COUNCIL MEETING RECAP: Well That Was Interesting…

An informative, if somewhat surreal, Community Council meeting last night: trash & recycling,  real estate tax programs,  institutional zoning, and more condos/apartments for Kelly Drive. Our recap with links, pics, and video. 

EastFallsLocal Community Council collage feature

We kid cause we love, folks, and we honestly love that Merge Dance will not only perform at a local community meeting but they will post their own video of it later. While the dancers were certainly charming, as an audience member it’s a little confusing to watch a random dance recital before Council reports. Nice job, girls. It’s just, well. Erhm…

To be clear, this is more of an organizer issue but really expected some promotion, maybe, like:  “Hey, we’re Merge Studio and here’s where we are and here’s what we do! Some  classes we offer… blah, blah blah. Times, ages, yadda yadda prices. Come see our Open House on such and such a date…”   

Or maybe some local context: “Hi, I’m so-and-so, and I live on Stanton Street! I’ve been taking classes at Merge for this many years and I like Merge because…”  

But nope.  Just a quick intro before the first dancer spun out, then right into the second without stopping. Kinda surreal, watching a young woman launch herself earnestly to and fro in front of the Traffic and Treasury chairs, and then simply bow and walk off with a joke about the floors being slippery.

I dunno, guys. Big fan of art/dance/etc, here, but not so sure it belongs at Council meetings. Or maybe the featured artist could perform after the meeting, to end on an up beat (and if someone’s really short on time they can skip out)..?

Some info, too, would be really helpful:  fully intro the company or artist, describe the East Falls connection, make it relevant to locals, perhaps offer a special deal for neighbors or tell us about an event or give us some “take away” we can use or share with others? “Boom, here’s some art, now moving on to the budget…” is a little disconcerting.

Just a thought. Appreciate the gesture, though. Frankly, it’s rather sweet to see EFCC trying to soften their image and broaden their appeal. They’re even working on a new website (should be up in March) and Corresponding Secretary (and friend of East Falls Local) Larry Benjamin has been sprucing up their social media. If you haven’t liked their Facebook page yet, please do, let’s all drag East Falls kicking & screaming into the Digital Age, ha!

Aside from the puzzling “opening number,” this meeting actually made a lot of sense and was quite helpful so we’re happy to recap the rest and provide some links for more info & registration forms, etc.

Eastfallslocal 8x10 Moore streets dept

SPEAKER 1:  PHILLY STREETS DEPT

We heard from Rodney Moore from Community Marketing Concepts, who works “hand in hand” with Philadelphia Streets Dept to get the word out about important issues.

First on the list — bed bugs, ugh! Mattresses left for curbside pickup must be sealed in protective wraps. Moore recommends buying a  plastic mattress bag from a moving company or Lowes/Home Depot, usually around $3 – $12, depending on size.   (BTW, you can get a $75 ticket for putting an unwrapped mattress out for trash, and anyway the workers won’t take it).

Next, Moore reminded East Fallsers to wait until after 5 pm to put your trash out the night before collection. Any earlier, you’ll get a ticket.  BTW, special containers for recycling are unnecessary — anything under 32 gallons will work, just write “RECYCLING” on it.

Speaking of recycling, there’s a free program where neighbors earn deals and discounts for participating in curbside recycling, called Recycling Rewards.  You can sign up via Facebook, too, really easy to get started (just did it, took like 30 seconds, no lie).

Eastfallslocal recylcing center image 8x10

FYI:  our neighborhood’s closest Recycling Drop-Off Center is at Domino Lane & Umbria Street (off Ridge). And while we’re on the subject…

QUESTION: What’s the Number One Non-Recyclable item that sanitation workers are constantly removing from our recycling bins? PIZZA BOXES! Anything contaminated with food cannot be recycled  so Moore implored us to please throw them away, instead.

DID YOU KNOW: Illegal dumping is a crime, people! And it’s a big problem, here, especially “short dumping” by contractors, who unload their worksite refuse in vacant/secluded lots instead of taking it all the way to the dump (and paying for disposal).

Our own McDevitt was recently trashed by some jerks from Allentown but meanwhile the City is asking us to call 911 if we see someone dumping, and also to make note of the license plate and any names or logos on the vehicle. Philly’s sanitation police can help too:  215-685-4275.

Finally, clean streets benefit all of us!  Philly’s “More Beautiful Campaign” provides all neighbors need to orchestrate their own Block Cleanup this Spring: bags, brooms, and free trash pickup. To sign up, contact PMBC at 215-685-3961.

Eastfallslocal 8x10 Revenue dept

SPEAKER 2:  PHILLY DEPT of REVENUE

Vicky (didn’t catch her last name, sorry) spoke about some programs in place to help seniors and those on fixed/lower incomes pay their real estate taxes:

  1. Earned Income Tax Credit — A refundable credit available to anyone 25 – 65 years old with an income of $14,600 – $53,000 (or a qualifying child). Over 40,000 eligible Philadelphians failed to apply for this *free money* last year, btw.  Find out if you quality at YouEarnedItPhilly.com, which also includes links to  free tax prep available to help figure everything out.
  1. Senior Tax Freeze — Homeowners over 65 eligible can stop their real estate taxes from rising as long as they remain in their home. (Download application form here)
  1. Property Tax Installment Plan: Pay taxes over 12 months with no interest or penalties. (Download application form here)
  1. Payment Agreements for Back Taxes: The city recognizes that homeowners can quickly feel overwhelmed by fines & interest incurred from falling behind on real estate taxes — especially with inherited properties, which may be in the red for years before switching hands. To help alleviate undue burden, the Dept of Revenue offers various assistance programs for different income levels. For as little as $25 a month, stressed homeowners can remain compliant on their taxes while working towards a balance.

Vicky wrapped with Water Department info, including:

  1. Water Revenue Assistance Program (WRAP) — assistance for water/sewer bills for Philadelphians with low incomes
  1. Senior Discount: Philadelphians 65 and older eligible for 25% discounted rate for water/sewer bill (some income requirements)
  1. Water Leaks — DID YOU KNOW? It’s easy to tell if you have a water leak! If you get an unexpectedly big bill one month (or if you otherwise suspect your pipes are compromised), first check to make sure no outside hoses or faucets are running. Don’t use any water for 30 minutes, and check your meter. If the dial is spinning, water is moving — you’ve got a leak.

Oh yeah, Philly’s Dept of Revenue keeps extended hours from now thru April 18th:  8:30 am – 7:00 pm Mon – Thurs, 8:30 am – 5:00 pm Friday, and 10:00 am – 2:00 pm Saturday.

Real Estate:  215-686-6442
Taxes:  215-686-6600
Water: 215-686-6880

EastFallsLocal resized 8x10 downs hall text

TOWN WATCH REPORT

IQL resident (and longtime “Town Watcher”) Mary Jane Fullam announced a neighborhood “PSA” meeting with a police official from the local district Sunday February 21st at Downs Hall on PhillyU’s campus, 7 pm.

She also warned that East Falls attracts criminals who come “shopping” — aka, looking in our cars & windows for valuables to steal. While we live in a safe neighborhood, we’re still in the city and we need to be alert, lock our doors, and watch out for each other.

Better yet, get involved! Volunteer for Town Watch, even just an hour here and there can really help deter crime while keeping our streets clean, well-lit, and free from annoying “bandit signs.”

ZONING REPORT

Zoning chair Todd Baylson related that February’s Zoning meeting will be a “remapping workshop” with the City, along with East Falls Development Corporation and also East Falls Forward (the neighborhood’s newest zoning body). No voting or presentation this month, so we can all get a better understanding of zoning changes Philly’s working on for “PHILLY 2035” district planning.

Also — Grasso/Rivage is not presenting this month.

Eastfallslocal How Properties Japanese restaurant

Also — Gary Jonas (who renovated St. Bridgets Lofts and is now working on plans for Redeemer Lutheran Church) recently purchased the vacant & boarded up “Japanese Restaurant” building off Kelly Drive. No plans or anything yet, just heads up:  more condos/apartments on the way, here.

Also, as far as PhillyU’s Master Plan goes, Todd explained that although PhillyU stops short of designating permanent green space in perpetuity, the SPIN legislation “locks in” land use for buildings, and the University wouldn’t be able to build anywhere else without applying for a separate variance:

TRAFFIC REPORT

Kinda sounds like Philly’s streets dept has some plans/developments on the way but as far as we could tell, a lot is still up in the air. Trying to condense John Gillespie’s sweeping traffic report into some practical tidbits, then:

  1. EFCC will be receiving a traffic/safety plan for upper & lower Henry avenue in April, which the public will get a chance to review this Fall. Plan includes possibly a roundabout at Schoolhouse & Henry, but otherwise not a lot of drastic changes.
  1. Unrelated to the plan above, a roundabout at Fox and Queen is in the works to alleviate traffic congestion there.
  1. Schoolhouse lane’s blind curve before Ridge Ave will be getting a “high friction” treatment later this year.
  1. EFCC is working to get a traffic light at Fox and the Boulevard to help route PhillyTrans buses more directly so they don’t cut thru our residential streets. Finally, after all the kvetching — a plan that makes sense!
  1. Penn Street — Not really sure what the deal is here but apparently there’s a traffic problem on Penn Street? The neighbors in the 3100 – 3200 blocks have appealed to the City for either a “No Left Turn” sign or a “No Entry” to keep superfluous drivers off the road. Do we need this? First I’ve heard, but apparently 90% of the neighbors here signed a petition.Eastfallslocal 8x10 pack walk
  1. GOOD NEWS FOR COULTER! Thanks to designation by Phila’s Historical Commission in 1998, the red-brick section of Coulter is eligible for special preservation measures and will be maintained thru upcoming Water Department repairs.Eastfallsloca skiddoo cobblestone
  1. SORRY, SKIDDOO — Calumet resident Sue Park chimed in to point out cobblestoned Skiddoo Street has also been historically designated by the city, but is a mess of clumsy repairs. Evidently, neighbors here received word, “like, 15 – 20 years ago” that their street would be restored with paving stones, but nothing ever happened. Maybe we should all start calling 311?
  1. WALNUT LANE BRIDGE is supposed to be closing for all traffic this April. The official detour will lead cars down Midvale but drivers will do as they please so let’s all just be advised of changing traffic patterns this Spring.

Thanks for keeping up on local community meetings, hope to see you next month!

11 Comments

  • MorganB

    It’s good to hear that the Japanese Restaurant building will be put to use. Nobody benefits from abandoned buildings. Urban decay is like a cancer that can spread rapidly, and we should be thankful that somebody is willing to take risks and bet on East Falls.

  • Denise

    I agree that I am glad that the building will no longer be an eyesore but something for the community would have been more welcome. More condos with nowhere to hang out or shop? More traffic to an already saturated area? Great. Design logistic is the problem here.

    • Carolyn Fillmore

      Thanks for jumping in, we agree community stuff is an important part of planning & development! To clarify, no plans have been set yet so it’s a little too early to judging logistics, perhaps? The project very well could have some community, dining, or retail space, nothing’s been presented yet so we’ll have to see. UPDATE: Looks like proposed zoning would require first floor commercial: http://www.eastfallslocal.com/whos-zoning-who/

      As for the traffic situation, I dunno…. I’m kinda wondering about it. We walk Kelly Drive/Midvale during rush hour every morning, and while occasionally things do back up, for the most part that’s an exception. I can almost always get a clean shot of the bridge or across Midvale with no cars in it if I wait just a little bit. To me, that means the realistic day-to-day congestion here really isn’t nearly as bad as people make it out to be. Maybe it used to be worse..? Maybe we have a low tolerance for traffic here? Ridge sucks, of course, except lately it’s been dead thanks to the EF bridge repairs, ha.

    • Moesha

      Denise, I think that demand for retail at that location will never materialize if we don’t flood the area with as many middle-class, condo-dwelling “SWPLs” as we can. Expensive yuppie housing is EXACTLY what we need if there are going to be coffee shops in place of nail salons, dog parks in place of basketball courts, etc.

      Why do I sometimes feel like I’m the only one trying to gentrify Ridge Ave?
      http://www.theonion.com/blogpost/sometimes-i-feel-like-im-the-only-one-trying-to-ge-11249

  • Cbkistler

    Thanks for posting all of the valuable city phone numbers. Did not have paper or pen when they were being provided. I appreciate the recap

  • Pete Williams

    Be nice to see, at the very least, either some advance left turn signals at Henry and Schoolhouse, or designated left turn lanes for the north/south traffic.

    • Steve Fillmore

      Completely agree Pete. BTW, has anyone else noticed that traffic along Ridge has lessened significantly since the Falls Bridge closed for repairs?

      • Larry Benjamin

        Hah! Try getting to the Expressway from schoolhouse/Ridge. With the traffic diverted from Falls Bridge it takes me 20-25 minutes to get from ramp entrance on Ridge aAve to expressway ramp. Cutting through Manayunk is equally slow and nightmarish.

  • Colleen

    Thank you for the informative recap!

    I must say, I think a no turning sign on Penn Street is kind of ridiculous. I assume that the Queen Lane speed bumps may have caused drivers to use Penn Street as an alternative route, but come on now. Ridiculous. It seems like the Penn Street residents want to live on a street that no one drives on (but them.)

  • Kathleen

    Well there’s no need to be mean about artists DONATING THEIR TIME FOR FREE when they’ve been asked to come perform! It’s not like the company was like “oh please can we perform at your random meeting?”. And try paying attention next time because the company was introduced before dancing, and there were plenty of post cards to pick up at the back. Oh, and feel free to ask a question during the Q & A next time………

    • Carolyn Fillmore

      Hello and thank you for your comment! Whoops, sounds to me like you may have missed two key points of my criticism:

      1. I found the dancers charming

      2. The lack of context/organization was an ORGANIZER ISSUE, not an attack on the dancers, who did a fine job (see #1 above).

      Furthermore, I disagree it’s “mean” to suggest whoever is coordinating these Featured Artist presentations to tighten them up a bit. Only trying to help the artists better highlight their local appeal. Although my comments were aimed at Council not the artists, it’s certainly in every artist’s best interest to promote themselves effectively, right? I offered quite a few suggestions to help, for what it’s worth.

      PS Love how you call me mean but then you’re all, “Try paying attention next time!” in your comment, heheeh. It’s fun to grouse at people online, isn’t it?! Thank you again for chiming in!

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