Dan Adair, founder of the Bridesburg Community Action Alliance, aims to lead community in civic engagement
By Melissa Komar
Last August, Dan Adair went tire-to-tire with a 53-foot tractor trailer and won.
The truck was attempting to drive down the 2800 block of Orthodox Street, despite a “No Thru Truck” ordinance being passed, after Adair helped circulate a petition for the signs, speed bumps and a speed reduction.
Adair sat on his bike and refused to back down.
“He was right behind me, so I just came to a dead stop. There was a sign as big as the light, ‘No Thru Truck’ right in front of him,” Adair said, recalling the incident. “I turned around and said, ‘Do you read?’ And he said that he had to get down the street. And I said that was enough. This is where I make my last stand.”
It’s just one, although one of the most quintessential, examples of Adair putting words into action.
That same month, Adair helped found the Bridesburg Community Action Alliance, the neighborhood’s second civic association aimed at getting the community more involved.
As the president of the group, Adair is no stranger to civic engagement, but he was involved in movements for change years prior to moving to Bridesburg 20 years ago.
“I was a crazy radical in my youth,” the 60-year-old Port Richmond native said. “I was in some real radical groups at one time. I was always aware of community engagement in the neighborhood. But, once I got married, I settled down until we moved to Bridesburg.”
Adair and wife moved to Garden Street, with the Cokies property basically in their backyard.
During the first year of living on Garden Street, the water lines between Rohm and Haas and the water treatment plant were being cleaned to clear off chemical residue.
The water lines happened to run down the middle of Garden Street, a storage tank for the waste was located on Cokies and workers were wearing hazmat suits.
“That made me find out more about that property,” Adair said. “The first step was getting people on the block to sign a petition to talk to the owners, find out where the property line was, cleaning the weeds away from the property line and the rodent problem. Rats were actually running across our yards in the middle of the day.”
The petition led to years of back-and-forth engagement about the property until four years ago when Adair received a phone call from a reporter that Councilman Bobby Henon was introducing legislation to rezone the property as industrial.
Adair called his office around the clock, and Henon organized a community meeting to present the zoning and hear residents’ concerns.
While their relationship may have gotten off to a rocky start, Adair counts the councilman as an ally now.
“Since the formation of BCAA, Councilman Henon and state Rep. (John) Taylor have been very supportive and cooperative of our group,” he said. “They both have been instrumental in making changes happen in our community in support of our group’s mission.”
When he moved to Bridesburg, Adair was involved in the Bridesburg Civic Association off and on during the years and became a board member within the past few years.
Other community members were meeting on their own to discuss issues in the community they felt needed more attention, with the goal of being “more community oriented.”
Community is the key word for the grassroots group.
“I want more community involvement,” Adair said. “I don’t see myself as a mover and shaker. I see myself as an agitator who wants to get people involved. I’m the voice that says come, help, volunteer, be part of the community. It should be a community effort, not one man ranting and raving about what should be going on in the neighborhood.”
Adair is the president of the BCAA, but he hopes to start a friends group for Bridesburg’s future waterfront park, which he has informally named Point No Point.
Being involved is just part of his makeup, but his passion for the neighborhood is paramount, according to Adair.
“I love the neighborhood. I like the small-town feel of this neighborhood,” Adair said. “In my mind, I can see it better than it is. We have to draw people in and start new businesses and not have buildings that were once commercial turn into apartments. I see so much potential, and sometimes people just need a swift boot to get them out and about and see what’s going on in their neighborhood.”