Fishtown: Local Community Board Unites the Neighborhood One Block at a Time

Fishtown Neighbors Association member, Arthur Meckler, shows off an art design on a game piece for an upcoming event.

Fishtown has been called one of the most up and coming neighborhoods in Philadelphia, and the Fishtown Neighbors Association (FNA) has a few ideas why.

FNA members Jamie Ware, president, Ian Wilson, reporting secretary, and Arthur Meckler, at-large board member, have witnessed countless changes to the neighborhood since they’ve moved there.

FNA is a board of volunteers that works hard to beautify and unite the neighborhood. Despite the rapid changes (many of which are still to come), they believe that the community is closer than ever.

What are some ways FNA hopes to change the neighborhood?

Arthur: We want to keep the neighborhood clean, so we do regular neighborhood cleanups. We go down to the intersection between Front Street and Girard Avenue, an extremely high traffic area, where it gets really dirty with street grime, litter and trash. It’s easy to sit back and complain about what the city’s not doing, so instead we do it a couple of times a year. We have a crew of volunteers go out there with shovels and bags and we fill dozens of bags. This is where it’s up to neighborhood residents to fill in the gaps.

Jamie Ware, president of FNA discusses other neighborhood orgs on Girard Street.
Jamie Ware, president of FNA, discusses other neighborhood orgs on Girard Street.

How has the neighborhood been impacted by what you’ve done?

Ian: At FNA, we hope to encourage other individuals to learn how to be connected to their community and to give back. People on the board don’t impact the neighborhood – the community members do. That’s why FNA exists.

Arthur: With such a huge, rapid influx of new residents, it’s easy to lose sense of community. You don’t know your neighbors if they’re new here. The only way to change that is to organize and to build a sense of community. We want everyone to know their neighbors and to be involved with what’s going on with street.

Fishtown has been called one of the most up and coming neighborhoods in Philadelphia. To what do you attribute that?

Arthur: When I moved here 30 years ago, you wouldn’t say you were from Fishtown because it was such a bad area. Now, it’s the opposite.

Jamie: I think a really simple answer is the people who live here. The new people coming in are great, creative and entrepreneurial. There are also people who have been here for generations who are amazing. Everyone has a sense of wanting to make the community better.

Arthur Meckler and Ian Wilson move game pieces around the new office space.

How has the neighborhood changed since you moved to Fishtown?

Arthur: There’s not enough time to talk about all the ways it’s changed. It’s profound and huge. From being able to buy a New York Times to paying a lot more property taxes, everything has changed, and most of it is for the better. The neighborhood is more diverse, cleaner and a lot more fun.

Ian: I think you see that in Philadelphia as a whole, not just Fishtown. I was born in the 80s in East Oakland and lived there all through college. Even in that neighborhood I’ve seen a massive change. I think Philly is definitely a new and upcoming city, but it’s certainly not New York.

Jamie: But we don’t want to be. [laughs]

Jamie Ware and Ian Wilson talk while moving items around the new office space.

What are short term and long-term goals FNA has?

Jamie: Short term, we want to work together with other organizations around the community and figure out how to best support Fishtown.

Ian: A sense of community and family is really important to how a neighborhood pulls together. Fishtown has a really good history of that, we have a really tight knit working class community, and I think that really needs to continue. It’s about everybody coming together, not necessarily thinking of the citizens in terms of people who have been here verses the people who have just moved in. That mindset is regressive, and our long-term goals are things we’re trying to sort out from that.

Jamie: There’s a subset of people in the neighborhood that think that all of the problems are old verses new. FNA does not subscribe to that. We do not believe in old verses new, it’s not a real thing. Everybody has to work together, newer people and people who have been here longer. We’re all trying to do what’s best for the community.

– Text and images by Logan Krum and Khaliha Hawkins.

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