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The Philadelphia Inquirer


The NFL draft may be the Parkway event that breaks Alan Niederman's back.

Niederman lives in the Philadelphian, a condominium building on Pennsylvania Avenue across from the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and he said he's grown weary of city-planned events on the Parkway making his life difficult. The Fourth of July festivities that come with Wawa Welcome America are manageable, he said, but the Budweiser Made in America concerts rattle his windows, and Niederman experienced Pope Francis' visit from a "police state."

The NFL Draft Experience is already hellish, said Niederman, 68, and it's still three weeks away.

"I feel powerless," the film and television writer said Thursday. "I don't want to live in the middle of an amusement park."

The view from the Philadelphian's lobby took in parked tractor-trailers, a half-dozen forklifts, office trailers, and lots of portable fencing. A white pickup truck was parked on the sidewalk by a large tent and a few cars had makeshift signs in their windows that said "working draft."

"They take away sidewalk access," Niederman groused. "No one is looking out for us."

The NFL says it expects to draw record crowds to the Parkway for the three-day event, with 168,000 fans registered as of March 31. The first parking restrictions went into effect Wednesday, and Thursday afternoon a massive scaffolding was taking shape on the Art Museum steps.

More roads will be closed Monday, and come April 25 there will be more than a dozen shut down, including I-676's westbound off-ramp at 22nd Street. Local access will still be granted for many of the closed roads.

The draft was last held in Philly in 1960, the same year Eagles linebacker Chuck Bednarik flattened Frank Gifford with "The Hit" and the team later won the championship at Franklin Field. In 1999, Eagles fans who attended the NFL draft in New York City famously booed the team's selection of quarterback Donovan McNabb, adding to the fan base's salty reputation.

Tom Leonard is an Eagles season ticket holder. He enjoys the draft. He also lives near 23rd and Green Streets, and said he's surprised and annoyed to see barricades going up already.

"The street closures they are planning are overly long, overly intrusive, and generally outrageous," said Leonard, a Center City lawyer. "I can't imagine the commissioner of the NFL is subject to as much protection as the pope."

Conor Corcoran, a lawyer who lives in Fairmount, suggested that the Art Museum area had put up with enough: "I'm happy to say that I'm sick and tired of the PMA's perpetual conscription into service as a venue for the vulgar, racist, knuckle-dragging, lowest-common-denominator pastimes of 1970s Rocky Balboa white privilege, and now the unabashed, concussive minstrelsy of the National Football League."

The city had braced for some boos.

"This is Philadelphia, of course we've received a complaint," said Lauren Hitt, spokeswoman for Mayor Kenney. Hitt said NFL officials were not interested in staging the event at the sports complexes in South Philly. They wanted the Art Museum and the Rocky tie-in, Hitt said.

Council President Darrell L. Clarke's spokeswoman wrote that "the office has received one email, one website submission, and two phone calls about the NFL draft."

In preparation for the draft, the city met with several civic groups and housing associations. Local businesses can expect a boost.

"The extra people in the neighborhood brings more business," said Marco Iannuzzi, owner of Luigi's Pizza Fresca on Fairmount Avenue. But deliveries are another story. It is harder to get out or for pickups to come in, he said.

During the week of Pope Francis' visit in 2015, Iannuzzi said, he lost a little business.

"I ordered extra supplies but I ordered too much," he said, adding he would not repeat that mistake with the draft. "I like these events," he said. "In the end, all this does bring more business for me."

With all the streets that will be closed, Anthony Delareto, manager of Linnett's Gulf station at 22nd and Spring Garden Streets, said he's had trouble getting deliveries of gas, food, beverages, and parts. Delareto said of the larger events, "They completely kill us because we have to close down for a week."

The draft falls during the week each month when his customers come in to get their cars inspected. He said he's been reaching out to regulars, reminding them to come in early.

Hitt said the city would come through unscathed. "It's in Philadelphians' nature to panic and get upset," she said. "In the end, we find everyone enjoys it."

Gail Harrity, president of the Art Museum, agreed: "We are aware that such events may carry with them complications for people who use the Parkway, and yet we also understand the importance they have for the city, placing Philadelphia in the spotlight nationally and around the world."

Niederman has his doubts.

"I guess they are making it spectacular at the expense of the people of the city," he said. "I'm losing my quality of life."

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April 7, 2017


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