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‘Them That Do’ Profiles of West Philly block captains: Jeff Lutzner, 4900 Cedar Avenue

Posted on 15 January 2014

Editor’s Note: This is the latest in the series of vignettes of local block captains drawn from Them That Do, a multimedia documentary project and community blog by West Philly-based award-winning photographer Lori Waselchuk. Make sure to go to Them That Do for more photos, videos and other information and updates.

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Jeff Lutzner has 23 years experience as the block captain of 4900 Cedar Avenue in Philadelphia. Photo by Lori Waselchuk

 

A few years back block captain Jeff Lutzer and others on the 4900 block of Cedar Avenue had an idea to get the city to fill more than 30 potholes on their street. For a year he tried unsuccessfully to get the street repaired. Then he and his neighbors resorted to protest in the spirit of guerrilla gardeners. On a citywide cleanup day, they filled the potholes with potting soil and planted palettes of marigold and impatience flowers into them.

“They were only there for a day,” says Lutzner, but with the help of coverage in the University City Review, the flowers bore fruit. It took a few months, but the city eventually paved over the potholes.

Humor and persistence are useful qualities for any block captain. Lutzner, who has been in the post for 23 years, has needed plenty of humor and persistence. It’s been smooth sailing, but he would consider handing over the title to the next generation.

If you live on the 4900 block of Cedar Avenue and are interested, Lutzner could share how his laid-back approach helped him reduce the number of hours he spends on block duties. He concentrates on the basics: cleanups and safety.

If the potential candidate has a family, he or she might want to reinstate annual block parties. “When we moved here, we had lots of kids,” Lutzner says. As a father of two, Lutzner organized block parties and street games and remembers a street full of children.

Lately, though, there isn’t much interest in jumping castles. The block’s demographics have changed. “The challenge now is staying connected to the ever-changing tenants in rental units.”

Working from home is a plus for a block captain aspirant. Lutzner runs his business, Caoba Doors, from home, so he has kept an eye on things without too much effort.  He is also visible and available. “When there is a major issue, people come to me,” he says.

A green thumb wouldn’t hurt either, just in case the city gets behind in filling potholes again.

Lori Waselchuk

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