Flood-weary East Germantown resident: ‘If I could get a buyout today, I’d move tomorrow’

Wednesday’s balmy weather was Thelma Gorham’s second reminder that summer is just around the corner and that, with it, the type of rainstorms that have routinely flooded her block over the past few years will likely come.

The first arrived just the day before, when the region was drenched in spurts throughout the day. Gorham’s row-home basement in East Germantown didn’t fill with muddy water as it often does, but the downpour was strong enough to put the 71-year-old on edge.

“Last night, it kept raining and thundering and I didn’t go to sleep until 4 o’clock,” said Gorham, who now owns a sump pump when she needs to suck up the floodwater that seeps inside her house on the 5800 block of Crittenden St. “I was constantly looking out of the window, going down to my basement.”

Last summer — when Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee hit the area hard — was the first time the rain visibly flooded the street in front the property. It’s gotten to the point where she’s ready to leave it behind.

“If I could get a buyout today, I’d move tomorrow,” said Gorham.

Walking the soggy beat

The long-time resident shared her concerns during a Wednesday afternoon walk-around organized by ACTION United, a nonprofit community advocacy organization.

For nearly two hours, residents pointed out problem lots and eyesores in the neighborhood with city officials in tow in an effort to raise awareness and perhaps bring about swifter action.

“People explain [problems over the phone], but it often gets lost in translation,” Jasmine Rivera, a community organizer with ACTION United, said as the group strolled down the 1300 block of Rittenhouse St.

The tours “give every resident the opportunity to feel like they have a voice. They should be the ones communicating and not have a middleman,” Rivera said.

Michael Lumpkin, who moved to the block two years ago, said he wants to see the area’s overgrown, vacant lots be addressed, noting that they provide cover for illegal activity.

“That brings around those guys selling drugs and that makes them hang out around there,” said Lumpkin. “That’s their quick way of running from the cops — get into that alleyway and hiding.”

During a recent police pursuit, a male suspect tried to hide out in a lot just a few doors down from Lumpkin’s home. Officers had to burst through a fence at the lot’s front entrance en route to an arrest.

The suspect had also hopped over a fence into Lumpkin’s backyard during the incident, drawing police to his front door and into his home.

“I don’t like that,” said Lumpkin.

Complaints heard

Officials with the city’s Department of Licenses & Inspection and Streets Department jotted down notes during the tour that they will take back to their respective departments.

Personnel from state Rep. John Myers and Eight District City Councilwoman Cindy Bass’ offices were also on hand.

“We have feet on the ground now actually seeing, hearing, experiencing the issues,” said Brandon Vaughn, constituent-services liaison for Bass. “Let’s get going. Let’s start working and really start addressing these issues.”

Rivera noted that results from a similar, but smaller, walk-around earlier were positive. L&I in particular has been quite responsive, she said.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.