A new petition in support of housing at the vacant Nativity B.V.M. School had 759 signatures as of Wednesday afternoon. Neighbors will send it to the state Supreme Court next week, in hopes it will hear the case.
Neighbors in Port Richmond are coming together in support of a three-year-old proposal to convert the vacant Nativity B.V.M. School into housing for restricted-income seniors.
As Star reported on Jan. 16 — www.bsmphilly.com/star/6631-just-another-blighted-building.html — Catholic Health Care Services of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia was awarded $11 million in 2009 by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for the proposed apartments for seniors.
Port Richmond neighbors at that time were excited, with 212 people signing a petition in support of the project.
Since then, Gloria Marshall, represented in court by her son, attorney Jon Marshall — who has refused to comment — appealed the city’s Zoning Board of Adjustment and the state’s Court of Common Pleas’ decisions to grant CHCS the variances it needed for the project.
CHCS brought the case to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court Dec. 27. It now awaits a hearing while the vacant building, at Belgrade and East Madison streets, falls into disrepair and has been a target of theft and vandalism over the years.
Now, Port Richmond residents are once again taking action in support of a living space for its seniors. Last week, neighbors organized an online petition for CHCS’ project at www.gopetition.com/petitions/port-richmond-for-transforming-nativity-school-into-sen.html.
As of early Wednesday afternoon, 759 people had signed the petition.
Bridget Colleen Cole, a teacher at Mother of Divine Grace School, 2612 E. Monmouth St., said she and other neighbors also collected an additional 40 signatures after Mass this past weekend at Mother of Divine Grace Church and Nativity B.V.M. Church.
She said neighbors plan to submit the petition to the Supreme Court by Feb. 1.
John Wagner, director of project development at CHCS, said that if the Nativity project were to materialize, units would be filled on a first-come, first-served basis.
Potential residents would also have to meet certain requirements, including: must be 62 years of age or older; must be a U.S. citizen; must undergo a criminal history and credit check; must demonstrate housekeeping habits and supply references; cannot be a user of illegal drugs; cannot be a registered sex offender, and must meet income eligibility requirements (see Star story above).
The staff at the office of State Rep. John Taylor (R-177th dist.) also has requested copies of the petition to circulate in the office, Cole said.
Lure Salon, 3247 E. Thompson St., also will have copies of the petition.
“Our goal this week is to get it to some senior centers,” Cole said. At Mother of Divine Grace School, she said, students in the fifth and sixth grades are writing letters to the state Supreme Court in support of the project.
City Councilman Bobby Henon (D-6th dist.) has advised neighbors to write letters to the court urging it to hear the case.
“The sixth grade is very passionate because we visited St. Anne’s senior center last year as part of community service,” Cole said. “They understand and value the importance of seniors needing a safe place to live and to socialize.”
Cole said neighbors could also contact her at 267-251-0450 for a paper copy, as well as her sister, Beth Cole, at 267-240-1186.
There is also a downloadable copy available at the Facebook page, “Port Richmond (Past and Present) for the Transformation of Nativity!”
Address letters to the state Supreme Court to:
Pennsylvania Judicial Center
601 Commonwealth Ave., Suite 4500
PO Box 62575
Harrisburg, PA 17106-2575
Or, call 717-787-6181.
Managing Editor Mikala Jamison can be reached at 215-354-3113, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.