Community Council announces a new commitment to tolerance and respect, without quite embracing it: members on the attack against bus noise, new train station plans, the Rivage project, and the need for rules of conduct in the first place.
So as we all filed into the meeting, we got an extra sheet of paper along with the usual printed agenda: a statement adopted last month by the Executive Committee about how they’re all on this same page to help the community, and they all agree to listen to and respect each other, while striving to be welcoming and inclusive.
Could it be?! All of our harping (and videoing!) of Community Council’s low points last year seems to have — maybe?! — nudged them to try to address their difficult reputation? Perhaps having another RCO in the neighborhood, too, has created some pressure for EFCC to work on their public image (and conduct)..? Whatever it is: a welcome change, indeed.
But a tentative one, if that. Quite a bit of disrespectful behavior erupted at last night’s meeting, despite there being no real issues of contention in the agenda. Yet there were some high points, such as event announcements, a Good Neighbor Award, and some exciting news about our main commuter hub.
This meeting was all over the place! Let’s begin…
First, the Treasurer’s report. There’s $78,0069.00 in the council’s fund, most of it ear-marked accordingly: Playground $18,572, East Falls Village $37,045, Friends of Mifflin $591, Mifflin Arboretum $1092, Dog Park $3002, Community Garden $210, leaving a total of $17, 556 in unallocated funds. No questions or comments.
John Gillespie’s traffic report was similarly uneventful — as far as we could tell, it was pretty much a reiteration of past traffic reports, echoing the same roundabout at Queen Lane, the same traffic calming options for Penn Street, the same updates on Walnut Lane bridge repairs (which are supposed to start in April, and detour traffic least 6 months).
Speaking of commuting, SEPTA presenter Wendy Green-Harvey provided a really brief update on their doing’s in East Falls: the painted emblems on the fence at the train station, and also surveillance cameras here that have been “doing fine.” Some questions after she opened the floor up:
1. Any chance for increasing the frequency of scheduled stops on the Manayunk/Norristown line?
“Unfortunately probably not” (the deal here is there are only so many crews who can work so many shifts, and they’re at maximum capacity now.)
2. Any chance of shutting down the bus stop on the corner of Vaux and Midvale? There’s another stop right up the block, and only a few people use this one, according to a homeowner there who was tired of picking up trash from the riders.
“Sorry but most likely no” (SEPTA only very very rarely moves or changes bus routes, there’s probably a reason it’s here but they’ll look into it.)
3. Is SEPTA still planning on power-washing the bridge over Midvale, as promised to Town Watch?
Change of plans — SEPTA’s head bridge engineer recommended against power-washing, sand-blasting, or any other “maintenance” to get the black off. Evidently, that blackish color is a natural characteristic of Pennsylvania bluestone, the material the bridge is made of.
4. Any news on when East Falls might be getting new bus shelters?
Sorry — apparently bus shelters are a city thing, not a SEPTA thing (because they generate ad revenue). SEPTA is outta the loop until they’re moving forward on one.
5. What about that K bus? Seems recent weight restrictions on Coulter Street’s bridge in Germantown detoured the bus along Fox Street — any chance instead it can go down Wissahickon, which seems better suited to heavier traffic, anyway?
While SEPTA understands how a bus stop near your house can feel like an imposition — still: routes are chosen carefully, based on stuff like safety and passenger demographics as well as neighborhood preferences and oh my god is this news, people?!
So a very lengthy discussion on where, exactly, the bus’ original route ran was mercifully wrapping up and then, gack! Fox Street resident Julie Camburn popped up to have a go at the SEPTA guy, herself.
OMG, really? What good does scolding SEPTA reps do? We ask them to come to our meetings and then we talk over what they have to say, and kinda act like bullies, frankly. How does this help the community?
And are we being honest, describing Fox street as a “mostly residential” road whose peace has been disturbed by a thoughtless detour? We saw quite a few other buses cruising down Fox with steady rush hour traffic this morning (it’s a connector to Rt 1). Just sayin’.
But wait, we even attack our own organizations who are trying to help!
No idea what’s in Council member Chris Caporellie’s craw when it comes to EFDC’s Gina Snyder but he seems to be on a tear. Last October — the last time Gina formally addressed Council — he aggressively challenged her efforts to coordinate a 100k+ landscaping update for Mifflin arborateum, and now this time around he seemed pissed about train station plans for some reason.
But Gina’s announcement this month (above) was pretty innocuous. In a nutshell: our trailer of a train station has been on “the list” to be replaced with a new one designed just for our unique spaces at Cresson and Midvale. As part of the modernization, SEPTA needs to raise the track four 4 feet so passengers can load & disembark without stairs. ADA regulations require ramps and elevators… Obviously, a total re-design is required.
SEPTA has a general idea of what new stations should look like, of course, but they’re open to considering bells & whistles if we really want them. So! Gina Snyder pulled in PhillyU’s architecture design students (that’s their prof up there with her) who are currently workshopping their own inspired solutions to our neighborhood’s particular needs and quirks.
In 2 – 3 weeks, Gina will be announcing when we can all come out and see the finished projects at a public Open House — and provide our comments and feedback. Goal is to crowd-source community input to present to SEPTA for consideration in their design for the new East Falls train station (slated to be built in 4 – 5 years).
Sounds good to us — but to Council member Chris Caporellie, Gina was overstepping her bounds, or something. Did I read this right? At first, he just seemed kinda abrasive but then he seemed to be looking for reasons to get mad.
And get mad he did! Got so heated, Bill had to rush in and break things up!
What Chris’s problem? To me, he’s weirdly hung up about her word choice — he seemed angry that Gina would impy SEPTA already had a design when instead they really just have a basic template not a full design (!) which is totally splitting hairs: we all knew what she meant.
Anyhoo… Moving onto some nice stuff:
Town Watch presented Julie Camburn with their “Good Neighbor” award for her 21 years as editor of the Fallser. (East Falls House party ruuuuuuuuled!!!)
Tree Tenders’ Cynthia Kishinchand announced anyone can register for free shade trees in the Spring 2016 Yard Tree Giveaway by “TreePhilly” (see link for dates). BTW, there’s a Friends of Inn Yard Park meeting Monday April 4th — time & location TBA.
Speaking of parks & gardens, Mifflin Arboretum Committee will be hosting its yearly clean-up on Saturday, April 9th.
All are welcome to help tidy this charming overgrown rock garden created by WPA back in the 1930’s, across from RiteAid on Midvale. 10 am to 3 pm, bring gloves and tools if ya got ’em but Tree Tenders will have loaners!
In other community news, plans are underway for this Spring’s “Falls Flea Market,” a yearly tradition in McMichael Park.
Sounds like it’ll be extra-awesome this year, too: for the first time, they’ll be partnering with Phila Flea Markets to create an even better shopping experience offering more vendors & bigger stalls.
Also, with professionals tending to the market, EFCC’s Events Committee hopes to focus on family-friendly activities for the center of McMichael park. Date: Saturday May 21 (rain date May 22). To get involved, shoot over an email.
East Falls Historical Society‘s rolling with another Grace Kelly event on April 2nd. This time, they’re displaying a replica of our local princess’s wedding gown, along with other wedding fashions from PhillyU’s design archives. Cake to follow at Ravenhill Mansion, formerly an all-girls Catholic school once attended by Grace herself.
Rules of Conduct Announced! After Rec Sec’y Larry Benjamin‘s quick update on the status of EFCC’s Facebook and website upgrades, Bill addressed the new rules of conduct — and then kinda backtracked, agreeing when Meg Greenfield suggested such policies aren’t the answer and could be “dangerous.” Not really sure why we need to be so cautious about common courtesy but good to know EFCC’s on the case, I guess?
Next, Bill led the Zoning update. The two biggest issues, “Rivage” and PhillyU (Redeemer Lutheran Church‘s developer is still re-working designs):
For PhillyU, EFCC sent them some questions recently (about tree height & stuff), and they’re still waiting to hear back. Meanwhile, Bill admited it’s gonna be a challenge, reconciling the University’s need to expand with some East Fallsers’ desires to preserve local greenspace. The community itself seems divided, they say.
Another hot-button project: the “Rivage” property (spanning the corner of Ridge, Kelly, and Calumet), currently seeking variances to build a 6-story multi-use building here, with spaces for living and also retail and maybe a grocery or cafe…
Development has been stalled as Community Council awaits more information, such as artist renderings of all four sides. When Grasso (the developer) presented last November, Meg Greenfield and other EFCC members made quite a stink about how only three sides were depicted in the architectural plans he offered. Seems she still thinks Grasso’s hiding something.
Funny too how both Meg and Bill suggested total ignorance about the height of the building, although Grasso clearly stated last November it would be “about 8 feet taller” than the five-story Ridge Flats project that was proposed for the site. Even we remembered he told us the basic dimensions — which BTW are within the height variance that EFCC itself approved for the site in 2013 (along with the Zoning Board of Adjustment, btw).
Last night, though, Bill assured us all that the Zoning Committee will not green light Grasso without “a lot more information” than just artist renderings. Hopefully, he’ll be ready to present this April but there’s been no confirmation yet.
NEXT ZONING MEETING: WEDNESDAY MARCH 16, 7PM at Downs Hall on PhillyU’s campus. Neither Grasso nor PhillyU will be presenting, but apparently they’ll be updating the community at least about PhillyU. We’ll be there!
And that juuuuuust about wrapped things up, until Monica Siltman from the audience wanted Bill’s comment on this “other community organization” — East Falls Forward. She basically asked why people would do such a thing and, well, rather than presenting for EFCC (as suggested), we’ll welcome Monica to the next EFF meeting: Thursday, March 24th.
New members enter to win Dinner for Two at Fiorino’s incredible Italian restaurant at Indian Queen and Krail!
PS: As members of East Falls Forward (Steve’s secretary), we’d like to plug here that EFF is big on respect, courtesy, and talking nicely to each other. And definitely not cursing at neighbors in the street.