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925 Mountain Street . Philadelphia ' PA . 19148
Michael DiBerardinis Deputy Mayor for Environmental and Community Resources One Parkway 1515 Arch Street, 10th Floor Philadelphia, PA 19102-1 587
Re: Public Comment on the Boathouse/Land Transfer Proposal of Temple University Dear Deputy Mayor DiBerardinis:
I write in response to the City of Philadelphia's request for comment regarding a potential land transfer from the City to Temple University, so that Temple may build a boathouse that houses its rowing team. Land along the Schuylkiil is one of Philadelphia's most precious resources, and it should not be given away lightly. However, I believe that this proposal has merit, if the right conditions are met.
As background, I am a Philadelphia native, product of a Philadelphia public school, and in my post-collegiate years, spent eight years training daily on the Schuylkill River. I was lucky enough to be a four-time member of the United States National Rowing Team, representing the
United States in multiple Rowing World Championships as well as the 2011 Pan American Games. But despite being a graduate of a Philadelphia public high school,l I only leamed to row in college, in far-away Minnesota. Public school rowing was not areality in Philadelphia at that time.
As you know, Temple rowed out of the Philadelphia Canoe Club until that building was closed and since then has been relegated to a tent along Kelly Drive. Temple is one of our most important civic institutions, and rowing on the Schuylkill is one of Philadelphia's enduring traditions and best uses of our public spaces. Temple Crew has produced Olympic champions
and its rowers have made their mark as leaders of the community. An important institution like
that should have a permanent home, with heat, locker rooms and basic features that any person would want, let alone young men and women who daily launch at pre-dawn hours, in subfreezing temperatures. I believe it makes sense for the City to figure out a solution that gives these students a permanent home befitting a program of this importance.
Of course, Temple rowers are not the only ones launching out of an unheated, exposed structure. As you know, so are our Philadelphia public school students, who row from a cramped, outdoors shelter. This, too, is a situation that must be remedied, and no land should be transferred or leased unless it also affords our own public school children their own more i Central High School's generally admired, particularly esteemed and much beloved 258ft class.
Comment Re: Land Transfer to Temple Rowing Page 2 of3 January 3,2013 permanent, dignifred home. Thus, I believe that land should be transferred to Temple only on the condition that Temple dedicates at least one boat bay in this new building for Philadelphia public high school students. As you know, rowing has almost never been available for our public school kids, despite Philadelphia having the most robust scholastic rowing league in the United States. Private, parochial and suburban public schools have long had their students rowing on the Schuylkill,
while public school children have historically been totally shut out. Thus, the river on any afternoon after school is far from representative of our city or region. Not only does this mean that one of our most well-known, cherished resources has been rendered effectively off-limits to large swaths of our city's children, but it entrenches this imbalance for lifetimes and generations.
Thankfully (with strong support from your department), a program finally started to get public high school kids on the river, at last competing with their private and suburban counterparts. That program, Philadelphia City Rowing (PCR), while still in its infancy, is providing a real way forward to get our public school students on the river. It is an amazing progrilm that reaches all corners of the city, and serves children of all backgrounds, from all types of public high schools, be they neighborhood, magnet or charter.2 It represents not only a profound opportunity for our kids, but for the further democratization of our public spaces that I know that you have long pushed for in your work across multiple Mayoral administrations.
Temple may or may not embrace this condition, but it is certainly a doable one. College rowing programs sharing space with high school counterparts is commonplace, especially in a city like ours, where rack space is at such a premium. St. Joseph's, Drexel, Bryn Mawr and Temple itself all peacefully share or shared boathouse space with high school programs. Thus,
while there are surely issues regarding insurance and liability, those can be resolved. And given Temple's historic commitment to Philadelphia and its children, Temple's need for the use of City-owned land, and PCR's need for a more permanent home, this appears to a perfect match, and one the City must demand. Public land is not a resource that should be transferred out of City control lightly. However, if that transfer has a direct, tangible benefit for our public school students, then it is one that the City should seriously consider. I understand that Temple is also proposing to give money to the City, ostensibly to contribute to the reconstruction of the Canoe Club. And I also believe that there are vague proposals for a fully public boathouse, as there have been for time immemorial. If the City does have the good fortune of reconstructing the Canoe Club or a public boathouse is constructed, it is possible that PCR could transfer out of the Temple boathouse. But, given that these plans have been proposed in various forms for more years than many of the PCR rowers have been alive, I
I note that this is also a cost effective way to expand scholarship opportunities for the young women of Philadelphia public schools. Due to Title IX, there are considerable scholarship opportunities in women's rowing. It is beyond tragic that Philadelphia young women have been shut out of this pipeline.
Comment Re: Land Transfer to Temple Rowing Page 3 of3 January 3,2013
do not support any transfer of land that relies on waiting for future funds to make that happen.
Our children deserve more certainty than that. We are in an era where our annual public school budget deficits are reportedly ninefigures long, where we must constantly think ever more strategically about how to maximize the resources that we do have. Within the context of those daunting realities, a program has emerged that is providing true enrichment for many students. Thus, I support the transfer of land to Temple, but only on the condition that rack space is set aside for public school rowing, so that public school students may also benefit from one of our city's most cherished resources. Thank you for your consideration of this comment.
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Everett Gillison, Chief of Staff, Hon. Michael Nutter A11 Members, Philadelphia City Council Nancy Goldenberg, Chairwoman, Philadelphia Parks and Recreations Commission Tony Schneider, Chair, Philadelphia City Rowing