IT HASN'T started yet, but the fifth-annual Philly Spring Cleanup is on its way to making history.

This year, 347 neighborhood cleanup projects were submitted to the Streets Department - eclipsing last year's total of 252, and 231 from 2010.

The number of volunteers registered to participate in this year's event will likely surpass the record of 12,574 set in 2011.

To help make that happen, register with the Streets Department to work at a cleanup site at The cleanup is scheduled for next Saturday, or April 28 in case of rain.

Owning their block: Cynthia Barnes, of 11th Street near Warnock, says encouraging Philadelphians to take ownership of their neighborhoods is something parents can pass along to their children if they lead by example.

"We can ask no more of our children than what we're doing," she said during a stroll with the Marquis this week.

Barnes, who has been organizing her neighborhood's events for the Philly Spring Cleanup since the program's inception in 2008, said the cleanups have become easier to organize and better-attended each year.

She helped construct a playground in place of a vacant lot on Venango Street between 11th and Marvine - a block dubbed "Marvelous Marvine" after neighbors there won the 2011 Philadelphia More Beautiful Clean Block contest.

"We used to hear gunshots all night long," Barnes said, but it hasn't been such a problem since neighbors started cleaning the area around the playground and regularly hosting basketball games and cookouts there.

"When they see that people actually care, they go away," Barnes said of neighborhood ne'er-do-wells.

Demolishing a problem: What does it say about a city when a pile of rubble looks better than the building that once stood in its place?

For neighbors on Glenwood Avenue near 20th Street in North Philly, it says progress.

An abandoned building with a collapsed roof and trash spilling out of every crack and crevice - and there were many - has been demolished by Licenses & Inspections.

"We've been attempting to contact the owner and tell him about the state of his property since 2009," said Maura Kennedy, an L&I spokeswoman.

Gerland Dempsey is listed as the owner of the property, although numerous names are associated with the address. Public records show that Dempsey, 64, may now be living in Spring, Texas.

Kennedy said the department makes all efforts to get in touch with property owners and their relatives to encourage them to clean up their buildings and lots.

"If they don't, then taxpayers are going to have to pay for it," she said, adding that demolishing a rowhouse typically costs the city about $17,000.

If you're fed up with litter and want to talk trash, email the Marquis at, or find my page on Facebook.