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We Need to Talk About Graffiti Pier

December 3, 2017

Welcome to the 4th installment of our yearlong, 12-part Streets Dept + WeFilmPhilly collaborative #PhillyMinute series! For this month’s video WeFilmPhilly and I headed out at sunrise to film one of my absolute favorite places in Philly, Graffiti Pier.

Graffiti Pier has a hold on Philadelphia. It’s used and visited by graffiti writers, street artists, photographers, neighborhood kids, tourists, families, college students, and the list goes on. It’s a beloved space in Philadelphia. It’s sacred. There’s nothing else like it here in the city, and I’d doubt there’s any place quite like it anywhere else in the world.

To measure the allure of Graffiti Pier you need to look no further than Instagram, where there are literally thousands more photos posted tagged #GraffitiPier than #RaceStreetPier, a fellow pier attraction in Philly. I mean seriously, think about that for a second. Race Street Pier, a beautifully designed and executed pier park that cost millions to build is, in at least one key measure, attracting less interest and excitement than an abandoned pier with graffiti on it.

Now, I don’t mean that as a criticism of Race Street Pier – I love that park. I just mean to illustrate that Graffiti Pier is a Philadelphia-defining space. It’s an icon, a landmark. But unlike other Philly landmarks, Graffiti Pier isn’t protected. It could easily be swept up into the development that’s transforming the neighborhoods around it and be sold to the highest bidder only to disappear like New York’s legendary 5 Pointz. That would be a painful loss not only to the people and communities that have made Graffiti Pier what it is, but to Philadelphia as a whole.

A few years ago I wrote about this in a blog post titled, The Case for Graffiti Pier. In it I insist that our city’s leaders (likely both public and private) should see the benefits of protecting, preserving, and fostering Graffiti Pier. Protecting it from development. Protecting it from becoming some sort of outdoor art gallery with curated murals. To truly preserve and foster Graffiti Pier as it is, a dynamic outdoor space that inspires creativity, introspection, and awe. And if our city’s leaders aren’t thinking about how to protect, preserve, and foster this space as it is, then Philly could soon be missing a piece of itself. A piece, I’d argue, that countless other cities would kill to have.

How do we protect, preserve, and foster Graffiti Pier? I reason in my blog post from 2014 that it starts by leaving it alone. By adding the infrastructure that makes the pier safe and accessible for all people, like guardrails for instance. But that in large, to just let it be. And I still agree with what I wrote then. The biggest hurtles right now are that Graffiti Pier is still owned by Conrail, who stopped using it in 1991 and who don’t seem too eager to sell it. And that even if they were, I’m not exactly sure who they could sell it to that would work to keep the pier as it is. But I’m hopeful. I’m hopeful that with enough time and enough public pressure that the right organizations and people will come forward to join the communities that built Graffiti Pier and work together to keep it the amazing place that it is.

See the rest of the Streets Dept + WeFilmPhilly collaborative #PhillyMinute series here:
Part I, Rush Hour at City Hall
Part II, Comcast Technology Center and Philly’s Growing Skyline
Part III, Rolling Through Philly on the Market–Frankford Line El

If you’re interested in collaborating with WePhillyPhilly, reach out to them here.

9 Comments leave one →
  1. DAVE permalink
    December 6, 2017 3:31 pm

    Not to mention the miles of sweet gravel trails surrounding it (also conrail’s I assume). It’s like raymundo’s secret spot for runners with bad knees.

  2. December 14, 2017 8:44 pm

    dint you sponser a cleanup down there? cause i went the next day and shit was trashed.

  3. Evan permalink
    July 10, 2019 12:26 pm

    Port Richmond Waterfront & Graffiti Pier Planning Study RFP


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