2013: The Year in Review

With this, 2013’s fi­nal edi­tion of Star, we present a wrap-up of some of the most en­ga­ging, con­tro­ver­sial and talked-about news stor­ies in Fishtown, North­ern Liber­ties, Kens­ing­ton, Port Rich­mond and Brides­burg. It’s been quite a year.

  • An artist’s rendering of the Wynn Resorts plan for the casino and green space along the Delaware River in Fishtown. Wynn withdrew his application for the city’s second casino license this year. FILE PHOTO

  • City Councilwoman and Port Richmond native Joan Krajewski, died on Aug. 29. FILE PHOTO

  • Mayor Nutter celebrates the opening of the Port Richmond trail with students from Our Lady of Port Richmond. FILE PHOTO

  • The building that could become The Kintock Group’s headquarters in Port Richmond on Wheatsheaf Lane, which could then become a halfway house for parolees. FILE PHOTO

  • Students from the now-closed Charles Carroll High School in Port Richmond rally in support of keeping their school opened, before it closed in the fall. FILE PHOTO

  • State Rep. John Taylor addresses the crowd at a Port Richmond rally in support of converting the vacant Nativity B.V.M. School into senior housing. FILE PHOTO

  • Nicole Frazier, one of the victims of the fire that burnt through five houses on Memphis Street, looks up at her ruined home. The community collected thousands in donations and items for the fire victims this year. FILE PHOTO

Wynn with­draws casino plans

After a big push to get River Wards com­munity groups and loc­al res­id­ents on board with his plans for a casino in Fishtown on the Delaware River, Ve­gas casino mag­nate Steve Wynn with­drew his ap­plic­a­tion from con­sid­er­a­tion by the Gam­ing Board on Nov. 11.

Wynn was one of six ap­plic­ants for the city’s second casino li­cense. Wynn Re­sorts stated it was pur­su­ing busi­ness op­por­tun­it­ies else­where.

The casino pro­pos­al had the po­ten­tial to ac­tiv­ate un­used wa­ter­front space on the Delaware River, and had re­ceived the sup­port of the FNA, ORCA, NK­CDC and PRO­PAC.

With the ap­plic­a­tion’s pro­posed green space along the river, the casino’s po­ten­tial for job cre­ation, and the pos­sib­il­ity of a com­munity be­ne­fits agree­ment sim­il­ar to that of Sug­ar­House Casino’s Penn Treaty Spe­cial Ser­vices Dis­trict, Wynn’s with­draw­al was seen as a let­down by some.

Said City Coun­cil­man Mark Squilla (D-1st dist.), “I looked at it as an op­por­tun­ity for that area as well as the sur­round­ing com­munity. It’s a little dis­ap­point­ing.” ••

The loss of a le­gend in Coun­cil

Phil­adelphia City Coun­cil­wo­man Joan Kra­jew­ski was a Port Rich­mond nat­ive and ag­gress­ive sup­port­er of what she be­lieved was best for North­east Phil­adelphia neigh­bor­hoods.

She died at age 79 on Aug. 29 after a long battle with chron­ic ob­struct­ive pul­mon­ary dis­ease.

After win­ning her Coun­cil seat in 1979, she was eas­ily re-elec­ted sev­en times after her ini­tial vic­tory.

Kra­jew­ski of­ten took meet­ings and spent a lot of time at the Ara­mingo Diner in Port Rich­mond.

Said her suc­cessor in Coun­cil, Bobby Hen­on (D-6th dist.): “She taught me to keep a sense of hu­mor about this job.” ••

Open­ing the river to loc­als

For too long, the River Wards of Port Rich­mond and Brides­burg wer­en’t really liv­ing up to their name very much at all — there’s no real ac­cess to the Delaware River, and without de­vel­op­ment along it, there nev­er really will be.

That’s why 2,500-mile East Coast Gre­en­way pro­ject is so crit­ic­al. The pro­ject will one day stretch from Flor­ida to Maine, and 750 miles of it will be a “gre­en­way” of trails along the river through the state.

On Tues­day, Oct. 29, Port Rich­mond saw a valu­able bit of that gre­en­way open up in its back­yard, as of­fi­cials cut the rib­bon on a 1.6-mile train of the gre­en­way, along with stu­dents from Our Lady of Port Rich­mond school.

May­or Mi­chael Nut­ter joined them in cel­eb­ra­tion.

Nut­ter said at the ce­re­mony: “This trail will of­fer res­id­ents a space for walks and bike rides, just minutes away from the neigh­bor­hood.” Brides­burg Trail con­strusc­tion is slated  to be­gin in the spring of 2014. ••

A halfway house in the neigh­bor­hood?

In June, the Kin­tock Group, which spe­cial­izes in re-entry fa­cil­it­ies for pa­rolees, an­nounced its in­ten­tion to move its cor­por­ate headquar­ters of­fices to an isol­ated in­dus­tri­al site in the north­w­est corner of Port Rich­mond, at 2121 Wheat­sheaf Lane.

The site was not planned for use as a halfway house at that time, but Kin­tock’s chief ex­ec­ut­ive Daniel Faulkner said it could be. Though the site was dis­tant from most res­id­en­tial areas, res­id­ents ex­pressed great con­cern.

State Rep. John Taylor (R-177th dist.) in Au­gust wrote a let­ter to the Kin­tock Group which read, “I can­not sup­port your pro­pos­al at this time and can­not ex­press said ap­prov­al from my con­stitu­ents.”

At this time, there is still no plan for a re-entry fa­cil­ity at that loc­a­tion. ••

Three River Wards schools close down for good

On March 7, the School Re­form Com­mis­sion voted closed three River Wards schools as part of the largest mass pub­lic school clos­ure in the city’s his­tory. Charles Car­roll High School, 2700 E. Au­burn St., Douglas High School, 2700 E. Hunt­ing­don St., and Sherid­an West Academy, 3701 Frank­ford Ave., closed in June after the un­an­im­ous vote.

Be­fore the schools were an­nounced closed, about 75 stu­dents from Car­roll pro­tested the po­ten­tial clos­ing.

The school did close, however, along with the oth­ers, which cre­ated great stu­dent in­creases at oth­er River Wards schools — Penn Treaty Middle School in Fishtown ex­pan­ded to in­clude grades 3 through 9 in Septem­ber, and also took in stu­dents from Sherid­an West, Car­roll and Dou­glass.  Stu­dents in grades 5 and 6 from Hack­ett Ele­ment­ary School in Fishtown also trans­ferred to Penn Treaty Middle School. ••

Port Rich­mond’s fight for seni­or hous­ing

Most res­id­ents in Port Rich­mond seem to know the story of the former Nativ­ity B.V.M. School — the school closed in 2008, and has fallen in­to dis­repair ever since.

It had been broken in­to sev­en times between 2009 and Janu­ary of this year. In Oc­to­ber 2009, Cath­ol­ic Health Care Ser­vices of the Arch­diocese of Phil­adelphia won $11 mil­lion, plus over­whelm­ing com­munity sup­port, for con­vert­ing the build­ing in­to hous­ing for seni­ors.

It also won sup­port from the Zon­ing Board, the state Court of Com­mon Pleas, and the City Plan­ning Com­mis­sion. Then, an ap­pel­lant, neigh­bor­hood res­id­ent Glor­ia Mar­shall — rep­res­en­ted by her son, Jon Mar­shall, in court pro­ceed­ings — ap­pealed to the ZBA. The case was tied up in court ever since.

That is, un­til Port Rich­mond stepped up — a pe­ti­tion for the seni­or hous­ing saw 923 sig­na­tures, neigh­bors wrote let­ters to the state Su­preme Court ur­ging it to hear the case, loc­als held ral­lies with the sup­port of loc­al politi­cians who sup­por­ted the pro­ject, like John Taylor,  Bobby Hen­on and Mark Squilla.

The neigh­bor­hood act­iv­ism worked  — In Au­gust, CHCS was in­formed that the state Su­preme Court ac­cep­ted the pe­ti­tion to hear the case. Cur­rently, CHCS awaits the Court’s de­cision or the need for or­al ar­gu­ment in the spring. ••

The River Wards rally around fire vic­tims

In the early morn­ing hours of Ju­ly 21, a fire gut­ted five homes on the 2800 block of Mem­ph­is Street, dis­pla­cing sev­er­al fam­il­ies.

In re­sponse, the River Wards ral­lied around the vic­tims of the fire. In Port Rich­mond, churches, schools and the of­fice of State Rep. John Taylor all served as drop-off points for dona­tions for vic­tims. Fishtown’s liberty church east and An­thony’s Caf&ea­cute; col­lec­ted, as well, along with the L.O.V.E. So­cial Club, which raised more than $1,300.

All told, fun­draisers for vic­tims totaled more than $4,000, plus a room­ful of donated goods for the dis­placed fam­il­ies.

Nicole Fra­zi­er, who lived on the block with her teen­age son and daugh­ter, said of the fun­dras­ing: “Un­til this, I didn’t real­ize I had so many people in the area who are con­cerned and care about oth­er people,” she told Star by phone on Ju­ly 26. ••

You can reach at mjamison@bsmphilly.com.

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