Monday, December 2, 2013

Erie's 2013 Veterans Day parade - a quick look back

WICU-TV says attendance was higher at this year's Veterans Day parade in Erie than in previous years.

That's good news! I like to think our efforts to promote the parade helped. 

I was at the parade, and there seemed to be more people than usual, although the crowd was thin near 31st and 32nd Streets. There was a larger group of people further south on State Street near the WICU studios. 

If you give the issue some thought, the Veterans Day parade should really be the most well attended parade of the year.  We're fortunate the parade is within easy walking distance of our homes. Hope to see you there in 2014!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Honoring our Veterans?

Erie's Veterans Day Parade is, to put it mildly, not well attended. I've been to the parade several times in the years that I've lived near the parade route and it's a sad truth.

Parade Chairman Ken Sawdey has been organizing the parade for over a decade. When I asked him about attendance along the parade route Sawdey said, "Sometimes it is disappointing. A lot of work goes into the parade."

I think our neighborhood can change this. I think we can so in two ways:
1. Attending the parade personally
2. Publicizing the parade using our online presence. 

Here are the facts you need to know:
The parade is Saturday, November 9th, and it steps off at 9:30 am. The parade route runs along State Street from 26th to 38th and to the VA. There is a ceremony after the parade at the Naval Reserve Center. The ceremony will honor veterans and it starts at 11 am. The public is welcome to attend, according to a press release on the VA's website.

Share this picture on Facebook, Twitter, and any other social media platform.

I honestly feel that the Veterans Day Parade is Erie's "forgotten" parade. People just expect it to be there every year whether they attend or not. Sawdey says he would like to see this situation change, "Something is drastically wrong here."

Helping to promote this parade is good for our neighborhood. It's good for our our country. It's good for our Veterans. 

Monday, October 7, 2013

Erie's School Plan - Neighborhood Impact

(2015 Update - I originally published this in 2013. All of the dates, and by that I mean the years of proposed construction, can be moved back at least two or three years.) 

Big changes are potentially on the way for the City of Erie School District. Which of the city's schools stay open and how those schools, including Jefferson and Collegiate Academy, are going to be used will be decided very soon.

I attended the unveiling of the district's "Phase 3" plans to try to wrap my mind around how the proposals will effect my neighborhood and my family. I of course have several interests. I want what is best for my kids who would likely be attending Jefferson Elementary and Northwest Pennsylvania Collegiate Academy. I also want to see the neighborhood's interests served. In addition, I am concerned about the long term viability of the district and its tax base, including the effect on my own property taxes.

There are three plans. I suggest looking at the district's three options in depth. Each option proposes changes to both Jefferson and Collegiate, and one divides the neighborhood's elementary attendance in half. Here is a break down of each plan's impact on our neighborhood. This does not take into account the effect the plans may have on property taxes or how expensive the plans are. It is simply a starting point based on the interests of the Academy Neighborhood.

For the record, Baker's Field, owned by the district, was not mentioned in any of the options.

PLAN A: Jefferson is renovated to become a K-8 school. Renovations take place (which means some or all students could be displaced) during the 15-16 and 16-17 school years. Northwest Pennsylvania Collegiate Academy remains open on State Street with renovations during 17-18 and 18-19. Students living on this map would attend Jefferson for K-8 and Strong Vincent for high school. This plan has the highest expense, and would leave the district with the largest number of remaining buildings, 14.

PLAN B: Northwest Pennsylvania Collegiate Academy moves to the Central Tech building. The Central Building would then house Central Tech and Collegiate Academy. The Academy building on State Street would be renovated and expanded during the 15-16 and 16-17 school years to become the new East High school. All high school students in our neighborhood, and all points east, would attend the new East High in the Academy building on State St. The old East High would become a K-8 school (The "Harding of the East Side" as one official put it.) As for Jefferson, it would be renovated and expanded during the 17-18 and 18-19 school years. This plan costs a bit less, and leaves the district with 13 buildings.

PLAN C: This plan is perhaps the most drastic of the three, and it does have one negative impact on our neighborhood that the planners may not have taken into consideration.

Under Plan C, Collegiate Academy would move to the Central Tech campus as described in Plan B. The Academy building would be renovated and expanded during the 15-16 and 16-17 school years to reopen in 2017 as a K-8 building. Jefferson would then close to be sold to raise revenue for the district. Unfortunately the plan, as written now, would send kids from our neighborhood who live west of Holland Street to the new Academy Elementary, and kids who live on the east side of Holland and further east to JoAnna Connell Elementary. JoAnna Connell would then be renovated and expanded during the 17-18 and 18-19 school years. High school students who live west of Holland would go to Strong Vincent; to the east they would go to East High school.

As an advocate for our neighborhood, I feel Holland Street is not a natural division line for the schools.  The blocks just to the east are within easy walking distance of the proposed K-8 building on the Academy site.

I encourage anyone reading this to take a close look at the three options. Hopefully what I've written here will give you a good starting point. I know that the television coverage may not give you the depth you'll need to make an informed decision and the newspaper coverage might not give you the neighborhood specific viewpoint I've provided here.

Superintendent Jay Badams said this evening there will be plenty of opportunities for people to provide their input. Please take advantage of these opportunities, I plan to!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Neighborhood Asset #4: Transportation

This post could be subtitled "You Can Get There From Here". Living in our neighborhood has many advantages, one of which is the ease with which you can access most of the good things Erie has to offer.

State Street: Erie's main artery runs right through the Academy Neighborhood. Need to be at an Otters game starting at 7:30? You can leave at 7:15 if you like - if you know the smart places to park downtown. Remember there are people driving into town for events at Erie Insurance Arena and the Warner Theater from hours away. From State Street it is easy to get to 38th, 26th, and 12th Streets in a matter of minutes. And let's not forget if you are downtown you can zip south to our neighborhood on French Street. It isn't the prettiest drive but it is one of the fastest shortcuts in Erie.

Routes 20, 97, and 8: All three state roads are within a block or two of every home in our neighborhood. Route 20, 26th Street, gets you east into Wesleyville and Harborcreek and west into Millcreek easily. Route 97 (Old French) gives you access to Interstate 90 in a matter of minutes at Exit 27 and the same goes for Route 8 (Pine Avenue) which gives you easy access to Exit 29. 

EMTA: The "E" has three routes intersecting our neighborhood. Route 27 can get you up and down State Street, from Dobbins Landing to Presque Isle Downs. Route 23 travels up Old French and can get you to Mercyhurst University or locations downtown via Parade Street. Route 26 travels East 26th on it's way from Dobbins Landing to Penn State Behrend.

Drive times according to Google Maps...
Mercyhurst University: 3 minutes
Erie Zoo: 5 minutes
Saint Vincent Health Center: 6 minutes
Erie Insurance Arena and Warner Theater: 8 minutes
Millcreek Mall: 10 minutes - We know this one is very dependent on traffic & time of day
Presque Isle Downs & Casino: 10 minutes
Blasco Library: 11 minutes
Splash Lagoon: 13 minutes
Penn State Behrend: 13 minutes
Waldameer and the entrance to Presque Isle State Park: 17 minutes
Erie International Airport: 19 minutes

And of course we are within 2 hours of Pittsburgh, Buffalo, Cleveland, and the Allegheny National Forest. The Academy Neighborhood; you can get there from here!

Friday, August 9, 2013

Baker's Field - A Look Ahead

I'll keep this short. First of all, it should be stated for the record that Baker's Field is named after Isaac Baker, who served as an Erie School Director for over 40 years, and who is the Isaac Baker in Isaac Baker's Men's Wear. Baker's family donated the land to the Erie School District and the field was dedicated in the spring of 1951.
We are in contact with the Baker family and they are excited about our efforts to revitalize the field and restore the monument to Baker at the corner of Holland and East 32nd Streets. Please "stay tuned" for more developments over the next few months.

I recently was at Community Park in Harborcreek Township. I was pleasantly surprised to see two things.

Garbage and recycling cans - over a dozen of them!

 Monuments and memorials that have not been damaged or stolen. 

This is what we should expect for any municipally owned property in our neighborhood. No exceptions.

Baker's Field Clean-up: Thank You!

The first ever Baker's Field Clean-up day was a big success. Quite a few of our neighbors showed up the morning of August 3rd to help with the effort. Big thanks to Janina, Chris, Keegan, Sue, Michelle, and several others (who arrived after I left) who were there that morning.

Of course we didn't finish everything we had set out to do but a lot of work was done around the baseball practice facility. Most of the overgrowth around the fence was removed. Additionally, three bags of garbage were removed from the field, and the area around the stone was very lightly landscaped. 

Perhaps the most important result of our efforts that morning was the publicity the clean-up received. WICU reporter John Last stopped by the field and the report he filed was in-depth and accurate. Here is a link to the news story, it's about 2 minutes long and definitely worth watching.

WICU News Story about Baker's Field Clean-up - August 3, 2013

Basically I feel like we "started the ball rolling" on Saturday. More great developments at Baker's Field are on the way!

We really did have a fun time. Here Sue and Keegan are bagging branches that were removed from the fence around the baseball facility.

 Sue and Michelle with more trees and branches.

 Chris and his good friend the saw.

Janina and Keegan teaming up against the trees that had grown through the fence and the baseball nets inside the practice area.

 Sue picking up one of the many piles of branches.

Bob (me), Sue, and Keegan. If you look along the base of the fence you can see where the fence is bent upwards. Kids often climb under the fence to gain access to the baseball practice area. 

Once again, thanks to everyone who came out and made this event a success. Thank you Michelle for sharing some of your pictures of the event. Let's keep working to make this part of our neighborhood the well maintained facility it deserves to be!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Who Was Baker?

Baker's Field Clean-up Day is just a few days away, Saturday, August 3rd, 2013 at 8 am. But one question remains, who is (or was) this Baker person?

The large stone at the north-east corner of the field once had a plaque dedicated to Baker. I remember seeing the plaque before it was removed but I don't remember anything that it said. I also remember seeing a picture of the plaque online a few years ago, but after searching and searching I can't seem to find the picture again.

As a fan of Erie history I'm guessing that the Baker story is a fairly interesting one. I'm hoping that by sharing these two pictures we'll generate some interest in the story and maybe even get in touch with someone who knows the field's background. And it won't hurt to have a little extra publicity for our clean-up day.

If you are reading this and you know anything about the background of "Baker's Field" please email:

This is the picture that should "show up" better on laptops and big-ole computers.

This smaller picture will ideally look better on your phone.

As soon as I know something I'll post the information. Also, please join us for Baker's Field Clean-up Day August 3rd!

Friday, July 12, 2013

Baker's Field Clean-up Day: PLANS

I'm looking forward to our Baker's Field Clean-up Day, which is August 3rd. We'll meet at the Field at 8:00 am and work for at least a few hours. I've worked on some goals, bearing in mind that I think we should have realistic expectations for one day of work. My main goal, other than the physical changes we will complete that day, is to raise the expectations people have for the field itself. As of right now, expectations are fairly low. The field is used frequently by large groups of people but there are no garbage cans. A large stone, which was placed there to honor someone (named Baker, right?), is covered with spray paint. The baseball practice facility looks a little rough. This has to change.

It won't change overnight. I'm hoping our first clean-up day will be the first of many. With that in mind here are what I hope to be some realistic goals for August 3rd. 

The Stone 
The bare minimum: remove spray paint
Realistic goal for August 3rd: Plant a small mulched flower bed "in front" of the stone, between the stone and the corner of the sidewalk. Possibly paint the stone.
Eventually: Either replace the original plaque, or paint the stone and paint "Baker's Field" on the front. 

The Baseball Practice Facility

The Bare Minimum: Remove all of the large plants growing around the perimeter of the fence
Realistic Goal for August 3rd: With cooperation from the school district, work inside the facility as well. 
Eventually: Large signs on the fence reading, "Baker's Field: City of Erie School District, Adopted by Academy Neighborhood Association" and maybe "If you use this field please 1. Dispose of all garbage 2. Clean up after animals 3. Consider donating to the Academy Neighborhood Association". Maybe a giant "Central Falcons Baseball"? I'm sure many people who have gone to Central would find a sense of price in something like that.

The Sidewalks
The Bare Minimum: "Edge" as much as possible, use weedkiller (or if we decide not to use chemicals that is o.k. with me) to get rid of grass and weeds growing through sidewalk. 
Realistic Goal for August 3rd: See above ^. This might not seem like a big deal, but I think it plays into the whole "raising expectations" aspect of what we are trying to accomplish. If the field looks nicer hopefully people's expectations for the field will increase. 
Eventually: There are many areas where the sidewalk is uneven making it difficult for anyone using a wheel chair to navigate. The sidewalk doesn't need to be rebuilt but small concrete "ramps" or "inclines" will help to smooth transitions between different levels of sidewalk. 

The Intersections
All of the intersections should have crosswalks, especially in an area used frequently by children. This is an issue we can address with the City of Erie. 

Other Ideas
Some of these are "eventually" some of these are "sooner than later".
Garbage and recycling cans: sooner than later. Possibly donated by a local business?
A small shelter/pavilion with a picnic table: eventually. This would give people who are watching games or practices a place to sit and relax. Also - a good place for summer kids programs to take place. And a good place for a little free library.

This is just a starting point. Basically, not much is being done at this field as of right now so anything we do will be a positive step. These plans aren't written in stone. Anyone with suggestions or ideas please feel free to share them. And, just to be clear...

BAKER'S FIELD CLEAN-UP DAY: AUGUST 3rd, 2013, starting at 8 am
We will need all landscaping tools, garbage cans, cans and bags for "yard waste" such as clippings etc.
Stay for 5 minutes or 5 hours!
More updates in the next few weeks.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Second Saturday Neighborhood Walk - July 13th

The Academy Neighborhood Association's mission statement includes the phrase, "to promote strong community ties". With that part of the statement in mind, we are asking you to join us on the second Saturday of each month for a neighborhood walk. Basically, this is a bunch of neighbors getting together to walk around the neighborhood, share ideas, and burn off a few calories.

This is already happening in Glenwood but I swear we thought of it first! Or maybe at the same time. 

At any rate, there is no sign up or registration required. There is no fitness level requirement and all friends and families in the neighborhood are welcome. There is no set route, although I would like to walk up by Baker's Field to take a closer look at what we can do during our clean up day, coming up on August 3rd.

This is a strictly "for fun" event. I hope to see you there!

Saturday, July 13th, 8 a.m., in front of Uptown's at E. 30th and German.

Join us on Facebook!

We are joining Neighborhood Watch

The Academy Neighborhood Association is becoming an official member of the Erie Council of Neighborhood Watch Groups. At the last meeting, June 20th, the members voted 5-0 to inform the Council that we wanted to join their coalition. 

Basically, the decision puts us "on the map" in a figurative and literal sense. We will now be recognized as an official group by the Erie Council, which is recognized and supported   by various government agencies. We will also be placed on the official map of neighborhood watch groups, which can be viewed at the Erie Neighborhood Watch Council site.  

The ENWC is currently undergoing a leadership change. From what I read in this article in the Erie Times-News the council's leaders are looking to work with groups to help with neighborhood development projects - a perfect fit for our organization!

I had emailed the previous head of the council with our intentions, but I didn't realize she was on her way out the door. So I'll be calling the council's office Monday morning to let them know basically that we exist. 

This brings up the issue of our "map". I have drawn up a much smaller version of the original map of the neighborhood. You can see it in the shaded green areas below. Please know that this map is flexible. If you have a strong reason for changing one of the areas or expanding or contracting the map please let me know or attend one of our meetings.

Here it is... 

Every home on this map (the entire white area) has received, twice, information about the Academy Neighborhood Association. I drew up the smaller area highlighted in green based on the following:
1. Homes of people who have attended meetings.
2. Homes of people who contacted the Association about participating in the neighborhood yard sale.
3. Discussions about the neighborhood that took place at our two meetings.
4. There is another neighborhood watch group on East 28th and East 27th. It is a small group called the Brickyard Neighborhood Watch. I have contacted the woman who is organizing the Brickyard group and I think we can work very closely with her and her group. 

Basically if the map is marked green, people from that area have "gotten involved" in one way or another. If it is still white, no one from that area has contacted or been involved with an Academy Neighborhood Association activity.

As always, the map is subject to change, with your input.

Neighborhood Yard Sale - June 7, 2014

Whoa, that seems like a long time from now. At our last meeting we agreed to keep the date basically the same - two Saturdays after the Memorial Day weekend. The next sale will be Saturday, June 7th, 2014.


I felt like things were kind of "meh". Not a lot of traffic, gloomy weather, and not the level of excitement I felt in 2012. At the last meeting (June 20th) everyone in attendance basically came to the same conclusion: there needs to be a paid advertisement in the Erie Times-News. All of the free notices, ads, and listings are still a big part of the picture, but that paid advertisement needs to happen to really put the sale on people's radar.


I learned a very hard lesson about where to place signs. Apparently, if you place signs in the median on State Street they will be taken down. The same applies to East 38th St. near the V.A. My wife and I made 9 signs like this...

and six of them were taken down, and taken down within a matter of hours. So "campaign style" signs are not allowed in the medians, and apparently this rule is strictly and swiftly enforced. Wouldn't it be nice if all of the zoning and property violations in the neighborhood were this quickly dispatched? 

We did decide at the last meeting that we need to have larger, crazier signs in the days leading up to the sale. Now that more people are involved in the association, I think it would be fun to have a pre-sale sign making party.


If you have a suggestion, idea, or improvement to help the neighborhood sale run more smoothly or attract more people please let us know. You can email me at or attend one of our upcoming meetings, although as of today, July 7th, we don't have a meeting scheduled. We do have these two events:

Neighborhood Family Walk: Saturday, July 13th, 8 a.m. meet in front of Uptown's
Baker's Field Clean Up: Saturday, August 3rd, 8 a.m.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Neighborhood Asset #3 - Veteran's Memorial Park

This park is a gem in the heart of the Gem City. We're very fortunate in our neighborhood to be so close to this well maintained park. The park is the stepping off point for the annual Veteran's Day Parade in Erie and it is also host to a remembrance ceremony every Memorial Day. There are four memorials at the park:

World War II Memorial

Korean War Memorial

Combat Wounded Veterans (Purple Heart) Tribute

Vietnam War Memorial

These pictures were taken in spring - the park looks even better now that the trees have greened and there are flowers planted. 

Early one Sunday morning I was walking near the park. I introduced myself to the man I saw working on the landscaping. His name is Tim Ferguson and he gave me some background on the park's origins. He said his father and some others worked to establish the park and that he basically volunteers his time as often as possible to maintain and improve the park. I remembered that I had cut out a clipping about the park from Kevin Cuneo's column in the Erie Times News a few months ago. It took a little digging but I found the clipping. Sorry, I don't remember the date it was published.

The next time you have an opportunity take some time to walk the grounds and read the names on the memorials. The park really is a special place and we are lucky to have it near our neighborhood.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Neighborhood Asset #2 Mighty Fine Donuts

Deep fried delight... only a block or two (or three) away. 

Mighty Fine is well known as one of the best donut shops in Erie. Like Collegiate Academy, Mighty Fine brings hundreds of people into our neighborhood every day. 

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Neighborhood Asset #1: Collegiate Academy

Our neighborhood is home to one of the premier high schools in the state of Pennsylvania; Northwest Pennsylvania Collegiate Academy

The "Collegiate" building is the signature building in our neighborhood and it has great historic value. The school also has great nostalgic value for the thousands who have walked the halls since the school opened in 1920 as Academy High School. I found this Academy High varsity letter in, of all places, Cici's Pizza in Harborcreek. 

Every day hundreds of people with ties to the school visit our neighborhood. Students, parents, teachers, and staff all spend their days here. But what kind of impressions of our neighborhood do they leave with? Do they feel compelled to spend more time here? To buy a home here? To invest in a business venture here? If the answer to any of these questions is "no" then we know we have to start making some changes.

The first, admittedly very small, change I am hoping to make is to start making a list of neighborhood assets. Collegiate Academy is at the top of that list. 

A few months back the Erie Times-News published a photo essay about the painted relief sculptures on the southern portion of the building. I had never, in my ten years of living on East 30th Street, taken the time to stop and look at these pieces of artwork. If I remember correctly, the article in the Times-News stated that the pictures were meant to depict the various trades someone who attended the school might find themselves working in after graduation. Here are photos of all six...

Sunday, May 5, 2013

My Saturday Story: There's a TV On Your Lawn!

I've had two old television sets sitting in my basement for a few years. When I read about this...
... I knew it was time to get rid of them.

Now when the City of Erie stopped collecting televisions and other "covered" electronic items during the city's annual "Large Item Pick-up Day" it created a problem planners might not have foreseen. Many people either didn't know or didn't care that the city wouldn't be  disposing of televisions during large item pick-up, so they placed the old televisions curbside anyway.

That means there were about half a dozen (or more!) old, useless television sets sitting in front of people's homes for the last three weeks. The city wasn't picking them up, and the people that live in the homes weren't picking them up. So there they sat.

Until last Saturday morning. That's when I decided I would drive around the neighborhood and throw any old televisions into the back of my truck and take them to the city's covered electronic drop-off. I could get rid of all the neighborhood's eyesores and my own two old television sets.

So I did it. I picked up old electronic items from three different houses. I have pictures and addresses from the homes but I've decided not to publish them, for now.

I drove my pick-up to Holland Street. There was a little bit of a line...
...Traffic was backed up on Holland from 19th to 26th.

I used the time to think about what I was doing. Was I doing the right thing cleaning up the neighborhood to protect the value of my own home? Or was I sending the message, "You can be irresponsible with the things you don't want anymore. Just throw them in your front yard and someone will take care of it". I really wasn't sure. 

So I'm asking you.

I spoke with a few friends and family members about the issue this weekend and they agreed on one thing. The people who left the televisions need to be told they were doing something wrong. Most agreed a letter would appropriate. I drafted two copies...

Here is version 1:

I suppose I used the word "we" in the letter because I am hoping I speak for many of the residents of the neighborhood. Now for the fun part. Here is version 2:

I think this version has merits. It's funny and direct. I also think it is harsh and unlikely to change anyone's mind about how to maintain their home. 

Like I said I'm asking you. The "people-with-televisions-in-their-yards" will be getting one of these soon! Let me know which version you think it should be.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Lights on!

What's the best way to keep a neighborhood safe? Turn on the lights! Here's a link to an article about Gannon University's efforts to make the neighborhood around it's campus safer. The biggest improvement the university is making is in lighting. They are adding 1.1 million dollars in streetlamps. We don't really have that kind of money to improve our neighborhood... but everyone has a front porch light. Please consider using that front porch light on a regular basis. I like to imagine a couple of hoodlums driving around at night looking for cars to break into. They turn onto my street and are met with a "bright block" where every front porch light is on. And they just keep driving...