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No good seats open for Vet's demise

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No good seats open for Vet's demise


Police will block traffic for next Sunday's big implosion of the stadium. One block will have to evacuate homes.


By Murray Dubin

Inquirer Staff Writer



Agnes and Jerry White are taking the china out of their china closet, and Midge Cemeno is grudgingly leaving her home before 6 a.m.


The Federal Aviation Administration is expected to divert air traffic, and local officials will be stopping cars and trucks on parts of Interstate 95 and the Schuylkill Expressway.


Philadelphia police will be riding through Franklin Delano Roosevelt Park on mountain bicycles to make sure no one is parked and waiting for the big moment.


The big moment is next Sunday's implosion of Veterans Stadium, a scheduled 7 a.m. colossal bang affecting hundreds of South Philadelphia residents, thousands of motorists, and millions of memories.


For anyone interested in coming to South Philadelphia to witness the destruction of the 33-year-old Eagles and Phillies playing field, the police have a suggestion: Don't.


"Please watch it on TV," said Capt. Thomas Helker, commanding officer of the traffic division. "There's no place to watch it and absolutely no place for their vehicles."


He's not kidding. Beginning about 5 a.m. next Sunday, police will shut down local streets to cars and spectators. The preliminary plan is to close the area from Packer Avenue to I-95, from Lawrence Street to 18th Street. "It may be 20th Street. We'll see," Helker said.


Getting close to the blast site by public transit will not be an option, either, says SEPTA.


From 4:25 a.m. to about 10 a.m., southbound trains on the Broad Street subway will go no farther than the Snyder Avenue station and the G, C and Route 17 buses will stop well short of the affected area.


Helker said police will stop traffic at 6:50 a.m. on the expressway and I-95 near the stadium for approximately 15 minutes, or until an all-clear signal is given.


Northbound I-95 traffic will be closed for a six-mile stretch from exits 13 to 19 - between the I-76 exit and the Walt Whitman Bridge exit. Southbound traffic will be curtailed for four miles, from exit 19 to 15, the Enterprise Avenue-Island Avenue exit.


On the expressway, eastbound traffic will be halted for a little more than three miles, from the Passyunk Avenue exit at 347B to the Walt Whitman Bridge. Westbound, the four-mile section of closed road will extend from the Front Street exit at 351 to 347B.


Helker added that, shortly after midnight next Sunday, police will begin checking the parking lots at the Wachovia Center and at the Spectrum for anyone searching for a prime space for the blast.


And flying a plane over the site for an aerial view won't work, either, because the city will ask the FAA this week to temporarily divert air traffic.


Helker said fans attending the noon Philadelphia Soul game at the Wachovia Center should not be inconvenienced by the implosion - "I just recommend that they don't get there before 10:30 or 11 a.m."




There are about 230 homes close to Veterans Stadium, but none closer than 300 feet and most farther away than that. Residents of just one block - the 1300 block of Geary Street - must leave their homes by 6 a.m. next Sunday because they live the closest.


"I think it's awful," said Midge Cemeno of the prospect of being forced to evacuate her Geary Street home. "My husband wants to stay, but you're not allowed. They should have just left the old stadium there. It didn't bother us."


The Phillies have set up a hospitality center at the Holiday Inn on Packer Avenue for Geary Street residents, and for any others who don't want to stay inside their homes.


The Cemenos and Agnes and Jerry White will be there.


"You have to do away with the old and make way for the new," said a philosophical Jerry White last week at a community meeting about the implosion. "We'll have our breakfast Sunday at the Holiday Inn."


Despite assurances by the demolition contractor, Brandenburg Industrial Service Co., that the vibrations from the blast will be too weak to damage nearby houses or their contents, Agnes White said she would lay her paintings and the good china on the rug before they leave. "It's an intrusion, but you have to make sacrifices," she said.


Her upstairs neighbor, Angelina DiRienzo, isn't moving any of her possessions. She said, "I have an accumulation of 82 years, and if anything breaks, I'll be glad to get rid of it."


The day before, the Whites plan to move their car to a designated parking lot at the former Naval Hospital. Shuttle buses provided by the contractor will take them and other area residents back to their homes.


The contractor has also told those in the area who wish to remain in their homes to close doors and windows, seal vents, and be prepared to remain indoors for a period that could be as short as 30 minutes or as long as six hours or more - depending on the direction of the wind and when the city health department gives an all-clear indication.


Qualms and questions about everything from a possible collapse of subway tunnels to a rush of rats into the neighborhood have marked four community meetings on the implosion. The rats and cats that once made the Vet their home are long gone, say the Phillies, and the Broad Street subway tunnels are not expected to be damaged by the implosion. The team and its contractors have $77 million in insurance. Other than the amount of dust and the direction and velocity of the wind, they insist they have things under control.


Still to be decided, however, is the extent that Brandenburg will clean the exteriors of homes afterward.


Frank Altamuro - "Yogi" to his friends - thinks it will all turn out fine.


"We have a lot of elderly people in this area, but the ones my age, they're OK with it," said Altamuro, 43, who lives on the 3200 block of South Broad Street. "I don't see that many people up in arms."


As for next Sunday, he's still figuring out what to do.


"I want to see it," he said. "I want to find a spot where I can at least see it. I have a little guy who's 11, and we'll take some cameras and, maybe, video it."






It's going down! http://smilies.jeeptalk.org

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