Northeast Times

Finnigan’s Wake co-owner withdraws PTSSD request

The co-own­er of the North­ern Liber­ties bar with­drew a re­quest for fund­ing from the Penn Treaty Spe­cial Ser­vices Dis­trict after neigh­bor­hood res­id­ents were up in arms about the po­ten­tial use of the funds.

Bod­ine Street (right), at Finnigan’s Wake on Spring Garden Street. Last week, the co-own­er with­drew a sub­mis­sion for $74,000 from the PTSSD. The bar could soon own parts of Bod­ine Street to use as a patio. HAY­DEN MIT­MAN / STAR PHOTO

Mike Driscoll, co-own­er of North­ern Liber­ties bar Finnigan’s Wake, with­drew a re­quest last week for $74,000 from The Penn Treaty Spe­cial Ser­vices Dis­trict. He with­drew the re­quest after news spread that the board had planned to provide the grant to the bar’s own­ers.

The fund­ing - which will now not be de­livered, as Driscoll with­drew the re­quest Ju­ly 6 – was presen­ted at a PTSSD meet­ing last month as a “com­munity beau­ti­fic­a­tion pro­ject,” ac­cord­ing to Kev­in Kelly, pro­cessing dir­ect­or of the PTSSD.

Many loc­als, though, had ex­pressed con­cerns that the funds would help af­ford the bar and nightclub’s out­door ex­pan­sion plan—a plan that many neigh­bors op­posed.

“I’ve nev­er seen people so up­set about something in the North­ern Liber­ties, ever,” said Matt Ruben, pres­id­ent of the North­ern Liber­ties Neigh­bors As­so­ci­ation. He said more than 450 people sent emails op­pos­ing the plan dur­ing an on­line cam­paign.

For months, mem­bers of the NLNA and own­ers of Finnigan’s Wake have been go­ing back and forth over a plan for a two-story bal­cony on the front of the bar that would hang over the side­walk along Spring Garden Street, as well as an out­door patio on Bod­ine Street.

As part of the plan, Bod­ine Street would also be stricken from city maps to al­low the bar to own the street and place seat­ing out­side along with an ease­ment for ped­es­tri­ans. The street would also be owned by the bar’s neigh­bors at the Joe Hand box­ing gym and the Demo­crat­ic City Com­mit­tee.

Ac­cord­ing to Ruben, the ori­gin­al plan dis­cussed last year would have seen the bal­conies placed over Bod­ine Street.

As the plan evolved, however, the bal­conies were moved to hang over Spring Garden Street, while Bod­ine Street would be used for the out­door patio.

Ruben said that after these al­ter­a­tions, some neigh­bor­hood res­id­ents began to warm up to the plan, as it was also to in­clude an open walk­way for ped­es­tri­ans, a bike path and land­scap­ing to the area.

“There was still op­pos­i­tion to the street re­mov­al [of Bod­ine], but it wasn’t un­an­im­ous any­more,” Ruben said.

Kelly said that the PTSSD board ap­proved the re­quest be­liev­ing that Bod­ine Street would re­main a pub­lic street and Finnigan’s Wake would use the fund­ing to clean and green the area as a be­ne­fit to the pub­lic.

“That’s been an eye­sore forever,” he said of Bod­ine Street, which is of­ten blocked by a dump­ster owned by Finnigan’s Wake. “We saw this as an op­por­tun­ity to make it nice and beau­ti­fy it.”

Kelly said that “as it stands [Bod­ine Street] is a pub­lic thor­ough­fare,” which is true at the mo­ment.

That could soon change, as City Coun­cil re­cently passed two bills, both re­lated to Finnigan’s Bod­ine Street and bal­cony pro­jects.

Those bills have been ap­proved by City Coun­cil, but have yet to be signed by May­or Mi­chael Nut­ter.

But, if signed, Bod­ine Street would be stricken from the city maps, mean­ing it wouldn’t be a pub­lic thor­ough­fare.

“When it sub­sequently came to light that now, well…if it’s private prop­erty, we’re not go­ing to fund it,” Kelly said. “When they came to us ori­gin­ally, it was still pub­lic prop­erty.”

On its web­site at www.pen­ntreatyssd.com, the board notes that Finnigan’s Wake nev­er got fund­ing and has with­drawn the re­quest.

“We don’t like to get in­volved with private busi­ness,” said Kelly. “We said, ‘we can’t fund that,’… We aren’t too proud to say, ‘Hey, things have changed and now we’re go­ing to not do it.’”

He said the board was al­ways will­ing to work with a private busi­ness in an ex­traneous cir­cum­stance if – as in the case of the Spir­it com­munity news­pa­per, which got a PTSSD grant of over $20,000 - the board felt there was enough of a com­munity be­ne­fit in­volved.

As of press time, Driscoll had not re­turned calls or emails to dis­cuss the plan.

Mag­gie O’Bri­en, pres­id­ent of Fishtown Ac­tion, who helped out­line and cre­ate the PTSSD through cre­at­ing a Com­munity Be­ne­fits Agree­ment with Sug­ar­house casino, said that she didn’t think the board should have con­tem­plated de­liv­er­ing funds to Finnigan’s Wake in the first place.

“That [PTSSD fund­ing] is meant for the be­ne­fit of the com­munity, not for Finnigan’s Wake,” she said. “He [Driscoll] has a lot of nerve ask­ing for any of it. Why should the CBA money be used to im­prove his prop­erty? Even if he wasn’t tak­ing over that street, I think it’s his re­spons­ib­il­ity to take care of that as a good neigh­bor.”

North­ern Liber­ties res­id­ent Chris Somers gave this is­sue something of a life of its own on­line, thanks to a post on his blog at ht­tp://blog.thesomer­steam.com. He said he only hoped to share the is­sue in or­der to al­low res­id­ents to be aware of how this fund­ing was be­ing spent.

“I really just wanted to raise aware­ness,” he said. “It just doesn’t seem like a good de­cision to give money to a for-profit com­pany, es­pe­cially one that could eas­ily af­ford this [pro­ject] by it­self.”

If the fund­ing had gone to Finnigan’s Wake, it would have been the second largest grant awar­ded by the PTSSD, a 501 c3 non-profit or­gan­iz­a­tion which has a ser­vice dis­trict that in­cludes Fishtown, North­ern Liber­ties and parts of Kens­ing­ton.

The PTSSD board cur­rently re­ceives an an­nu­al sti­pend of about $500,000 from Sug­ar­house casino.

Once the casino has com­pleted its full-con­struc­tion, the board is ex­pec­ted to re­ceive $1 mil­lion a year.

“These aren’t pub­lic dol­lars,” said Kelly, of the PTSSD’s fund­ing. “The SSD doesn’t re­ceive pub­lic dol­lars. These are private dol­lars and we can fund whatever we want. We choose not to fund private com­pan­ies.”

So far, the board has re­ceived three pay­ments from the casino total­ing over $1 mil­lion and has de­livered over $820,000 in grants.

The board meets monthly to dis­perse grants and is cur­rently on break un­til Septem­ber.

Star Staff Re­port­er Hay­den Mit­man can be con­tac­ted at 215-354-3124 or hmit­man@bsmphilly.com.

 

You can reach at hmitman@bsmphilly.com.

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