After Michael Nutter handily defeated T. Milton Street Sr. in the Democratic primary Tuesday night, the mayor told supporters he wanted the "new Philadelphia" to "soon be on the top-10 safest list."

Well, apart from his showering Charles H. Ramsey with a $60,0000 raise to get him to stay, a lot of people complain that they haven't seen what the mayor's doing to make the city safer, because it sure isn't getting any safer in their neighborhoods.

Those folks were probably among the 24 percent who voted for Street.

But Diane Bridges didn't - vote for Street, that is. Because over the last year, her Hartranft neighborhood in North Philly has been the beneficiary of a little improvement program called Philly Rising - an idea its planners hope can transform neighborhoods, five blocks at a time.

Philly Rising is modest compared with the big, bold Neighborhood Transformation Initiative (NTI), the ambitious plan that helped define Mayor John F. Street's two-term tenure.

But there's only so much you can do when your city is broke.

Limited resources

"We have a finite number of resources," Deputy Managing Director John Farrell says. "We can't afford to take out huge [$300 million] bonds like NTI did."

One of the first agencies Farrell contacted was the Police Department.

"We asked them to tell us the areas they were having trouble with," Farrell says. "The criteria for the neighborhoods was to have a high level of crime and quality of life issues."

Farrell said Capt. Mike Cram of the 26th District didn't bat an eye when he answered, "Hartranft."

Back in the day, Hartranft was a tree-lined neighborhood full of bakeries that boasted its own bustling shopping district on Germantown Avenue. It was known as the suburbs of North Philly.

Now it is known as an area where crime festers, schools struggle, and senior citizens fear walking down their own blocks because of drug dealers who "have absolutely no respect for their elders," says Arnetta Curry, a neighborhood volunteer and commmitteewoman.

The idea behind Philly Rising is for the city to work with residents to help come up with a plan that will help sustain the neighborhood.

And so far, it's working - better than NTI, which never found its way up to Hartranft, Bridges says.

She recalls that John Street "gave us a picnic. That was it."

Not there, but on the way

On a recent sun-soaked day, I walked with Bridges, 59, and Curry, 53, up Cumberland to Eighth, in the heart of Hartranft.

Plenty of rowhouses were worn, plenty of alleyways strewn with garbage. The corner boys eyed us suspiciously as they lingered in front of a bodega.

The neighborhood definitely hasn't ascended. Still, the women say it's gotten a hopeful lift. They pointed out one of the 14 grass-layered lots where abandoned houses used to be, and the indoor pool the city reclaimed for the children year-round.

There's a computer lab - supplied with computers from Temple and run by neighborhood volunteers. And because of increased police patrols, violent crime has decreased 16 percent from last year.

"It's not about 'I,' it's about 'we,' says Officer Tyshaan Willliams, who technically works the 25th District but whose cruiser is a fixture on the streets of Hartranft. "It's about getting people involved with the political powers and getting the resources they need."

Farrell says Philly Rising already has a presence in Market East. Plans are to implement the program in Frankford and Cobbs Creek in West Philly, too.

"It's been effective," Bridges says. "Before, we were trying to take the neighborhood back, but we couldn't. We were holding it together with spit and bubble gum."

I glanced up Cumberland as we headed back down the block and toward Bridges' home.

The corner boys had disappeared.