tie gala tonight.

Rittenhouse Square is a public space. It was created for the use and enjoyment of all Philadelphians. But for a couple of days every summer, those of us who can't afford to attend black-tie galas are reminded that it's not really our park -- it belongs to our betters.

1 comment:

Notorious Ph.D. said...

Sadly, Joel, when the public stopped paying for it, it ceased to become public space. I'm not saying that's right -- quite the opposite, in fact.