Old City Civic Association dissolving; Squilla to seek protections for other groups

One of Philadelphia’s most prominent community organizations, the Old City Civic Association, is dissolving because of rising costs associated with lawsuits and legal threats against it in the past few years. 

Ryan Berley, the group’s former president, says the decision to disband the group wasn’t easy. Berley, who’s also the owner of the popular Franklin Fountain ice cream shop on Market Street, said the group’s legal problems made liability insurance unaffordable.

“I’ve gotten a number of phone calls and concerned emails from other civic leaders around the city,” he said, “and there’s been a lot of discussion related to this, especially with Old City Civic being such a long-tenured group for over 35 years and having a very prominent location in Center City — in the most historic neighborhood in Philadelphia. It’s scary.”

Berley said lawmakers need to be aware of such afronts — especially since the city’s recognized the importance of community groups by giving them increased power in the new zoning code.

City Councilman Mark Squilla said he’s concerned and would like to see if there’s a way to keep other registered community organizations protected from similar situations.

“We have to make sure we find ways that they can be covered or indemnified,” he said, “either through the city or maybe we’re looking at maybe an umbrella organization that all the RCO’s would be able to fall under and therefore be able to get represented by an insurance company for everybody.”

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