Piazza event aftermath a ‘serious quality of life issue’

With sum­mer around the corner, the Piazza at Schmidt’s will see week­end after week­end of large-scale con­certs and fest­ivals, and neigh­bors are already see­ing some messy re­per­cus­sions. Now, they’re work­ing to im­ple­ment a new se­cur­ity plan.

North­ern Liber­ties res­id­ent Amy Taylor said she was sur­prised to find out that the po­lice of­ficers of the 26th Dis­trict wer­en’t aware of a large-scale event at the Piazza at Schmidt’s on Sat­urday, May 4 — a Ra­dio 104.5-sponsored “Free Sum­mer Block Party,” one of many that will be held at the Piazza on week­ends throughout the sum­mer.

A po­lice pres­ence would have been help­ful that day, as one of Taylor’s neigh­bors, on the 100 block of Laurel Street, was the vic­tim of a home in­va­sion and burg­lary.

“When we called [911, after her neigh­bor was robbed], the cops had no idea that the event was even hap­pen­ing,” Taylor said.

While there is no guar­an­tee the per­pet­rat­or of the home in­va­sion was in the neigh­bor­hood to at­tend the Piazza con­cert, some North­ern Liber­ties neigh­bors feel the largely at­ten­ded events bring a crowd in­to the neigh­bor­hood that is dif­fi­cult to man­age.

Now, neigh­bors are work­ing to make bet­ter what Taylor said is a ser­i­ous qual­ity of life is­sue. She said neigh­bors have wit­nessed in­di­vidu­als after Piazza events do­ing everything from ur­in­at­ing on neigh­bors’ drive­ways to hav­ing sex out­doors in the com­munity.

“Traffic, park­ing, the be­ha­vi­or — people con­greg­at­ing, tail­gat­ing, smoking marijuana, you hear all kinds of foul lan­guage — you al­ways know when there is a big event go­ing on,” Taylor said.

On the north­ernliber­ties.org neigh­bor­hood mes­sage board, one neigh­bor ar­ranged two meet­ings of res­id­ents, rep­res­ent­at­ives of the North­ern Liber­ties Neigh­bors As­so­ci­ation, the 26th po­lice dis­trict and Piazza man­age­ment. One meet­ing took place on Thursday, May 9, the oth­er on Monday, May 13.

The sign-up webpage for the meet­ing read: “There have been a num­ber of re­por­ted il­leg­al activ­it­ies around the peri­met­er of the Piazza at Schmidt’s dur­ing ma­jor con­certs and events which draw thou­sands of people to the Piazza. Il­leg­al activ­ity such as: drug use, pub­lic ur­in­a­tion, tres­passing, car theft, and home rob­bery. A meet­ing is be­ing called…to come to an agree­able se­cur­ity plan to be im­ple­men­ted im­me­di­ately.”

Of­ficer Ed Cor­rea of the 26th po­lice dis­trict was present at the May 13 meet­ing, and said a hand­ful of people at­ten­ded, in­clud­ing Piazza man­age­ment.

“The [Piazza] man­age­ment agreed to in­form the se­cur­ity dur­ing the event to con­tain people to di­min­ish the activ­ity go­ing on,” he said.

The Piazza hires private se­cur­ity dur­ing its events, but their se­cur­ity doesn’t leave the Piazza premises. What neigh­bors are con­cerned about, Taylor and Cor­rea said, are the people caus­ing trouble in the neigh­bor­hood be­fore and after the events.

“They [Piazza man­age­ment] talked about hir­ing po­lice, and said they’d in­form the 26th about any events,” Cor­rea con­tin­ued. The Piazza has the op­tion of hir­ing loc­al po­lice as an ad­di­tion­al se­cur­ity meas­ure at its events.

When reached by phone last week, Piazza man­age­ment in­formed Star that no one was avail­able for com­ment at the cur­rent time re­gard­ing the com­munity meet­ings or wheth­er the Piazza would hire dis­trict of­ficers in the fu­ture.

Neigh­bors’ con­cerns with un­ruly and in­tox­ic­ated people spill­ing in­to the neigh­bor­hood after Piazza events are noth­ing new — an­oth­er North­ern Liber­ties mes­sage board thread where neigh­bors com­plained about Piazza af­ter­math was pos­ted in Au­gust 2011. One poster said the streets were “turn­ing in­to a party­ing park­ing lot for the Piazza.”

Taylor said that at the Thursday meet­ing she at­ten­ded, one of her sug­ges­tions was that the neigh­bor­hood needs off-duty po­lice of­ficers, prefer­ably on bikes, patrolling the North­ern Liber­ties streets dur­ing Piazza events.

“The cops need to make their pres­ence known, keep people mov­ing. The cost of that should be born by the pro­moter,” Taylor said.

She ad­ded that NLNA pres­id­ent Matt Ruben ad­ded sug­gest­ing hir­ing four off-duty of­ficers to patrol the neigh­bor­hood be­fore, dur­ing and after the events.

Ruben could not be reached by press time, but Taylor and an­oth­er North­ern Liber­ties res­id­ent source con­firmed that NLNA would be pulling the Piazza’s use per­mits to de­term­ine if the fa­cil­ity is ac­tu­ally per­mit­ted to host events of such a large scale.

“I think the neigh­bors don’t want these large events,” Taylor said. “They [Piazza man­age­ment] have to hire cops, be­cause their se­cur­ity people are not po­lice of­ficers. They can’t just go up and tell people what to do if it’s not on Piazza prop­erty.

Ray King, an­oth­er North­ern Liber­ties neigh­bor, said in an email mes­sage Monday that the Piazza had blocked off North Han­cock Street — which is just next to the Piazza — all week­end. Even res­id­ents of the street could not drive down it to park their vehicles in their private spots.

“Piazza has Han­cock blocked off with food trucks, large mov­ing trucks, and a se­cur­ity guard who is ba­sic­ally do­ing noth­ing oth­er than telling people they can’t come through,” King said. The po­lice re­spon­ded to a call by King on Fri­day.

Taylor said she’s heard neigh­bors sug­gest that dur­ing Piazza events, res­id­ents park their cars and don’t move them all week­end, that they lock them­selves in­doors and keep their chil­dren in­side to avoid the Piazza may­hem.

“That’s just not something that we should have to do,” she said. “We used to live in Cen­ter City, and we just wouldn’t go out dur­ing [things like] the Mum­mer’s Parade. There, we ex­pec­ted it. But liv­ing in NoLibs, it’s re­l­at­ively quiet and peace­ful.”

“Con­certs like that,” Taylor con­tin­ued, “Just bring in a dif­fer­ent crowd.”

Man­agin­ing 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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