Even though Rev. Chester Williams didn’t realize it was Easter weekend when scheduling the first Germantown Unity Meeting for April 4, resurrection was his underlying goal.
Saturday was the first gathering of community group leaders and block captains of zip code areas 19138 and 19144 inside the Wissahickon Charter School gymnasium.
“The city doesn’t look at residents like it used to,” said Williams, president of the Chew and Belfield Neighbors Club. “It looks at business structure, how to raise revenue. So the residents have to come together with a plan.”
Block captains discussed neighborhood frustrations such as abandoned properties and crime-ridden streets, only made worse by ignored pleas for help from an apathetic government.
Williams repeated the number 3-1-1 throughout the morning, urging block captains to call the city’s non-emergency Contact Center for issues with graffiti, squatters, piled tires and local nuisances.
“If you never say anything, never complain, never get involved, there will never be a solution,” said Adrienne Glenn, captain of the 6300 block of Ardleigh Street.
Also discussed was the now-abandoned Bottom Dollar Food store at the corner of Chew and Washington, which closed in January as part of the chain’s sale to Aldi.
State Representatives Stephen Kinsey and Rosita Youngblood, Eighth District Councilwoman Cindy Bass and recently-appointed 14th Police District Captain Sekou Kinebrew were all invited to the meeting but did not attend.
Therefore, Williams told all of the block captains to write down their specific grievances with exact addresses and he would personally submit the list to city officials.
Andy Trackman, executive director of Germantown United CDC, promoted his organization’s focus on local businesses, announcing an information session on May 13 at the Citizens Bank office on Schoolhouse Lane and Germantown Avenue.
“Our goal is to make Germantown businesses more successful, more profitable, and eventually, have them hire more people in Germantown,” Trackman said.
When attendees raised concerns about rumors of gentrification in the area, Trackman told them not to worry.
“It’s not necessarily happening in Germantown,” Trackman said. “It’s just that folks who have been in the neighborhood for a long time might be afraid of some outside developer coming in and redeveloping something solely to appeal to people outside the neighborhood.”
In closing, Williams encouraged everyone to participate in the 8th Annual Philly Spring Cleanup on April 11 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.