An ongoing clash between a pair of Manayunk homeowners and a cheerleading academy across the street has reached a stalemate.
Two-and-a-half years ago, Christina Kingkiner opened Stellar All-Star Cheer Academy inside a large, industrial property on the corner of Leverington Avenue and Baker Street. It was her intention to provide the community, of which she was once a part, with an opportunity to participate in a physical activity she’s enjoyed her entire life.
“I love cheering. It’s my passion,” said Kingkiner, who holds practices at the center Mondays through Thursdays from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m., Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sundays from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. during the school year.
Those intentions, however, were soon buried by an ongoing struggle that has left both Brian and Lindsy Farina and Robert and Yulia Watkins considering home relocations.
“We love our house, but we hate our neighbors,” said Lindsy.
When the business first opened, Kingkiner said she didn’t hear a peep from either couple, who live side-by-side on the 4500 block of Baker Street.
The narrow stretch sits directly across from the academy’s front door.
That changed when Kingkiner started leaving a large garage door open during evening sessions when weather permitted.
The opening enabled the pop music – think Britney Spears and Pitbull – played during practices to flow onto the street and into nearby homes.
Frustrations across the street
Brian Farina was particularly offended and, according to Kingkiner, interrupted a session last fall to express his objections.
Robert and Yulia Watkins, who now have an infant son, were equally annoyed.
“The sound waves have absolutely nowhere to go except into our house,” said Robert Watkins. “It’s like when you go to the movies and there’s that guy behind you, a couple rows back, talking on his cell phone.”
“[My son] is going to have to try and sleep through this and I don’t know if that’s ever going to happen,” he added.
On at least one occasion, the couples called the police to complain about the noise, which they say, is exacerbated by the parents, students and staff that often chat outside of the academy after practice.
Officers with the city’s 5th District responded, but no citations were issued.
“There’s not really much you can do when adults are picking up their children,” said Kline, the District’s community relations officer. “I don’t think they’re hanging out for hours and hours.”
The couples also called the city’s Department of Licenses and Inspections and the Fire Marshal’s Office to make sure the property didn’t have any outstanding violations, according to Kingkiner.
‘I try my best to be accommodating’
Last fall, Kingkiner agreed to close the garage door at 8 p.m., a move that appeared to calm the situation immediately afterwards.
“The police told me I could leave it up until 10 o’clock,” she said.
In an effort to keep traffic moving on Baker Street before and after practices, Kingkiner said she has sent emails to parents telling them that they can’t block the street and asking them to drive around the block if their child isn’t ready.
It came as no surprise, though, that neighbors are still upset with her. Nothing, she said, seems to be good enough.
“I’ve been more than accommodating and I try my best to be accommodating,” said Kingkiner. “I think they live too close to a commercial property.”
She acknowledges that her business isn’t a quiet one – on any given night, there can be 25 kids at the gym – but said the noise that comes out of her building is “not obnoxious like the bar kind of loud.”
Seeking a solution
For Brian, though, just the thought of turning the corner onto Baker and seeing that garage door open and people scattered on the street gets his blood boiling.
“We all go to work all day long, and we all work very hard and then we don’t want to deal with stress,” he said, noting that if he was renting his place he would have “been gone years ago.”
About the only thing the two parties can agree on is that they aren’t interested in keeping this feud alive.
“I’d rather be a friend to them then have this Hatfield [and] McCoy type relationship,” said Brian. “I’d rather bridge the gap somehow.”
“I’m not a nasty person,” said Kingkiner.
Stellar Academy’s three-year lease is up in January. Kingkiner wants a bigger space and is considering moving to a different location.