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What’s Happening at 3rd Ward Philadelphia?

The original, and very much unrealized, plan for 3rd Ward Philadelphia. (image via philebrity.com)
The original, and very much unrealized, plan for 3rd Ward Philadelphia. (image via philebrity.com)

The dramatic unraveling of 3rd Ward, a widely hyped incubator for “doers and makers,” has been fraught with surprises. First, stories of CEO and founder Jason Goodman’s second home-decorating hobby. Second, the official word from 3rd Ward that nobody would be receiving refunds, and that instructors remain very much uncertain about whether a pay backlog, dating in many cases to August, will ever be disbursed to them.

And though the organization had been a pillar of the Brooklyn creative community for seven years, the Philadelphia branch — also shuttered this week — had only opened in April 2013, and the devastation to the burgeoning community of members and employees has been just as bad. Members at the Bushwick flagship were able to come in and collect their belongings over the last 48 hours; Philadelphia members and instructors have not been so lucky (an organization named Impact Hub remains in operation on the third floor of that building). That branch had in recent months undergone operational turmoil, including significant turnover of the education staff in August.

By the time the organization closed its doors only 10 or so full-time employees remained, estimates Tessa Kennedy, an artist and jewelry instructor who had taught at the location since its inception. Kennedy also provided Hyperallergic with two telling recent correspondences from Izgi Yapici, 3rd Ward’s VP of Operations and Education. The first email, sent on Friday, October 4, announces a blatant deception to all 3rd Ward students and teachers in Philadelphia, that “an unexpected issue with our facilities” has resulted in the postponement of all classes scheduled to run in October:

From: Izgi Yapici <[email protected]>
Date: Fri, Oct 4, 2013 at 3:59 PM
Subject: Your class at 3rd Ward will be postponed
To:

Dear valued 3rd Ward students and teachers,

We deeply regret that, due to an unexpected issue with our facilities in Philadelphia, we need to postpone our classes that are scheduled to run in October.

Your cost has been provided as a credit and you can apply that to any other 3rd Ward class in the future. We will keep you posted of future sections of your current class after October.

We apologize for the inconvenience this may have caused. Feel free to contact [email protected] with any question you may have.

Best Regards,
Izgi Yapici
3rd Ward
VP of Operations and Education

The second email, sent at the beginning of this week, was a response to a request from Kennedy for clarification on the status of her payment for instructional services, an outstanding obligation stemming from classes she taught in August and September. Yapici, who seems to have a significant accounting background at such major firms as Ernst & Young, Deloitte, and Arthur Andersen (of Enron fame) tells her: “[T]here is still a back log with teacher payment processing at the Accounting department. I can’t predict when your payment can be processed. I am really sorry about the delay, but unfortunately, I don’t have any control over it.” Yapici adds that Kennedy’s student, who had traveled from North Carolina to attend the course, would have to contact a generic email address for help getting a refund.

We now know that nobody is getting a refund, even members who signed up for classes that were being scheduled at the Bushwick flagship as recently as last week. Meanwhile, some with ties to the space have begun organizing a revival effort, save3rdward.com, which remains in its infancy. An organizer, who was not able to speak on behalf of the entire group, noted that Save 3rd Ward will likely not focus on making whole those who have lost money, rather it will attempt to find an agreeable solution for carrying out the continued mission of 3rd Ward as a community and resource for creative workers. A Reddit thread contains some interesting testimony from a user named “3rdwardemployee,” who details extensive mismanagement at the organization, as well as an offer from a representative of the Bushwick location’s landlord to accomodate some of the people interested in renting space from him directly.

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