The meetings of the Port Richmond West Community Action Network continue to gain traction, with more concerned neighbors attending each month. Although the group’s numbers still are modest, those concerned neighbors in the neighborhood are chomping at the bit for ways to help develop the place where they live.
The neighbors living in Port Richmond expressed their enthusiasm for change at last week’s Port Richmond West Community Action Network meeting.
It was a meeting packed with information the neighbors seemed eager to utilize in their neighborhood.
PRWCAN facilitator Michael Blackie led the meeting at the Memphis Street Academy Charter School at J.P. Jones, 2950 Memphis St., on Wednesday. Blackie has routinely brings government representatives and members of citywide activism groups to the meetings; he said he believes Port Richmond neighbors must empower themselves to enhance their neighborhood.
“If they can have it, we can have it,” Blackie said of the development and positive changes taking place in surrounding Philly neighborhoods.
To see that in Port Richmond, the meeting’s attendees gained insight from representatives from Philly311, the Take Back Vacant Land Campaign and fellow neighborhood community group New Kensington Community Development Corporation.
Philly311 spokesman Dwight Wilson reminded the assembled party of the organization’s Neighborhood Association Liaison program. Philly311 (215-686-8686) is the phone line connecting city residents to city information and services such as illegal dumping, vacant lot clean up and graffiti removal. Neighborhood liaisons are trained to input complaint information into the Philly311 system just as a 311 staff member would.
This summer, Philly311 reported it had already trained more than 400 neighborhood liaisons. To become one, visit phila.gov/311/neighborhoodLiason.html.
Port Richmond Town Watch president Maryann Trombetta, also present at the meeting, brought up the issue of so-called “bandit signs” — the colorful, boldface-typed signs which decorate telephone poles throughout neighborhoods proclaiming cash for anything from houses, junk cars or diabetic strips. Such signs are illegal and are subject to fines from $50 to $75, but such violations are notoriously weakly enforced, perhaps because of their sheer volume.
Trombetta brought more than 100 signs to the meeting that she had removed that day, along with the question of how 311 addresses their posting.
Wilson said neighbors could report to 311 the general blocks on which the signs are posted, as it would be difficult to report the particular address of a telephone pole displaying a sign. The city’s Streets Department is in charge of removing the signs.
Trombetta also mentioned the good work being done by 24th District Police Department Capt. Charles Vogt. She said that Vogt encourages residents, if they aren’t happy with the department’s response to a call or incident, to call his personal office number, 215-426-1175.
The 24th District also just received two off-road motorcycles through a $14,000 donation from local businesses. Police can now pursue lawbreakers, Trombetta said, in a way that police cars couldn’t before.
Marcus Presley, of Take Back Vacant Land — a campaign of the Women’s Community Revitalization Project — spoke to the much-maligned issue of huge parcels of vacant, blighted land in Port Richmond.
He mentioned the state legislation Land Banks Bill, also known as House Bill 1682, which was ceremoniously signed into law by Gov. Tom Corbett on Jan. 17 at Impact Services, 1952 E. Allegheny Ave.
Under the law, “Counties, boroughs, townships and incorporated towns with populations of 10,000 or more residents will be able to establish land banks to acquire, hold, and manage their tax-foreclosed, abandoned properties and return them to productive re-use for smart regional growth and development.”
TBVL, on the other hand, is organizing around a Philadelphia-specific bill introduced by City Council members Maria Quinones Sanchez (D-7th dist.), Bill Green (D-at large), Curtis Jones Jr. (D-4th dist.) and Bobby Henon (D-6th dist.) that would establish a land bank in Philadelphia. It still must be assigned to a council committee for a hearing, amended and passed.
“We are close to getting a hearing on this bill,” Presley said. “We’re at the end game of getting this bill passed.”
Presley explained in order to ensure neighborhoods like Port Richmond have access to parcels of land in the community — on which community groups could develop gardens, dog parks or other projects — the specific language of that bill would have to be addressed. TBVL will hold a “people’s planning session” to discuss how to address the bill tonight at 5:30, at 100 S. Broad St., in the 10th floor auditorium.
Blackie said this bill could only help Port Richmond, as long as it has access to the many vacant parcels.
“What do we have as an asset?” he asked. “Tons of vacant land!”
He also reassured neighbors that there is, in fact, much up-and-coming development in the neighborhood, just as there is in other River Ward communities.
That development includes The Loom, a former textile mill at East Westmoreland and Amber Street. The Loom was home to the Masland Carpet Co. and other manufacturers, but now holds more than 80 tenants making everything from American flags to jewelry and woodwork, according to a feature on flyingkitemedia.com.
Also, Open 4 Business Productions, LLC, a film production company that was shooting a future NBC Series, “Do No Harm,” around the city since the summer, might come to the neighborhood to shoot another future project, Blackie said.
“Somebody finally found our neighborhood,” Blackie said, and encouraged Port Richmond’s residents to take that fact and run with it.
PRWCAN currently is coordinating a fundraiser seeking donations to incorporate and seek a 501(c)(3) status from the IRS to receive funding and grants. Visit http://portrichmondwestcan.chipin.com/prwcanincorporation to donate.
Star Managing Editor Mikala Jamison can be reached at 215-354-3113, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.