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Townhall meeting marks return of recovery house discussion in Frankford

While the problem of fly-by-night recovery residences and halfway houses is a constant in Frankford, the discussion of them seems to arise sporadically throughout the years.  And so it was, this past Thursday, in Aria Hospital’s cafeteria, that Frankford’s 179th Pennsylvania State Representative James “Scoot” Clay convened a town hall meeting bringing together agency officials with residents to discuss concerns over the perception of the problem.  Clay started the meeting with a statement that he hoped this meeting would be the first step towards drafting legislation aimed at curbing the abuse of profit oriented landlords from exploiting drug addicts by taking their money, leaving them with no treatment, and letting them loose in Frankford to further degrade the community.  The meeting was well attended even considering that an Eagle’s game was gonna start in two and a half hours.


Department of Behavioral Health

Rowland Lamb, the city’s Director of the Office of Addiction Services, who came out to Frankford in 2009 to discuss the same issues, noted that back then, they city was committed to not supporting any more services for drug and alcohol dependency in this neighborhood, and that is still true today.

Lamb tried to make the point that the city only monitored 21 recovery facilities through 13 organizations, providing 288 beds throughout the region.  What the rest of what the community labeled “drug rehabs”, were merely boarding houses masquerading as treatment facilities.

Lamb went a step further and noted that almost nothing is being discussed, let alone done about the prevalence of “pill mills” in the area.  Pill mills, are presumably, when semi corrupt doctors prescribe hundreds of highly addictive narcotics, including percocet, oxycodone and amphetamines to individuals not looking for pain relief, but trying to resell those pills for up to $20 a pill.  But it seemed easier for attendees to argue about the simpler to describe issues revolving around illegal drugs and the comment passed into oblivion.

Perhaps the most amusing part of the night, when questioned by the crowd whether Lamb lived near recovering drug addicts, he replied that he’d trade Winnfield’s problems for Frankfords.  That he was tired of the Saint Joe’s parents buying up neighborhood homes for students. and that he was sick of underage girls throwing up in his front yard.

Licenses and Inspections

Ralph Depitro, Director of Operations, at Philadelphia’s License and Inspections spoke next, telegraphing to the crowd at least a side point to the meeting, a feel good romp for the community vent and “beat me up”.  Like Lamb, Depitro had noteworthy information.  L&I regulate buildings, not people’s behavior.  The fact that a lot of people are going into and out of houses, or sitting outside of them does not have much to do with them.  He was repeatedly challenged about what his department would do about recovery homes, to which he continually replied that he would enforce the law.  The requirements for setting up a boarding home are not stringent.  A boarding home being defined as a property that housed 3 or more unrelated persons.  The crowd seemed to be under the impression that these operators were getting permission from the city to operate.  Bu property owners only need to get a housing license.  There isn’t even a review process.  A housing license simply states that the property owner intends to house those 3 or more unrelated individuals.  He went on to point out that often the property owner

It is incredibly hard to prove that an illegal housing situation exists.  L&I isn’t allowed entry into homes without permission.  They aren’t allowed to ask for ID.  There have been cases within the department that they mistook mixed race family members for strangers in bringing about cases.  L&I often doesn’t get help from other agencies, like HUD, that might have knowledge of unrelated people in a home. They may sight privacy concerns when refusing to help determine whether zoning is being violated.

Day Care Centers are more heavily regulated than recovery houses

Fred Way, from the Philadelphia Association of Recovery Houses, chimed in sporadically and also had some good points.  It was Way who I found came the closest throughout the meeting to pushing through any attempt to resolve the recovery home issue.  He’s noted previously that it’s the bad houses that bring down the reputation of all recovery houses.  He noted that no one is going to get rid of them all.  There are too many addicts in this city, and far too few beds in official recovery houses.  It seemed like a smart move for his association to step forward and offer solutions that would be benefit residents while leaving them able to operate.  He said he and his organization were open to regulation, noting that his industry was less regulated than day care centers.

Crime on Worth Street

Seemingly tacked onto the agenda was the crime occurring around Worth and Orthodox Streets.  There was a healthy representation of the residents of the area, who brought general complaints about the gang violence and drug sales in that section of East Frankford.  Sgt Edward Pisarek from the 15th District was on hand to address the issues and noted that all instances of crime should be reported to police, whether the witness thought they’d get prompt responses or not.  Most residents didn’t seem to know that there were monthly PSA meetings with the 15th district police staff where complaints were heard.


In recent years, it seems the recovery house issue has been used as an opportunity for residents to vent their frustrations about the greater social and economic issues facing Frankford.  It’s almost as if the release of such emotions is the desired outcome of these meetings, and not resolution of the issues.Representative Clay hopes to have legislation written in 30 to 60 days.  What it will do is yet to be determined.  I’m hoping he comes through.

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Globe Dye Works awarded 17K grant to capture and reuse rain water

Globe Dye Works

It was announced yesterday on the Philadelphia Water Department’s Watersheds Blog that the Globe Dye Works has been awarded a grant to capture rain water for reuse in the building.

The Stormwater Management Incentives Program(SMIP) was created by the city to help reduce the volume of stormwater runoff entering into the city’s sewer systems while also

The text of the grant proposal:

Globe Dye Works proposes to capture rainwater in an existing tank and reuse for processes
within the building. The installation will initially address 10,200 square feet of roof and capture
6387 gallons. The tank has the capacity to hold 40% more than the amount, and future plans
include capturing the water from adjacent roofs. Project benefits include a reduction in runoff
volume to the PWD combined sewer and a reduction in potable water demand for Globe Dye

Since reopening as a mix of light industry and artisan space, the Globe Dye Works, located on Torresdale Ave at Worth St, has been repeatedly cited for it’s leading use of new environmental building techniques.  Additionally, one of it’s newest tenants is the Tookany/Tacony-Frankford Watershed Partnership.

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Poop, fences, movies, high end flower theft highlight June meeting of Friends of Overington Park


The Friends of Overington Park met at 7:00 pm this past Wednesday to discuss park business.  The ongoing battle against dog poop rages on.  The Friends have been proactively approaching dog walkers asking if they’re planning on picking up after their dog.  There was a feeling that most visitors are ignorant of the fact that it’s the law that you need to pick up after your dog.  One dog walking visitor has started to as a result.  They want to work with Barbara McCabe at Parks and Rec to get “curb your dog” signs set up.


Movie night returns to the park this summer.  The fee for each movie night is $600.  The first, Thursday July 18th, is being sponsored by Philip Balderston, owner of the adjacent Parkside Apartments.  Suggestions for the move included Brave, but the title is still up for debate.  The second movie night will be on Thursday August 15th.  Being sponsored by 179th State Representative James Clay, in conjunction with a child safety night, the movie is going to be The Avengers.  Further discussions centered on whether they should give out food for movie night or sell it.  The group hasn’t sold food in the past but have been advised that it’s used as a fundraising option for other groups and is considering it.  Someone mentioned you need a permit to sell food, that statement was countered with a comment that you need a permit even to give food away.


Two members of The Friends have received robo-calls from the city as a result of putting up flyers on poles around the streets near the park advertising park events.  Diane Kunze thought it was ridiculous, saying the group puts up flyers two weeks before the event and takes them down two days after.  They think they may be getting targeted by vengeful park haters.

It was noted that John Marshall Elementary School and Frankford Friends were using the park for activities before the year ended.  This is noted with delight because it speaks to the good health of the park that schools will allow children into it.

There has been the usual vandalism of the plants.  Some accounts say as much as 60% of the plants they plant are destroyed, and gleefully replanted.  They think there’s a rogue gardener poaching their rare and more expensive plants.  A variegated blue lace cap hydrangea, retailing for $25 and planted in the crescent near Pilling St was dug up with a shovel.  This has happened before.

A milkweed has been planted on the northern side of the tool shed as a weigh station for migrating monarch butterflies.

Bike cops have been seen visiting the park and writing up vagrants and scaring away mischief makers.


The fence separating Parkside Apartments with the park is collapsing again.  Apartment residents are hopping the fence to get into the park and destroying the fence.  The park group would like the fence maintained to help control park access and cut down on crime and vagrancy.

The Friends of Overington Park will meet again in July.