Steps away from the Allen Lane train station lies the 100 block of West Mount Airy Avenue. From a distance, it looks like the typical residential street, with similar houses, front yards and holiday decorations. However, residents agree that this block is far from average. Neighbors have formed a community and forged friendships with each other. In fact, some might say that they are like a family.
“Here on this block, you have immediate company whenever you want it,” said 20-year resident Connie Waring. “I can have as much privacy as I want in my own home, but if I want company all I have to do is go out on the street and before you know it… you have a little convention going on, everyone catching up on the news. You can’t find that on just any old block.”
The block typifies a strong sense of community and togetherness. Many residents are involved in the Mount Airy Neighborhood Association and the area’s town watch program, which was started 20 years ago after a robbery occurred on the block. Neighbors look out for each other’s safety and well-being.
“There’s definitely a sense of being in tune with your neighbors, knowing what’s going on and who might need something,” said Waring. “If someone needs an extra hand, people pitch in. If someone is sick, people make sure they have what they need.”
Elayne Blender and her husband, Itzik Lorant, have lived on the street for 30 years. They raised two children and two foster children there, adapting their home to fit the needs of their kids and the neighborhood.
“Part of the town watch was to install timers and photocells for people to have lights at night,” said Lorant, an electrician by trade. “Soon after we bought this house, I built a walkway and a stoop in the front where the kids hung out… it was just a natural gathering space.”
Children are what make this neighborhood special.
“A majority of the people here like kids and are here because of the kids,” said Blender. “When I hear them outside… that’s when I go outside.” She hopes that new parents understand that they live in a friendly neighborhood.
“We don’t see the kids on the street as much and we don’t see the families as much,” said Blender. “So, my only concern would be that they understand the value of this [community] and they try to start getting involved too.”
Most Mount Airy residents have pride in their neighborhood.
“It has all the elements you would want,” Mimi Singh said. She has lived in the community for nine years. “The neighborhood is great and the people are friendly. You can walk to coffee shops, supermarkets… it’s great.”
Rod Thomas was raised in the area and lived in the community most of his life.
“Mount Airy has a tremendous history,” he said. “It’s diverse, there’s a great group of people. I don’t think there’s any place you could find that’s better than this.” He attributed the closeness of the neighborhood to its diversity.
Waring agreed that the diversity of the neighborhood is what initially drew her to the block. For Blender and Lorant, however, it was the physical location.
“It’s a very comfortable place to be,” said Lorant. “Since we’re close to Germantown Avenue, it’s far enough to be a residential area but close enough that we can shop and do things.” Blender agreed that it has been a great area to raise their children.
The 100 Block of West Mount Airy Avenue has always had a positive reputation.
“When we moved here we were told it was a great block already. If you keep thinking that you’re a great block and an involved block, you’ll stay with it,” said Blender.
Waring shared that experience.
“I was just looking for a nice place to live. When I told friends where I was going to be they said, ‘Oh, wow, that’s a great block. You got into the magic block.’ I had no idea just how marvelous [it] was.”
Much can be said of a group of like-minded individuals working together towards a common good. This can be used most accurately to describe the Mount Airy community. Tradition holds an important place within the residents and they rely on each other, old and new, to carry that on.
“In the period that I’ve been here, not much has changed,” said Waring. “People have come, people have gone… but that sense of community endures.”
Blender agreed, “Why would you want to walk away from a place like this?”
My first experience living in W. Mt. Airy about 20 years ago was much like this article describes. I thought my second experience, beginning in early 2016. was going well. But I was sadly mistaken because certain mean-spirited neighbors were just waiting for a chance to persecute me as a disabled American. They even perverted the local Town Watch group, prevaricating shameful stories for it to spread about me.
My persecutors sadly were all of a different race than mine, but race was a side issue. Inability to empathize with the problems and needs of the disabled is what bound my persecutors together.
I will be moving out within a few weeks to a safer area, shaken by my experience here.