West Philadelphia: Civic Association Lends Voice to Residents

Residents enjoyed lunch at the building where Cedar Park Neighbors was established.

Urban neighborhoods go through changes over the years, but a little section of West Philadelphia tries to keep things the way the residents want with the help of a civic association.

Cedar Park Neighbors was established in 1960 on the site of what is now The Gold Standard Café at 4800 Baltimore Ave.

“The man who used to own this building was named Gerald McHugh,” said Dorothy Welch Berlind, secretary of the Board of Directors at Cedar Park Neighbors. “He and a few friends said, ‘This whole business of everybody selling their houses because African Americans were moving in, why are we doing this? Why are we listening to people?’”

Cedar Park Neighbors started this way to help save the neighborhood.

“We want to be open, we want to be welcoming and we want to resist this outside pressure from banks and from realtors that say they are going to redline the neighborhood,” Berlind said. “[McHugh] was instrumental in arranging for loans for people because as white people fled, so did credit.”

Now over 50 years old, Cedar Park Neighbors has been an important part of the community. Its efforts are now focused on giving the residents a chance to share their opinions.

“Community organizations like ours, we don’t have a lot of money, we don’t have a lot of power, but what you do is work on a case-by-case basis when things come to you,” Berlind said. “With leaflets, we ask if there are any concerns and to let us know and if we get phone calls and e-mails, we’ll set up a community meeting and talk about it. The community does have a voice.”

The 20-member Board of Directors meets once a month and usually try to hold two membership-wide meetings for the residents. The roughly 300 members stay updated through newsletters and e-mail.

“Some things we can make happen, some problems we can solve, other things are going to go on for 40 years and we still won’t have that problem solved,” Berlind said. “But I think that the fact that Cedar Park Neighbors is here makes a difference.”

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