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 firstname.lastname@example.org.