Man raises money, volunteers to work on E. Philly median

Sean Philip Cotter
  • A York City man has raised money to spruce up the median of East Philadelphia Street.
  • He hopes to coordinate with the city and get started soon.

Frank Szymanski wants to make sure the islands in front of his apartment don't end up deserted.

He lives in the 700 block of East Philadelphia Street, the first one on the one-way street where its westbound traffic is split up by a narrow boulevard.

He said the bushes and grass in the median, which runs several blocks west before the lanes rejoin, have been growing increasingly out of control, and no one's doing anything about it.

Frank Szymanski pulls weeds from the median in the 700 block of East Philadelphia Street on Friday, June 24, 2016. Szymanski, who recently moved to the area, is hoping to start the island revamp project by mid-July. Amanda J. Cain photo

"I’ve been keeping an eye on it, and nothing’s been happening," Szymanski said.

So over the weekend he raised $500 and recruited some volunteers to try to make a difference.

He said he hopes to do some work on the islands in the middle of the road by the end of July. The idea right now is that most of the money will go to mulch and plants, Szymanski said.

Plan: Jim Gross, York City's public works director, agreed that some work needs to be done on the median.

"It needs some attention, there’s not doubt about that," he said.

But he also cautioned against haste, saying it's city property and the city — with Szymanski's or any other community members' input, too — needs to come up with a strategy on what to do before anything can get going.

"It’s an issue of figuring out what’s a good plan," Gross said. "He needs to coordinate and work with us."

Gross said he isn't sure why the median's there or when it was installed. He's heard it might have something to do with controlling stormwater runoff, or it might have just been from an era where medians were more popular.

He said that six or seven years ago, the Garden Club of York had planted some grass on the boulevard in an effort to beautify the area. It looked good at first, Gross said, but now it's grown out of control, sticking up above the bushes, looking messy and cutting down on visibility for drivers.

Szymanski said he's spoken with Tom Landis, the city's head of parks and recreation, and plans on walking around the area with Landis sometime soon.

Fundraising: The fundraising part of this operation came together pretty quickly. Szymanski made a GoFundMe page one afternoon and seeded Facebook with links to it.

The GoFundMe was at $50 at that point, and it crept higher, over $100 by Friday. By the end of the weekend, it was where it sat on Thursday afternoon: at $505, $5 over the stated goal, based on the contributions of 12 donors, according to the page.

Szymanski said the money will go toward mulch and plants and will buy volunteers a little bit of food and water in thanks for their help tending to the islands.

On the phone with The York Dispatch last week, he chuckled a little in surprise; this all had gone better than he'd hoped, he said. The call from the newspaper had been one of more than a dozen that had poured in in the previous couple of hours.

One had come from the York Rescue Mission, which provides emergency and transitional housing for homeless people. It told him it would be able to provide some volunteers.

Szymanski said he hopes this project will draw in more than just the people who volunteer for everything, though. He's looking for folks who don't normally get involved in community projects, and he wants this effort to snowball into other positive projects around the area.

"We really want to show people you can create change in the world around you," he said.

— Reach Sean Cotter atscotter@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at@SPCotterYD.