City residents who want to dodge the NFL draft

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The NFL draft may be the Benjamin Franklin Parkway event that breaks Alan Niederman’s back.

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

The NFL Draft Experience is already hellish, Niederman said, and it’s two weeks away.

“I feel powerless,” the 68-year-old 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, officer trailers and lots of portable fencing. A white pick-up 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 said it expected 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 on Wednesday and by 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 the 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 Donovan McNabb, adding to the fanbase’s salty reputation.

Tom Leonard is an Eagles season ticket holder. He enjoys the draft. He also lives near 23 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 attorney. “I can’t imagine the commissioner of the NFL is subject to as much protection as the Pope.”

Conor Corcoran, an attorney who lives in Fairmount, suggested that the Art Museum area had put up with enough already.

“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, knuckledragging, lowest common denominator pastimes of 1970s Rocky Balboa white privilege, and now the unabashed, concussive minstrelsy of the National Football League.” 

The city was braced for some boos.

“This is Philadelphia, of course we’ve received a complaint,” said Lauren Hitt, spokesperson for Mayor Kenney. Hitt said the NFL was 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 Clarke’s spokeswoman wrote “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 Ave. But deliveries are another story. It it is harder to get out or for pickups to come in, he said.

During the week of Pope Francis’ visit to the city, Iannuzzi said he lost a little business.

“I ordered extra supplies but I ordered too much,” he said, adding he will not repeat that mistake with the NFL Draft. “I like these events,” he said. “In the end all this does bring more business for me.”

With all the streets closed, Anthony Delareto, manager of Linnett’s Gulf Gas 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 a 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 will come through unscathed.

“It’s in Philadelphian’s 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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