Northeast Times

The PRWCAN: small, but mighty

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 mjam­is­on@bsmphilly.com.

You can reach at mjamison@bsmphilly.com.

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