BY DAVE ALLEN Like time, news waits for no man. Keeping up with the funny papers has always been an all-day job, even in the pre-Internets era. These days, however, it’s a two-man job. That’s right, these days you need someone to do your reading for you, or risk falling hopelessly behind and, as a result, increasing your chances of dying lonely and somewhat bitter. That’s why every week PAPERBOY does your alt-weekly reading for you. We pore over those time-consuming cover stories and give you the takeaway, suss out the cover art, warn you off the ink-wasters and steer you towards the gooey center. Why? Because we love you!
ON THE COVER
CP: I love the Italian Market — the sights, sound, smells, flaming barrels, all of it — but I only know it as it’s existed for the past two years, and I didn’t know anything about the neighborhood’s detente with city regulation, or the city’s recent crackdown, until laying eyes on AD Amorosi’s story. It’s colorful and multi-faceted, to be sure, but with a strong element of peril for the famously diverse corridor’s future.
But some vendors are upset that over the last 10 months, the Department of Licenses and Inspections (L&I) has been cracking down, enforcing laws and codes that, though they’ve long been on the books, have generally been overlooked. This, they say, is changing the way business has always been done here.
Others worry that the construction of a new storm sewer, scheduled to begin before year’s end along Washington Avenue, will disrupt businesses already struggling in the recession.
Then there’s the stuff of conspiracy theory: New Yorkers are looking to turn the Market into a gentrified Disneyland and the city is engaged in an effort to scrub Ninth Street of its flavorful heritage.
Indeed, L&I’s recent dealings with several longtime Market vendors has come across as what Spice Corner owner Herta Ginsburgs calls “the Ninth Street Sweep.” Her shop was forced into a five-month closure due to a snafu with licenses, taxes and fees; century-old D’Angelo Bros. Meat Market had to change some licenses and re-up others; C&S Discount had to remove its familiar curbside shelves; at last year’s Italian Market Festival, longtime stand operator Carmen Lerro was famously thrown in jail for giving out complimentary wine; and at this May’s festival, outdoor vendors, unlike other years, had to wait to sell their wares until late-arriving health inspectors showed up.
More than a few Market vendors who L&I cited for violations, speaking on the condition of anonymity, say things like: “This bitch from L&I came down and told me to take all my stuff off the sidewalk; told me I very possibly wasn’t even licensed to sell what I sold. C’maaan. This is what’s always been.”
Perhaps not anymore.
I’m left wondering about how a space like Connie’s Ric Rac fits into the neighborhood’s future — are DIY punk shows the answer? — and about foot traffic numbers for the area in general, not just at Pat’s and Geno’s. Then again, I just went into Spice Corner on Monday, and had no idea it had been closed for six months earlier this year. Maybe I’m just out of touch.
PW: I knew from the moment I saw Aaron Kase’s story on the city’s tow trucks and their possibly-illegal, certainly-shady activities that he’d take us to some far-flung, hard-to-get-to corners of the city. What’s this? The money quote, from Citysearch, on tow company George Smith: “They take your car, with or without just cause, to an unlit, unmarked storage yard in the armpit of Philadelphia.” Ladies and gentleman, the anatomy of a city.
The need for new tactics and regulations comes from the fact that the city hasn’t bothered to enforce the laws already in place. In 2003, the city capped towing fees for illegal parking at $150 per tow and $25 a day for storage. Extra charges—most commonly labeled as special equipment fees, or storage taxes added onto the overall price—are illegal. In 2008, an ordinance passed requiring operators to take credit and debit cards.
City enforcement of towing regulations has been dismal, says Joe Parente, owner of Morton’s Towing and Recovery in Logan. “There’s none. There’s absolutely none,” he says. “You can make money out there legitimately, fairly; there’s no reason for all this stuff. The towing industry is now taking a real black eye.”
And so are the drivers. City tow-truck lore is rife with violence erupting between wreck chasers who monitor the city’s police scanners to be first on the scene—even before the cops. The business is lucrative, since chasers bloat the bill with redundancies like hook-up fees, gate fees and lot fees, which can bring total charges for a tow to as much as $800.
“That shit’s been going on for years,” says Mystical Towing employee named Mark. “People been getting in fights for years.” But he says lately, “it just got out of control.”
The whole thing is sketchy with a capital SKETCH, and Kase gets the right people on the record – the city, PPA, various private towers, victimized suburbanites – on the many sides of the issue. I don’t have much faith in the city’s ability to take on the issue, and Councilman Kenney’s proposal does seem to disproportionately favor politically-connected towers. For now, though, visitors should remain cautious or risk a trip to the grimmest boneyards around.
INSIDE THE BOOK
CP: More Ninth Street news. Your new plans for Labor Day weekend: Nudity, chafing. BBQ with fewer typos than the Chik Fil A cow. This one, on labor unions and security guards, didn’t make the dead-tree edition, but it’s worth reading.
PW: Liberal zombies only eat the left side of your brain. Burgers, grilled cheese, a side of death. Your inside look at the adolescent invaders’ plans for the fall. Textbook prices: one of the top reasons I’ll never go back to school.
WINNER: No Soapbox or Man Overboard this week? Are all of CP’s firebrands on vacation? In the absence of well-informed outrage from CP, PW claims the title this week.