IF YOU WALK into the barbershop that the Rev. John Teagle owns in Strawberry Mansion, he will proudly show off the postcard that President Obama and the first lady sent him for his 80th birthday.
Teagle, now 83, is amazed that the president could find the time to send him a note - after one of his daughters wrote to Washington - when he can't get the city of Philadelphia to find time for a deteriorated sidewalk in front of three vacant lots across from his shop.
Teagle, assistant pastor at New Jerusalem Baptist Church, only opens his barbershop four days a week but considers keeping the block clean a full-time job.
His shop is on York Street at 30th. He and his wife live upstairs.
Across the street, Teagle also makes sure that the three cleared grassy lots, two of which are owned by the city, are clean.
"I have fellows who help to clean it," Teagle said. "They know me from the neighborhood. They go up there to volunteer. Sometimes, I have to pay."
He's not the block captain, he added, "but people do look to me. If anything is going on, they ask me to call the city."
That's what Teagle said he's been doing for five or six years to get the city to repair the broken sidewalk in front of the lots where houses were torn down maybe a decade ago.
On the south side of York, the sidewalk drops off like a mini-cliff; the pavement stops as if it's been sheared off.
"Women pushing baby carriages have to go out into the street," Teagle said. "It's impossible for them to pass. Same is true for people in electric wheelchairs."
For years, Teagle said, he's called a number of city agencies.
"All I was told was that it's the property owner's responsibility to repair the sidewalks," he said.
But city records show that two of the lots, at 3038 and 3040 W. York St., are owned by the city. The third lot, 3042 W. York St., is owned by a private owner - records list an Alice Price, but taxes haven't been paid since 1986. The contact address for that lot is a real-estate office on Erie Avenue.
In recent months, Teagle has finally gotten somewhere after talking with Dan O'Brien, an assistant managing director and the Central Division coordinator for the PhillyRising Collaborative, part of the city managing director's office.
O'Brien said that he is trying to help Rev. Teagle.
"I'm trying to get the city to come out and fix the sidewalk in front of their property," O'Brien said. "I've submitted a 3-1-1 request so that it's on the record."
He said that no date has been given for when the city will fix the sidewalk but that he's trying to have the city repair the entire stretch.
"I don't want to have a crew come out and fix just the first 15 feet and leave the other as it is, although it is not [the city's] responsibility," O'Brien said. "If we can have everyone out there and all the materials, I can't see why we can't go the extra mile."