Crime and vacant land raised as concerns at East Mt. Airy Neighbors meeting

A feeling that Mt. Airy’s streets are not as safe as they used to be was a top issue at last night’s East Mt. Airy Neighbors (EMAN) meeting.The concern was brought up by resident and Executive Director of Mt. Airy Business Improvement District (BID), Hollie Malamud-Price who felt it necessary to raise the issue to EMAN.”I’m concerned as a citizen, I’d like to feel safe walking at night,” Malamud-Price said.

Mt. Airy residents have viewed their cozy, family-friendly streets as so safe that one of the few remaining community crime watch groups, Safe Streets, dissolved this past summer. EMAN had been working with the groups founding member, Robyn Kulp, in the interim, but Kulp has not been present at the past few meetings.

The board agreed that something must be done, but tabled the discussion until the group’s annual joint meeting with sister organization, West Mt. Airy Neighbors (WMAN), which will take place on January 10, at Hagan Hall on the campus of the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia (LTSP).

 

Vacant lots a concern

Also on the agenda for the evening was a visit by Queen Village Neighbors Association (QVNA) president Jeff Hornstein who was appealing for EMAN’s support of the Campaign to Take Back Vacant Land. QVNA and nearly 30 other neighborhood organizations have banded together to combat the city’s problem with blighted land that is not be used.

“The goal is to try to solve a piece of Philadelphia’s vacant land problem,” Hornstein said.

The city currently owns over 10,000 of the more than 40,000 parcels of vacant land, according to a handout provided by Hornstein. The handout goes on to say that the vacant land is costing taxpayers $20 million a year for safety and upkeep. The groups are working with Philadelphia City Council members Maria Quinones-Sanchez and Bill Green in drafting legislation that would include community oversight in the transformation of a vacant property. This committee’s goal would be to transform blighted property into corner pocket parks or, at least, clear the property and eventually put it up for sale.

“We are trying to de-politicize this process,” Hornstein added in appeal.

Hornstein said that there would be a coalition meeting sometime in January. EMAN agreed to consider the idea and said a decision would be made by the time of the next meeting on January 10.

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