Margie Rivera never intended to become a community activist when she and her husband, Nelson, bought their home in Frankford on the 1500 block of church Street in 2005. They enjoyed the neighborhood.
In the nice weather people would sit out on the front steps and chat back and forth. In the summer their girls would enjoy the backyard pool. It all came to a screeching halt early in 2009 when the two homes next door were sold.
The word got out that they would become recovery homes for single men. That became a reality when work to convert the single family homes into multiple units began. Men began to move in at the same time.
Margie and grandson Joshua
Quality of life on the block to a nose dive. They were besieged at all hours of the day and night by noise in the house next door and people coming and going at all hours. There was obvious drug activity.
Margie started making calls. It turned out that a zoning hearing would be required to legally convert the properties and Margie did not want that to happen. She started making noise. The Frankford Civic Association got involved along with Councilwoman Maria Quinones-Sanchez office. Over the next few months Petitions, letters from city, state and federal officials and all other stake holders were collected. Finally at the zoning hearing in December, the owner failed to appear and the application was denied.
As a result of all the negative publicity, the owners changed their plan and now women are housed in the properties. This has made a positive difference.
As a result of the experience, Margie became active in the Frankford Civic Association and is now on the board of directors and Vice President. She is a reluctant activist. Her concerns are the welfare of her family and community. And of course, there is now grandson Joshua to consider. Her advice to others in this situation is to get involved. She did and it made a difference.
It was almost surreal to hear, once again, a call for a moment of silence at the Frankford Civic Association meeting on Thursday night. At December’s meeting, Frances Clay had asked for that moment in honor of Thelma Young, long time member. This month, Brian Wisniewski asked for that moment of silence in honor of Frances who passed away before Christmas.
Alice Henry read a thank you card to the Civic for the remembrance at her memorial service and then the meeting commenced with new business exactly as Frances would expect.
The election for officers was conducted with the following results:
President – Brian Wisniewski
Vice President – Alice Henry
Secretary – Rose Zimmermann
Treasurer – Tim Wisniewski
Zoning – Pete Specos
at large – Al Rose
at large – Al Mitchell
at large – Margie Rivera
at large – Steve McClintock
Several issues of problem properties were raised by Mike Mawson of West Frankford Town Watch. The Civic will look into those issues.
Roselyn Gonzalez attended on behalf of the club the “Third Floor” at 4651 Frankford Avenue. She has been in contact with Councilwoman Sanchez office recently(Jason Dawkins) in attempt to work through the process of finding out what has to be done with the city to become legal. You can see the coverage and video by the NEastPhilly.com here.
The club has been operating unlicensed for several months with some problems as previously reported here. The intention is to resolve the problems and become a members only club. They will be going before the zoning board to complete that process at some point in the future. The Civic will then have some input in the process.
The next Frankford Civic meeting is scheduled for February 3rd at 7PM at Aria Health, 2nd floor conference room.
Tim Savage, Margie Rivera, Brian Wisneiwski, Pete Specos
The hearing at the Zoning Board of Adjustment for the 1522-24 church Street application was scheduled for 4:00 pm Wednesday. This issue goes all that way to March of this year when we became aware of the new owners plan to use the properties for recovery houses. Since the houses are near a church, school and home for young girls, it did not sound like a good idea. Margie Rivera who is lives closest to the houses did not think it was a good idea either. She was besieged at all hours of the day and night by noise in the house next door and people coming and going at all hours of the day and night.
The houses are zoned as single family dwellings and cannot be used to house more than three unrelated people. Neighbors observed many men living there. At some point, the men were moved out and women moved in. The owner then applied to convert the houses into duplexes that would have permitted six people to legally live in each one. The community came together to oppose that maneuver.
Petitions, letters from city, state and federal officials and all other stake holders were collected and a hearing was scheduled. The owner sent a request for a delay at the first hearing. At yesterday’s hearing the attorney for the owner sent a notice that he was withdrawing from the case. The owner did not attend and the case was dismissed.
Attending the hearing were Pete Specos, Tim Savage and Brian Wisniewski from the Frankford Civic, Margie Rivera, Rita Lugrine and Joe Fernandes Legislative Assistant from Maria Quinones Sanchez office. This campaign took a great deal of effort on the part of the civic to coordinate the drive. They all should be applauded. The unsung here in this is really Margie Rivera who stepped up and just said no.
This is not over however. Now the line is clearly drawn. No more than three unrelated people in those houses. L&I has to enforce this. We will see how it goes. You can be sure that the community is watching.