Ask Liz: Who’s Allowed to Park in the Middle of Broad Street?

Our readers’ latest Philly conundrums: What’s the deal with South Broad in South Philly, what happened to the falafel guy at 20th and Market, and why won’t people stop moving to Fishtown?
No parking? Ha. Photograph by Claudia Gavin

No parking? Ha. Photograph by Claudia Gavin

Who’s allowed to park in the middle of Broad Street and why? — Metered Out

Ah, the age-old question. Many treatises have been written about the idiosyncratic parking customs of South Philadelphia: parking in the center lane, on concrete medians, in rows of two and three — basically, anywhere South Philly drivers can wedge their cars in. This very magazine published a piece about it as far back as 1992, when I was in pigtails (well, in grad school, but pigtails were hip then). And 1st District Police Captain Lou Campione, whose enforcement area includes Broad Street between Moore and the Navy Yard, says when his father came home from World War II, “It was an issue then — in 1945!” Today, nothing has changed. Yet current Parking Authority spokesman Martin O’Rourke felt he couldn’t answer your question without “specific locations on Broad Street.” Um, how about anywhere on Broad between Washington and Shunk? I sent him a Google Earth screenshot as well as some more specific questions but received no answer, which made me think that perhaps the practice was legal. It’s not. The PPA has a $31 violation listed on its website: “Parked Improper — Two Way Highway.” Meanwhile, Chapter 12-914 of the Philadelphia Code lays out some pretty specific rules for parking on a two-way highway, none of which involve leaving your car on the median. (And yes, according to the Streets Department’s definition of a “two-way highway,” this includes Broad Street, a.k.a. Route 611.) So why does the custom continue? Enforcing the law, says Campione, would cause a “minor revolution.” I guess that goes back to the kind of neighborhood resistance Richardson Dilworth faced in 1961 when he tried to change parking regulations in South Philly and 2,000 residents threw tomatoes at him. It’s just so much easier to leave it alone.

Where is the “Greek Nazi” food truck that used to be at 20th and Market? Did he have to move to accommodate new construction there? — Craving Falafel Downtown

First of all, Falafel, let’s talk about that nickname. Though I understand you’re referencing the Seinfeld “Soup Nazi” episode rather than the Third Reich, it’s just not appropriate, because Konstadinos Christis, who owns the aforementioned food cart, is a really nice guy. In fact, he stopped to talk to me for a half hour after the end of his long day, which starts as early as 4 a.m. A former cook at South Street Souvlaki, Christis uses only the freshest, priciest ingredients from the Philadelphia Wholesale Produce Market. He’s extremely voluble on the subject of his high-end onions, parsley and garlic, and notes that he uses new oil every time he makes falafel for a customer, which he says is better for digestion. Given the quality dishes he sells from his cart, it’s no wonder you’re looking for him. His new, temporary location is at 20th and Ludlow, half a block from all that construction. You can find him there.

I’m tired of going to Fishtown to see the humans I love. Why have they all moved there? Can you fix this? — Only the Lonely in Society Hill

I’m afraid I can’t fix this, OtL. I remember when the first person I knew told me he’d bought a house in Fishtown — in 1999. I thought he was crazy. Turns out he was simply prescient; Fishtown in 2015 is a pretty good deal for those who want to own homes but can’t afford to buy in, say, Society Hill. It’s walkable and neighborhoody and has a good range of eateries, bars and coffee shops. It’s not my cup of tea — I like a spot of trees with my concrete — but I grudgingly admit it’s become pretty appealing. Want your friends to come to you? Remind them that you’ve got the Ritz theaters and they’ve got zilch for movies.

Originally published in the August 2015 issue of Philadelphia magazine.