Frankford residents on Monday picketed a Penn Street property they fear will become a 30-resident home for recovering drug addicts, and their demonstration got a least one immediate result.
A representative of the non-profit group that wants to operate out of the building promised to present the Northwood and Frankford civic associations with written plans for the site at 4834 Penn St., a 19th century mansion-turned-apartment building.
Neighborhood complaints about work they said was going on without proper permits spurred the Department of Licenses and Inspections to send an inspector out on Friday who ordered all construction to stop.
That seemed to be a surprise to some roofers who showed up early Monday afternoon only to be confronted by sign-waving neighbors and the city’s large red-and-white cease-work order, or “candy-stripe,” posted on the front door.
ldquo;Our research indicates that no current or recent work permits have been issued for any construction or alteration of this property,” City Councilwoman Maria Quinones-Sanchez (D-7th dist.) wrote in an e-mail to the Northeast Times on Friday. She added that police could enforce a cease-work order.
The building doesn’t have the zoning to be any kind of rooming house, said Pete Specos, president and zoning officer of the Frankford Civic Association.
At about 9 a.m. Monday, about 20 neighbors marched up and down the pavement in front of the old mansion chanting, “Frankford’s putting our foot down! No more rehabs in our town!”
Deacon Lamont Purnell said on Friday his non-profit group, Innovative Treatment Alternatives, works with people who have behavioral health problems, including mental health and drug addiction, as well as HIV. On Monday, he agreed with a suggestion made by state Rep. Tony Payton Jr. (D-179th dist.) to attend Northwood and Frankford civic meetings with written copies of his plans for the site.
Purnell said he had not known about the July 5 Frankford Civic Association session that drew more than 50 persons, most of whom there to gripe about what they believed Purnell’s non-profit was going to do at the house.
“I would have been there had I known about it,” he said Monday as protesters were starting to gather outside the house.
Neighbors said they now aren’t sure exactly what kind of program will be in place if permits are secured and work resumes.
They said they had heard it would be housing for up to 30 men who are recovering from alcohol or drug addictions. On Friday, a workman told a reporter it would be a shelter for battered women. On Monday, a resident said he’d heard that morning it would be a medical facility for senior citizens.
“I don’t know what to believe,” said neighbor Veronica Daniel as pickets resumed marching and chanting in the early afternoon.
Northwood Civic Association members will meet 7 p.m. on July 17 at St. James Lutheran Church, Pratt Street and Castor Avenue. Councilwoman Quinones-Sanchez plans to discuss 4834 Penn St. at the July 26 meeting of the Northeast EPIC Stakeholders at 5:30 p.m. in the second-floor meeting room of Aria Health’s Frankford campus.
The Frankford Civic Association’s next session is at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 2. Usually, the group meets at Aria Health at 4900 Frankford Ave., but the location might change in August to a yet-undetermined place.
“We’re going to be at every meeting,” said Pat Smiley, who lives across Penn Street from the building. Smiley was among the many neighborhood residents who demonstrated on Monday.
Drug-treatment facilities and rooming houses for recovering addicts, or “recovery houses,” have been rankling Frankford residents for years. Some are licensed, some are not, and there seem to be a lot of them, which could explain why even the suggestion of a new one draws so much fire.
“Frankford is the home of 150 recovery houses,” said Frank Bennett, the vice president of the civic association in Northwood, an adjoining neighborhood.
Speaking to demonstrators outside 4834 Penn St., Bennett said that attempts to convert the property to a drug recovery house would be met with more neighborhood opposition.
“It’s not good for the neighborhood,” he said.
Whether or not recovery houses or drug-treatment facilities are good for the neighborhood can be debated, but there’s little doubt the neighborhood is good for those types of businesses.
Several residents as well as Payton have pointed out Frankford has many large properties available at low prices.
The neighborhood is well-served by SEPTA. The El and numerous bus and trolley lines go through Frankford, and Aria Health’s Frankford campus is in the center of it all.
Once the organization’s city permits issues are settled, Purnell said Friday, work will continue so that 4834 Penn St. will be used as a long-term, assisted-living rooming house that will provide constant supervision to clients and help them with their medication and education goals.
“We want to build up Frankford,” he said in a phone interview. “Basically, I don’t know why the community is up in arms.”EndFragment