New group takes shape in Port Richmond

An­ger is turn­ing in­to or­gan­iz­a­tion as Port Rich­mond res­id­ents look to­ward a bright­er fu­ture and tight­er bonds.

It might not have had the fiery vit­ri­ol of the first in­form­al gath­er­ing, but last week’s first of­fi­cial meet­ing of tent­at­ively named Port Rich­mond West Com­munity Ac­tion Net­work was an in­form­at­ive af­fair in­ten­ded to help res­id­ents or­gan­ize to be­ne­fit their neigh­bor­hood.

And, for the more than 40 loc­als on hand, the meet­ing al­lowed them to not only learn about bring­ing needed city ser­vices to the area west of Ara­mingo Av­en­ue in Port Rich­mond — where res­id­ents say they feel ig­nored — but to meet oth­ers from their neigh­bor­hood and know that they aren’t alone in their frus­tra­tions.

Held on the rainy even­ing of Wed­nes­day, Oct. 12, res­id­ents met at the Corner­stone Com­munity Church at Al­legheny and Frank­ford av­en­ues. It was a more form­al meet­ing than the ini­tial Sept. 28 gath­er­ing at the Port Rich­mond Pour­House at Clear­field and Weikel streets, which came on the heels of a triple shoot­ing.

That meet­ing, while a pas­sion­ate af­fair, saw little in the way of or­gan­iz­a­tion.

The re­cent gath­er­ing al­lowed rep­res­ent­at­ives from the po­lice, fire de­part­ment, the city’s 3-1-1 and Town Watch In­teg­rated Ser­vices, as well as Cease­FirePA and the nearby New Kens­ing­ton Com­munity De­vel­op­ment Cor­por­a­tion to ad­dress the audi­ence and de­term­ine how best their groups might sup­port the fledgling or­gan­iz­a­tion.

But, some felt more res­id­ents should take pride in im­prov­ing their com­munity.

“This is a nice turnout, but there should be more,” said Sgt. Megan Bo­lognone of the 24th Po­lice Dis­trict.

Res­id­ents ex­pressed con­cerns over area youth vi­ol­at­ing curfew, and D. Mi­chael Black­ie, who or­gan­ized the meet­ing but re­fused a lead­er­ship role in the group, said the prob­lem is so bad, he thinks po­lice simply ig­nore the prob­lem.

Bo­lognone told people to re­port curfew vi­ol­a­tions to 3-1-1, a city hot­line de­signed to deal with non-emer­gency qual­ity- of-life is­sues.

An­oth­er con­cern for 3-1-1 that was dis­cussed at the meet­ing was burned-out al­ley street­lights.

Mark Cooper, as­sist­ant man­aging dir­ect­or of the city’s 3-1-1 ser­vice, said that with city cut­backs, street­lights aren’t get­ting re­placed.

“With the city budget­ing, a lot of lights aren’t get­ting re­placed,” he said.

Out­raged, a wo­man in the back of the room shouted back at Cooper: “But, the al­ley­ways are where the shoot­ings are!”

The rep­res­ent­at­ive told res­id­ents to con­tact their City Coun­cil mem­bers to let them know where the prob­lem lights are if they feel re­pla­cing them is im­port­ant.

Max Na­che­man, ex­ec­ut­ive dir­ect­or of Cease­FirePA, told the gathered crowd how his group is work­ing to help keep il­leg­al guns off the streets.

The group is cur­rently work­ing on a new web­site that will al­low vis­it­ors to see re­cent ver­dicts on cases of gun law vi­ol­a­tions so that res­id­ents can at­tend hear­ings and find out which judges are “le­ni­ent” on gun crimes.

“Too of­ten [gun law vi­ol­at­ors] are giv­en pro­ba­tion be­cause it’s just the de­fend­ant, their law­yer and the de­fend­ants’ fam­il­ies, (in the courtroom), be­cause the com­munity doesn’t at­tend hear­ings,” said Na­che­man.

Soon this could change, he said. He told in­ter­ested res­id­ents to watch www.cease­ for more in­form­a­tion.

While the meet­ing was mostly in­form­a­tion­al, res­id­ents said they felt that it was im­port­ant to learn how to work with the city as they be­gin to or­gan­ize the newly formed group.

“I learned a lot this week,” said Michelle Tillery, a moth­er who lives with four daugh­ters on the 3000 block of Wis­hart Street. “It’s not safe out there … But, I got to meet oth­er people and I feel a lot safer in my neigh­bor­hood now.”

Yet, while res­id­ents seemed to en­joy the gath­er­ing, there was a dis­tinct sense that the new group had no struc­ture or lead­er­ship.

Throughout the meet­ing, Black­ie re­peatedly told the audi­ence he didn’t want to take a lead­er­ship role in the new group — “I don’t want an­oth­er job,” he said — though he or­gan­ized the meet­ing and prom­ised to con­tin­ue to help or­gan­ize the group as the grow­ing or­gan­iz­a­tion finds its foot­ing.

“It’s early. We don’t even have the name fi­nal­ized yet,” he said.

Over­all, res­id­ents Fran­cis Strzelecki and Robert Rodrig­uez, neigh­bors on the 3100 block of Tulip St., said that simply com­ing to­geth­er as neigh­bors to dis­cuss con­cerns and try to find solu­tions to prob­lems that im­pact the en­tire com­munity was a step in the right dir­ec­tion.

“I wish more people would get in­volved, but this is a start,” said Strzelecki. “And we need to do something be­cause the cops aren’t do­ing any­thing.”

Rodrig­uez agreed, say­ing he sees people deal­ing drugs out of their homes and not tak­ing care of their chil­dren.

“I see it all the time, and it breaks my heart,” he said.••

Re­port­er Hay­den Mit­man can be reached at 215-354-3124 or hmit­ 

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