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Stakeholders Meeting Report

John Loftus reports on last week’s meeting:

Drug dealers are operating at Foulkrod and Griscom streets as well as at Frankford Avenue and Foulkrod Street and Foulkrod and Salem streets, said Jorge Santana, state Rep. Tony Payton Jr.’s chief of staff.

Santana, speaking at last Thursday’s meeting of the Northeast EPIC Stakeholders, said he hopes Frankford residents will attend an upcoming 15th District’s Police Service Area 1 meeting to ask police to sweep away the narcotics trafficking.

The session is slated for 7 p.m. Tuesday at the second-floor conference room of Aria Health’s Frankford campus, 4900 Frankford Ave.

Read his entire story here.

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Happy 100th Birthday Frankford High School

I stopped in on Saturday to attend the open house in honor of Frankford High’s (Oxford Avenue and Wakeling Street, Philadelphia, PA 19124) 100th birthday.  I was never a student there but how often can you go to any high school’s 100th birthday.  Not many get to that age.  You can read the Inquirer take on the event here.

The doors opened at 10AM but I waited till 10:30 for the official program in the auditorium before I got there.  I took the video camera but really didn’t think there would be much to see.  Speeches make lousy video.  Two hours later, I had too much video and was tired from walking the halls and bumping shoulders with the throngs of alumni.

The program in the auditorium included comments from Arlene Ackerman, Superintendent of public schools, Maria Quinones-Sanchez, Philadelphia City Councilwoman, Jorge Santana, Chief of Staff for Tony Payton, State representative and Thomas Mills, President of the Frankford High Alumni Association.  Principal Reginald Fisher kept the program moving along.

The program opened with the striking of the colors and singing of the National Anthem accompanied by the school’s pipe organ.   the speeches followed and then there was entertainment.  Following the entertainment Mr. Fisher asked alumni from various class eras to stand up.  The earliest class represented was a gentleman from the class on 1932.  (that would put him in his 90’s)  He was the only attendee from the 30s.  All the other decades were well represented.

After the program I walked the halls watching people.  There were some great displays in the library that everyone seemed to enjoy.  Lunch in the cafeteria must have felt like going back in time for many of these folks.  I had a quick look at the kitchen and dining room that was remade by Rachael Ray.  And then I was off  to another assignment.

The Frankford High school building is a gem in the rough.  The details that you will never find in a contemporary school are worth a tour any day; stained glass windows, murals, high ceilings, beautiful woodwork.  The pipe organ is one of Frankford’s hidden treasures.  It should be open for community concerts.

The video follows below.  It is 10 minutes long.

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New Frankford Community Y Stakeholders Meeting

Felicia Richardson of New Frankford Developers Presenting

Friday night my father and I attended a dinner meeting at Gallo’s Friday night for a presentation on the new plan for what is going to happen to the New Frankford Community Y.  Among the attendies were democratic ward leader Dan Savage, State Rep Tony Payton Jr and his chief of staff Jorge Santana, representatives from state senator Christine Tartaglione, and counselwoman Sanchez.  Francis Clay and Barry Howell from the Frankford and Northwood Civics were also in attendance.

After an optimistic initial presentation, discussions of the Y’s future turned contentious and questions of legality were raised when the development team proposed to turn the non profit center into a for profit business, with the Northwood Civic voting last month to file a suit in Orphan’s Court to see the past financial records of the center.

The new proposal, (the main portion is linked at the bottom) has the Y staying a non profit with an infusion of funds from the for profit company New Frankford Developers, which owns an apartment building on the block.  Exclusive the benefits to the community, NFD will profit by the management fee they will charge, along with intangibles such as  having better neighborhood amenities to offer their tenants.

To ease neighborhood local fears, the Y will have an advisory board composed of members of the community and neighborhood associations and also noted they would not be opposed to signing a written community commitment agreement.  As Jorge Santana pointed out, it wouldn’t be a legally binding document, but it would list, in simple terms, the commitment by the Y towards the community it serves.

When questions opened up, there were still issues toward the financial viability of the project, Tony Payton noted that the proposed budget had a high percentage of operating funds from government programs.  Presentation leader Felicia Richardson said that it was a best case situation and that funding for many programs  had not yet been secured.  She said that the minimum opening programs would be the day care and computer centers and that they’d build out from there, she also noted that they’ve already secured a grant writer.  Also raised was skepticism of how this plan would work while Terry Tobin was unable to keep operations afloat before.  Richardson responded that she has composed a team, while Terry was a one man show.

Tons of other stuff to note:

  • Apparently being defensive about a rumor I personally started on the message board about them turning the facility into a teen party mecca, they promised no disco, only family style parties and pool parties
  • Barry Howell brought up that they’ve lost a lot of credibility with the Northwood Civic over the financial records issues, but that stated clearly he’s known Terry Tobin a long time and doesn’t believe Terry Tobin was involved with any financial improprieties.  Ms Richardson welcomed Mr Howell to investigate the records
  • they plan on renaming the Y after the late Edward Becker, the former federal appeals judge that once sat on the board.  They stated they had already approached his family for permission

The meeting ended well, all parties expressed cautious optimism of the future, with the presenters pledging a fresh start.

New Frankford Y Proposal [PDF]

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Frankford Special Services District Meeting

The Frankford Special Services District (FSSD) held a public board meeting Monday, February 1st at St. Mark’s church.

The first order of business was election of officers for the coming year.  Chairman will be Jim McCarthy.  Vice chair is Tony Stephens.  Secretary is Liz McCollom-Nazario and Treasurer is Paul Mundy.

Tim Wisniewski, Executive Director of the FSSD discussed the mailing made to the businesses in the area concerning future initiatives of the FSSD.  Wisniewski reported that by far the most significant request was the reintroduction of the Safety Ambassadors on the Avenue.  A discussion followed on how that might be funded.  See the video for part of that discussion.  Possible use of Welfare to Work participants was raised.  Although the cost of their employment would be free to the FSSD, there would still be training and uniform costs.  It was agreed that at least one paid supervisory person would have to be employed no matter what the source of the funding for the remainder of the staff would be.

The board discussed the ongoing issue of trash and what is often “short dumping”.  People from outside the area are dumping household trash into the receptacles on the Avenue.  Even though they are emptied daily, they are often overflowing.  Strategies for prevention and prosecution of illegal dumpers were a hot topic.

There are positions open for three new board members.  Applicants are encouraged to obtain an application via the FSSD web site.

Wisniewski noted that he is about to send final notices to the business owners who are delinquent on their tax payments to the FSSD.  Failure to pay will result in a lien being placed on the owner’s property.

Public board meetings will be held quarterly for the remainder of the year.  The exact dates and times will be published in the Northeast Times and the Frankford Gazette.

Jorge Santana, Chief of Staff for State Rep. Tony Payton mentioned that their office is building a database of Frankford Businesses.  Theresa Hanas of the Frankford CDC said they also collect data from businesses in Frankford.  The FSSD is collects data.  A discussion took place on how the CDC, FSSD and Rep. Payton’s office might work together to share data.  That is a significant turn of events if you have been in Frankford for any length of time.

Mike Thompson on the staff of the Philadelphia City Planning Commission spoke about the various plans still on the boards even though there is no activity on them at this time.  That would include Transit Oriented Development and the Frankford Creek Greenway.

The next meeting is scheduled for May at a date and time to be announced.

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Frankford Civic Association Meeting

The meeting last night on the second floor at Aria Health was well attended despite the cold temperatures.

First issue on the agenda was a zoning issue regarding a house owned by Pastor Richard Smith of the Faith Assembly of God.  He is seeking to renew his zoning variance on a property at 1930 Harrison Street to house up to eight men.  A number of people from the congregation attended and there was testimony at the meeting of the pastor’s dedication to helping men in need.

Another zoning issue was related to the application to build a storage facility for a contractor at 4205-07 Adams Avenue.  This applicant appeared at a previous meeting and the project is moving along.

In regard to the possible sale of the now vacant Frankford Community Y building, Jason Dawkins of Ms. Sanchez staff reports that the issue is still on the table but the attorney for the parties involved say that funding is still not in place.  That was the reason why they did not appear at the last Civic meeting.

The issue of the sale of the Salvation Army building has been reported and there has been no change in status.  It is significant to note that the Pols offices are both taking a proactive stance in trying to make sure that any sale that does take place will be in the best interests of the community.

The big news at the meeting was revealed by Barry Howell, president of the Northwood Civic Association.  He announced that Community Behavioral Health, contracted by the City of Philadelphia, is opening up a recovery house at 4871 Roosevelt Boulevard.  This would violate the Burk deed restriction which prohibits use of the property for anything other than a single family residence.

So now the city government has turned on us.  The city where you pay taxes is going to war against us.

Barry requested that someone from Frankford Civic attend the Northwood Civic meetings in the future.  This fight will require a coordinated  effort by by both Civics.  Why is this important when there are so many other recovery houses in Frankford?  Because there are so many recovery houses in Frankford. There are far more than the number of people in Frankford needing those services.

It’s time again to stand together and so no more.   Check out the report on