Category Archives: Safety

Let there be light in Germantown

Outdoor lighting is an important part of making Germantown a safer place. One of the simplest things you can do to improve neighborhood safety is leave your porch light or lamp post on after dark.

In lower Germantown, both the DePaul Catholic School and Philly Office Retail have joined residents in lighting up the neighborhood and added exterior lighting to their properties.

The DePaul Catholic School on W Rockland St

The DePaul Catholic School on W Rockland St

The DePaul Catholic School property had become a problematic hangout for teens after hours, the site of vandalism and violent incidents. In response to resident concerns, school administration installed lights to the exterior of the building facing both the unit blocks of W Rockland St and W Logan St. The new lighting has made a big impact and helps brighten what was a very dark part of the block. Special thanks to Aldo Cavalli with Independence Mission Schools, Sister Bernadette Miller, and Vice Principal Stephen Janczewski for working with the community.

Just up the block on Germantown Avenue, the buildings at developer Ken Weinstein’s Wayne Junction Campus are also getting new exterior lighting (don’t call it the former Germantown Settlement campus anymore!). The photos don’t really do the change justice. If you go by this week, you’ll notice a big difference.

If you don’t have an exterior light where you live, consider leaving a first floor light on and join the cause! Well-lit streets are more inviting to pedestrians, make people feel safer and discourage criminal activity.

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Risky Business in Germantown

Nuisance businesses and commercial blight can be a real problem in cities.

Here, we are going to look at one example of a business currently operating unchecked by the City of Philadelphia, with no regard for the rules and regulations put into place to protect the community.

Tires & Service at 4800 Germantown Avenue

At 4800 Germantown Avenue, between W Wyneva Street and W Rockland Street, sits a 18,584 square foot auto service shop and tire reseller called Tires & Service. Residents have become increasingly concerned about the risk and danger of tire storage sites in the largely residential neighborhood of Germantown. The amount of tires stored at the shop grows each day, increasing from a few hundred to well over a thousand in a matter of months. When the business in question turns out to be operating illegally, concerns are only magnified. The tire shop has tire piles just five feet away from the first house on W Rockland Street and ten feet away from the first house on Wyneva Street.

The big fear is that a long-burning tire fire could destroy homes on nearby blocks.

 

Click to enlarge. View more photos on Flickr

Many Philadelphians still remember the great eight-alarm tire fire of 1996 that compromised the structural integrity of I-95, caused the Health Department to issue air quality advisories, injured two firefighters and slowed commuter traffic for weeks. The fire started in an illegal tire yard underneath the highway and caused over 6 million dollars in damage. (Side note: Larry! Stephanie!)


Secondary issues raised by neighbors include the likelihood of a mosquito infestation in the summer months and the unsightly condition of the property. There are lots of other problems with Tires & Services, of course:

  • According to the Licensing & Inspections website, all business operating licenses for the property are expired (all licenses listed were for previous businesses over the years, not the current shop, Tires & Service)
  • The business does not have an Auto Wrecking Yard / Tire Storage License [detail]
  • The business does not have a Commercial Activities License [detail]
  • Tires vertically stacked over 15 high in heaps are collecting water, within 5 feet of nearby homes
  • The business did not shovel snow all winter along the perimeters of the property on W Rockland Street, Germantown Avenue or Wyneva Street
  • Initially, the business was not open at all hours, but after just a few months, signs were installed advertising 24-hours a day, 7-days a week services; no notice was given to nearby residents

Zoning and ownership

4800 Germantown Avenue is zoned CMX25 Commercial / Commercial Mixed-Use and listed as an Auto Repair Shop.

Tires & Services are renting the property. The owners of 4800 Germantown Avenue were found using Philadelinquency.com’s genius property search feature:

Jacob Gabbay
Judith Gabbay et al
Cobris Properties
1314 Chestnut Street, 10th Floor
Philadelphia PA 19107

4800 Germantown Avenue, which has been occupied by several different businesses over the years, has a long history of Licensing & Inspections violations.

LI_violations_4800 Germantown Avenue

What’s the 311?

philly311_logoMany neighbors have mentioned that they have called the City’s Philly 311 hotline by phone about problems at Tires & Services.

Digging into public Philly311 records, one online complaint was submitted 8 months ago (August 12, 2013: Tires! Mosquitos! Dog Feces! Trash!). The report raised several issues, from mosquito problems to the abundance of tires and dog feces. Licensing & Inspections visited Tires & Service and closed the ticket with the conclusion that the complaint was unfounded.

Here is where we have a problem. Too many 311 complaints get the “Service Request Completed / Unfounded” tag to the bewilderment of the citizen reporter, leaving problems to persist and neighbors unsure of how to follow up.

A new 311 request was submitted for this business on April 16, 2014. The ticket number is 342740.

As it stands, Tires & Service is still a mess. It’s time for Licensing & Inspections to call a supervisor because another unfounded 311 ticket designation isn’t going to cut it.

BEFORE

Google Maps street view of 4800 Germantown Avenue from W Rockland Street. Gibson Auto Repair was operating at the site prior to the opening of Tires & Services in 2013.

Google Maps street view of 4800 Germantown Avenue from W Rockland Street before the tires and the opening of Tires & Services in 2013.

TODAY

Click to enlarge. View more photos on Flickr

A few good rules and regulations…

For City officials and neighborhood advocates, included below are a list of rules and regulations surrounding this type of operation. No Philadelphia citizen should be required to have to figure this out in order to address a neighborhood problem.

Tire fires in popular culture... The Simpson's long-burning Springfield Tire Fire is always on fire, though it was extinguished a few times.

Tire fires in popular culture… The Simpson’s long-burning Springfield Tire Fire is always on fire, though it was extinguished a few times.

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection

According to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection Bureau of Waste Management Inspection Report on Residual Waste Tire Storage Facilities, there are dozens of requirements that prevent Tires & Service from operating their facility.

Here are a few line items from the DEP inspection checklist Tires & Service do not meet or are violating, which anyone can see in plain sight:

  • Surface area of outdoor tire pile is not greater than 2,500 square feet.
  • Within 300 feet from an occupied dwelling, unless the owner thereof has provided a written waiver consenting to the activities.
  • Within 50 feet of a property line unless the owner has provided a written waiver consenting to the facility being closer than 50 feet.
  • Vertical height of outdoor tire pile is not greater than 15 feet.
  • Corridors or firebreaks on all sides of outdoor tire pile of at least 50 feet.
  • Firebreaks for outdoor tire piles are free of waste, equipment and structures.
  • Outdoor storage of waste tires conducted to control mosquito propagation.
  • Preparedness, Prevention and Contingency (PPC) for outdoor storage plan prepared and maintained at the waste tire storage facility and be updated annually.

Read more

Snow On The Block: Sidewalks Are For Everyone (S.A.F.E.)

Photo by @ainedoley

Photo by @ainedoley via Instagram. Monday, February 3, 2014.

Sidewalks are for everyone. 

It doesn’t really matter where you’re going or how you get there, just remember mostly everyone in the city has to step foot on a sidewalk. Whether you’re walking around the corner to the bus stop or 10 feet to your car, a few blocks to school or back and forth all day to the corner store – sidewalks are for everyone and everyone uses sidewalks!

About 60% of the households on West Rockland Street house awesome and/or responsible people who adequately cleared the snow from their sidewalks, so far this winter. The other 40% are f@$k!^g it up for everyone!

West Rockland Street is sloped, which makes navigating icy surfaces extra tricky. We hate seeing kids and adults slipping and sliding along the sidewalk every time they cross a patch of un-shoveled snow, or worse, walking in the middle of the street to play it safe. 

Want to keep people in your neighborhood safe in the snow, or simply avoid being fined when someone reports you? Clear your entire sidewalk. Don’t just create one of those little channels that cuts through the snow, the walls always cave in and you’ll be back where you started. It’s really not that hard. 

PS: You can make a lot of money shoveling snow, even in Germantown! So sick of hearing lazy people talk about how they used to go to other neighborhoods and shovel and make a mint but “people in the ghetto don’t want to pay.” I would pay you if you STFU and got to work!

PSS: Coincidentally, “Sidewalks Are For Everyone” also stands for S.A.F.E. 

W Rockland Street on Monday, February 3, 2014. Photo by @ainedoley via Instragram.

W Rockland Street on Monday, February 3, 2014. Photo by @ainedoley via Instragram.

Report a sidewalk that has not been cleared

To report a sidewalk or curb cut that has not been cleared, residents may call the Streets Department Customer Affairs Unit at (215) 686-5560. For all City services dial, 3-1-1 (or 215-686-8686).

The official rules for snow removal in Philadelphia are included below. If you have any other questions about snow in the city, the Philadelphia Streets Department has all sorts of fascinating information posted at philastreets.com

Slow melt. This is the sidewalk in front of a single-unit rental property on W Rockland Street that has not shoveled once this year. This photo was taken on Friday, January 31, 2014, nearly a month after the first significant snowstorm hit Philadelphia on January 3. The sidewalk has been a slippery slope since then.

Slow melt. This is the sidewalk in front of a single-unit rental property on W Rockland Street that has not shoveled once this year. This photo was taken on Friday, January 31, 2014, nearly a month after the first significant snowstorm hit Philadelphia on January 3. The sidewalk has been a slippery slope since then.

Close-up of the above pictured un-shoveled rental property on W Rockland Street.

Close-up of the above pictured un-shoveled rental property on W Rockland Street.

This is what the sidewalk on W Rockland Street looks like when you shovel. Photo taken on Friday, January 31, the same day as the above. Responsible people, to the left, irresponsible people to the right.

This is what the rest of the sidewalk on W Rockland Street looks like when you shovel. Photo taken on Friday, January 31, the same day as the above. Responsible people, to the left, irresponsible people to the right.

Philadelphia Code 10-720 Regarding Snow Removal From Sidewalks

According to Philadelphia Code (10-720),

“(1) the owner, agent, and tenants of any building or premise shall clear a path of not less than 36″ in width on all sidewalks, including curb cuts, abutting the building or premises within 6 (six) hours after the snow has ceased to fall. The path shall be thoroughly cleared of snow and ice. Where the width of any pavement measured from the property line to the curb is less than 3 (three) feet, the path cleared may be only 12 inches in width. When the building in question is a multifamily dwelling the owner or his agent shall be responsible for compliance with the requirements of this section.”

(2) Snow or ice removed from sidewalks, driveways, or other areas shall not be placed or piled in the street.

(3) Any person who violates this Section shall be subject to the provisions and penalties set forth in 10-718 and 10-719.

The penalty for violating this provision can range from “a minimum fine of fifty dollars ($50) to no more than three hundred dollars ($300) for each violation.”

Private plows piling snow in the street after city teams have cleared the road is illegal as well as a hazard to drivers and pedestrians.

via philastreet.com

Crime and Safety Update with Councilwoman Cindy Bass, Tuesday, September 25

Police Crime Scene Unit, W Rockland Street shooting

Crime is rising in Germantown. That’s a fact. Get involved. Community meeting on Tuesday, September 25 at 6pm will feature 8th District Councilwoman Cindy Bass, U.S. Attorney Robert Reed (Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office), Captain Verdell Johnson, 39th Police District.

First Presbyterian Church, 35 West Chelten Avenue. Directions. RSVP at 215-686-3424, rosa.woods@phila.gov / ray.jones@phila.gov. Or better yet, just go.

policebassflyersept25

The Saddest Thing: Gunfire claims the life of block resident

Police Crime Scene Unit, W Rockland Street shooting
We wish to express our heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of Bryan Jones, a lifelong resident of W Rockland Street. Bryan was murdered on Friday, August 17, 2012 while sitting on the porch of his family’s W Rockland Street row home. Bryan’s death by gun violence was both tragic, senseless, and premature. His passing is a terrible loss, and he will be greatly missed by many.

By early Saturday morning, four people in Philadelphia had lost their lives to gunfire. Bryan Jones was the 226th person murdered in Philadelphia in 2012. This is an epidemic (see #GunCrisis: Philadelphia).

We can do better, Philadelphia, here on W Rockland Street and across the city.

MEDIA UPDATES:

WHYY’s NewsWorks.org | Aug. 21, 2012 | NewsWorks talks with family, friends, and neighbors

From the article >>To Helen Jones, who works in a behavioral-consultant capacity with the school district, her brother’s killing serves as further evidence of a lost generation.

The conversation hearkened back to the gang wars of the 1960s, the crack-cocaine epidemic of the 1980s and how today’s African-American males in their teens and early 20s have grown up surrounded by a culture that seemingly devalues life.

They grasped for seemingly impossible answers.

“They’re mad. They think there’s no place for them. They won’t talk about their feelings because they’re told they’re not tough if they do,” she said. “They feel unappreciated, and that hurts.”

Philadelphia Daily News | Aug. 22, 2012 | Cop and 5 others killed over weekend, but just 1 arrest made

From the article >> “In one of those cases, Diane Jones, whose brother, Bryan, 47, was fatally shot Friday night on his porch on Rockland Street near Germantown Avenue, in Germantown, said Tuesday that more could be done in the case. Diane, 54, was in the house when Bryan was shot multiple times by a heavyset man wearing a polo shirt.She said that although homicide detectives came to the house after the slaying and have been in touch by phone, she has not seen them canvassing the neighborhood or following up on leads she said she gave them.”

As of September 5, 2012, no arrests have been made in the murder of Bryan Jones.

Police Crime Scene Unit on W Rockland Street

Police Crime Scene Unit on W Rockland Street

There’s a hole in the sidewalk, dear Liza, dear Liza

What’s with the mine shaft, err I mean hole, really big hole, that swallowed the sidewalk in front of 4805 Greene St in the little village of Germantown many months ago? Set between W Rockland and Wyneva streets, situated on the formerly-safest-route to the neighborhood corner store, this sidewalk has seen better days. It’s looking a little like a sinkhole (but not) and is extremely dangerous to pedestrians. And it’s been like this for at minimum 4 months. Lots of people have seen it. Luckily, no one has fallen in it yet – at least we don’t think. Has anyone been reported missing? Seriously, I wouldn’t be surprised if a coal miner clambered out.

the hellmouth gets pretty deep in the back

The hole is the stuff of legend and it’s become a fun topic over on that thing called Twitter. Brian Hickey at WHYY’s NewsWorks encountered the abyss back on June 15, citing The Hellmouth Has Opened Up On A Germantown Sidewalk. Later he tweeted, “At least tomatoes grow from it.” That’s true and we actually pulled a few out and replanted them in the community garden on W Rockland. Resourceful! Read more