Northeast Times

Northern Liberties neighbors share safety concerns after Piazza shooting

A re­cent meet­ing of the North­ern Liber­ties Neigh­bors As­so­ci­ation al­lowed loc­als to come to­geth­er over sev­er­al is­sues, in­clud­ing safety after a re­cent fatal shoot­ing and is­sues over a con­struc­tion pro­pos­al at Finnigan's Wake that many res­id­ents op­pose.

The last meet­ing of the North­ern Liber­ties Neigh­bors As­so­ci­ation be­fore a sum­mer hi­atus, held on Thursday, June 28, in­cluded a sur­pris­ing wealth of new vis­it­ors to the group.

The meet­ing, held at the NLNA’s com­munity build­ing at Fair­mount Av­en­ue and 3rd Street, was packed to ca­pa­city.

Res­id­ents of the Piazza at Schmidt’s, loc­ated at 2nd Street and Ger­man­town Av­en­ue, had at­ten­ded en masse to dis­cuss their con­cerns fol­low­ing the fatal shoot­ing at the PYT res­taur­ant with­in the com­plex on Monday, June 11.

Be­fore broach­ing that is­sue, NLNA pres­id­ent Matt Ruben kicked off the meet­ing with a dis­cus­sion on Club Aura, at Front Street and Fair­mount Av­en­ue, which neigh­bors have said has been host­ing live mu­sic even though it doesn’t have the ap­pro­pri­ate per­mits.

“They are no longer al­lowed to be a night club,” said Ruben.

However, neigh­bors ex­pressed con­cerns that the club was pro­mot­ing a DJ event for that week­end.

Ruben said noth­ing in the pro­mo­tion­al ma­ter­i­als he had seen in­dic­ated that there would be live mu­sic.

He said that since there was no evid­ence at that time that Club Aura would be host­ing live mu­sic or dan­cing, the NLNA would wait to see if they needed to take ac­tion against the club.

“We are go­ing to see if they will do any­thing to abide by the law or if they try to sneak something through,” said Ruben.

An ex­pan­sion plan for Finnigan’s Wake at Third and Spring Garden streets was next on the agenda.

Ruben said the neigh­bors’ group has been some­what hand­cuffed thanks to City Coun­cil­man Mark Squilla (D-1st dist.).

The coun­cil­man re­cently pushed for­ward bills that would al­low Finnigan’s Wake to con­struct a two-story bal­cony in front of the bar and nightclub that would hang over the side­walk along Spring Garden Street and an out­door patio on Bod­ine Street, to the rear of Finnigan’s Wake.

The neigh­bor­hood group had long op­posed the is­sue and by passing those bills through City Coun­cil – though they have yet to be signed by May­or Mi­chael Nut­ter – Ruben said the neigh­bors are left with little re­course to en­sure the com­munity’s con­cerns over the pro­ject were taken in­to con­sid­er­a­tion.

“If you have an­oth­er draw­ing or a ren­der­ing that is sig­ni­fic­antly dif­fer­ent, send it to us,” said Ruben. “But, un­til then, we have noth­ing to talk about.”

He said loc­al res­id­ents worry about noise, and the group was work­ing closely with the own­er of Finnigan’s Wake, Mike Driscoll, to come to a com­prom­ise on the pro­ject be­fore the bills were passed.

When the bills are fi­nal­ized, the bal­conies could be built by right, though Ruben said that the coun­cil­man and Driscoll have a “gen­tle­men’s agree­ment” that no con­struc­tion would be­gin without neigh­bor­hood in­put.

“A verbal agree­ment or a hand­shake is no way to do policy,” he com­plained. “If they do build against our will, they will show that they are against what the neigh­bors want.”

Un­til the group hears more about the pro­ject, the NLNA has cre­ated an on­line let­ter writ­ing cam­paign to al­low loc­als to ex­press their con­cerns over the pro­ject with Squilla and oth­er elec­ted of­fi­cials. 

For more in­form­a­tion, vis­it ht­tp://cit­izen­speak.org/cam­paign/north­ernliber­ties­neigh­bors/no-finnigans-wake-ex­pan­sion-without-com­munity-agree­ment.

Fi­nally, many of those in at­tend­ance last week were res­id­ents of the Piazza at Schmidt’s, owned by Tower In­vest­ments, Inc., and they shared con­cerns over safety fol­low­ing the shoot­ing that took the life of 25-year-old Maurice Kimble of Up­per Darby.

Piazza res­id­ent Lucy Sharpe said that the Piazza’s se­cur­ity needs to be im­proved, as she sees fist­fights and oth­er prob­lems after clos­ing time of the sev­er­al bars and res­taur­ants in the Piazza.

“We need more se­cur­ity in there,” she said. “They should have enough se­cur­ity to re­move them [prob­lem pat­rons] from the premises, not just move them ten feet off the prop­erty.”

Ruben said that fol­low­ing the shoot­ing, on Wed­nes­day, June 20, the NLNA joined rep­res­ent­at­ives of Tower In­vest­ments, Inc., the 26th and 6th po­lice dis­tricts, Tommy Up­de­grove, own­er of PYT, as well as State Rep. Mike O’Bri­en (D-175th dist.) and oth­ers to ad­dress safety in the Piazza.

“We im­me­di­ately felt like we had to get some kind of meet­ing to­geth­er,” said Ruben. “But, that’s the safest area in the dis­trict, if you look at the num­bers.”

Yet, Car­oline Carr, a res­id­ent of the Piazza, said she was less then ten feet away from the vic­tim dur­ing the shoot­ing and she was still shaken by the in­cid­ent.

“The guy had good aim at least, three of his four shots hit…the vic­tim,” she re­called. “They need to have bet­ter train­ing for the se­cur­ity.”

She claimed that dur­ing the in­cid­ent, one se­cur­ity guard helped pro­tect her, but an­oth­er seem­ingly ran in fear.

While some in at­tend­ance at the June 20 meet­ing asked about get­ting ad­di­tion­al po­lice to patrol the area, Ruben said that po­lice rep­res­ent­at­ives said the area was already well-patrolled and in­stead, they talked about “de-es­cal­a­tion tech­niques” that could keep al­ter­ca­tions from get­ting vi­ol­ent. They also dis­cussed more de­tailed plan­ning and com­mu­nic­a­tion of up­com­ing events at the Piazza, so that the neigh­bor­hood group can be more aware of events there.

Ruben said the over­all feel­ing at the meet­ing was that the shoot­ing was an isol­ated in­cid­ent.

“You can’t pre­vent everything,” he said.

Fi­nally, for Piazza res­id­ents who still had con­cerns, Piazza res­id­ent Hol­lin Kret­zmann is or­gan­iz­ing a group of res­id­ents who would like to dis­cuss safety and oth­er con­cerns at the apart­ment com­plex.

“When the shoot­ing happened, that kind of mo­tiv­ated me to see if oth­er people are ex­per­i­en­cing the same thing,” he said of his ef­forts.

Piazza res­id­ents who would like to dis­cuss con­cerns fol­low­ing the shoot­ing can con­tact Kret­zmann by email at hkret­zmann@gmail.com.

As of press time, rep­res­ent­at­ives of Tower In­vest­ments, Inc. had not re­turned calls to an­swer ques­tions about res­id­ents’ con­cerns.

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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