Northeast Times

Frankford residents protest new recovery house

(lfrom the left) Sis­ters Branay, 10, Bi­anca, 7, Bri­anna, 14, and Belinda Jordan, 12, protest in front of a prop­erty on the 4800 block of Penn street, where a drug re­hab­il­it­a­tion cen­ter is sched­uled to be open soon. The Frank­ford com­munity in­sists that there are already 200 such cen­ters in their com­munity, and an­oth­er one will add on to the drug prob­lem, rather than help solve it, Monday, Ju­ly 9, 2012, Phil­adelphia, Pa. (Maria Pouch­nikova)

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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.”

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You can reach at jloftus@bsmphilly.com.

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