Residents look to improve life west of Aramingo Ave.

Res­id­ents liv­ing on the west side of Ara­mingo Av­en­ue have long com­plained about qual­ity of life is­sues. Now, they’re get­ting or­gan­ized.

It wasn’t sup­posed to hap­pen this way. 

In the past, John Boswell, own­er of the Port Rich­mond Pour House at the corner of Clear­field and Wiekel streets, had held a few in­form­al con­ver­sa­tions with his neigh­bors dis­cuss­ing the pos­sib­il­ity of cre­at­ing a com­munity or­gan­iz­a­tion for the part of the neigh­bor­hood west of Ara­mingo Av­en­ue. 

It’s an area, he said, that is un­der­rep­res­en­ted and could use an or­gan­ized group of neigh­bors work­ing for the be­ne­fit of the en­tire com­munity. 

In plan­ning a meet­ing that was held Wed­nes­day even­ing, Sept. 28, Boswell said he ex­pec­ted a few res­id­ents, calm dis­cus­sion and plan­ning in­ten­ded to help cre­ate a com­munity as­so­ci­ation. 

But, in­stead, Boswell quickly found his es­tab­lish­ment flooded with fired-up res­id­ents — more than 50 stuffed in­to the small bar, stand­ing shoulder-to-shoulder — ready to de­cry the prob­lem of drugs and vi­ol­ence in the com­munity. 

At 4 p.m. that day, three people were shot — in­clud­ing a 23-year-old wo­man, a 19-year-old man and a 50-year-old man, none fatally — at Wiekel and Ann streets. Res­id­ents who came to Boswell’s meet­ing said they were fed up with the state of the neigh­bor­hood and were will­ing to do whatever it might take to make a change. 

“I have no real agenda. I just wanted to get people to­geth­er, learn some faces and names,” Boswell told the crowd. 

Boswell sug­ges­ted call­ing the group the West Ara­mingo Com­munity Ac­tion Com­mit­tee. 

It’s also been called the West Port Rich­mond Com­munity Ac­tion Net­work, but noth­ing has been fi­nal­ized.

D. Mi­chael Black­ie, a neigh­bor­hood res­id­ent and com­munity rep­res­ent­at­ive for the May­or’s Of­fice of Com­munity Ser­vices, said he be­lieves the bound­ar­ies of the new group would cov­er the area from Le­high Av­en­ue to West­mo­re­land Street, between Ara­mingo and Frank­ford av­en­ues. 

“There’s noth­ing here. There’s noth­ing that rep­res­ents this side,” said Black­ie. “We need to bring city ser­vices to this com­munity … We want to have a voice that City Hall will hear.”

However, Patty-Pat Kozlowski, pres­id­ent of Port Rich­mond on Patrol and Civic as­so­ci­ation, said that her group tries to ad­dress con­cerns throughout that area. 

She said PRO­PAC cov­ers areas from the Delaware River to the Trenton Av­en­ue bridge, between Le­high Av­en­ue and the Frank­ford Creek. 

But, she noted, this large cov­er­age area can leave res­id­ents want­ing something more fo­cused with­in their im­me­di­ate area. 

“I think it’s a great idea,” she said, of the plan for a group to sup­port areas west of Ara­mingo Av­en­ue. “More power to them. I don’t think it could hurt; there’s more power in num­bers.” 

Yet, as the meet­ing began, it seemed flared tem­pers took the place of ra­tion­al con­ver­sa­tion as the con­ver­sa­tion dis­solved in­to a shout­ing match.

The noise level hit a cres­cendo when a res­id­ent, who re­fused to give his name to a re­port­er, screamed that any ac­tion to re­move drug deal­ers from the com­munity might have po­lice “treat us the way they should treat them.”  

“We don’t want to be the ones get­ting locked up to de­fend ourselves,” he yelled. 

However, Boswell was able to calm ten­sions after the man stormed out by con­tinu­ing the con­ver­sa­tion and get­ting every­one in the room in­volved. 

“We can’t solve the prob­lem to­night, but by get­ting to­geth­er, we can start the pro­cess,” he said. “We aren’t go­ing to solve the big prob­lem today.”

To start, he said, he hopes to sched­ule com­munity clean ups and get garbage cans in­stalled along area streets to re­duce the amount of lit­ter. 

“If we start small, we can work big,” agreed Tracey Di­Cap­ua, a moth­er of four who lives on Tulip Street. “We are all here, we are all neigh­bors, let’s be neigh­bors to­geth­er.”

“We are sick of you selling heroin on the block,” said Boswell, talk­ing about drug sales in the com­munity. “It’s not about win­ning or los­ing. We are sick of our neigh­bor­hood look­ing like sh*t all the time.” 

As the crowd ral­lied in sup­port of the bur­geon­ing or­gan­iz­a­tion, Boswell said he would com­mit as much time as pos­sible to help­ing grow the group, if it helped make the neigh­bor­hood a clean­er, safer place to live.

“I will in­vest as much time and as much money as I can, while feed­ing my fam­ily, to make this neigh­bor­hood less scary for my son,” said Boswell. 

At the end of the meet­ing, it seemed many neigh­bors agreed. 

“I live here; someone else isn’t scar­ing me away,” said Black­ie. 

“I’m tired of the drugs on the corner. I mean, I find needles on my porch,” said Di­Cap­ua. “This is a pos­it­ive thing. We’ve all just got the nibble at the cook­ie to take a big bite.” 

Mary­anne Trombetta, pres­id­ent of the Port Rich­mond Town Watch and a res­id­ent of Tulip Street, said the cre­ation of a group to ad­dress prob­lems in the com­munity west of Ara­mingo Av­en­ue was a “step in the right dir­ec­tion.” 

“I think it’s a good move,” she said. •• 

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

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