Exiting the yard of a residence on Pechin Street in Roxborough on Friday with a blue cotton bag full of postcards in his hand, Josh Cohen was confronted by a woman in a tank-top.
“Are you from PECO?” asks the female resident of the house Cohen had just visited. While there, he had folded one of the postcards in half and carefully placed it in the door’s frame.
“No ma’am, I’m not from PECO,” replies Cohen. “I’m from Councilman Jones’ office.”
“What does he want?” she counters pointedly.
“He wants to make sure you behave responsibly at the bike race,” says Cohen in a coy fashion, a nod to the woman’s advanced age. He hands her a postcard, which she accepts warily.
Spreading the ‘zero tolerance’ message
On Friday morning, members of 4th District Councilman Curtis Jones, Jr.’s staff hit the streets of Manayunk and Roxborough in order to reinforce efforts to reduce pre-race rowdiness.
To do so, the staffers armed themselves with 3,000 postcards indicating that “zero tolerance” would be the order of the day, and that law enforcement would be in full force throughout the weekend. The core message, as stated on the stationery, is that “drunken, rowdy, illegal behavior will NOT be tolerated.”
This is the second year for the postcards. Last year, the postcards were mailed to residents in the vicinity of the race’s route, but in an effort to conserve scarce city funds, 4th District staffers were out Friday on foot, distributing the postcards, touting their message, and interacting with the community.
“The goal this year is to build upon last year’s improvement,” said Cohen of the efforts, which are a continuation of strides made in 2011 by the Roxborough-Manayunk Bike Race Committee in cooperation with government agencies.
Targeting the party crowd
Cohen, a special assistant to Councilman Jones, is leading the field team. His primary role is constituent services, a specialty niche for which he is generally held in high regard. He has experience going door-to-door, much of it gained during a 2010 campaign for a seat in the 194th Legislative District. Besides listening to residents, there were other tangible benefits gleaned from this endeavor.
“I know how to get these things to stay in there,” he says after placing a postcard in a threshold.
Standing beside a sizable pile of trash left behind by recently-vacated renters, he listens to the concerned Pechin Street woman as her queries turn to requests.
“How about getting me a square box for all the trash?” she asks him.
While the massive mound of garbage is a convenient symbol, she is in fact referring to race day detritus, which in her experience and that of many neighbors involves dozens and dozens of beer cans and bottles strewn about sidewalks and lawns by race fans.
Cohen tries to accommodate her request for an extra receptacle from the Streets Deptartment, but the woman is implacable, and shrugs off the proffer.
“They don’t have any money,” she observes.
Undaunted, Cohen gives the woman his card, instructing her to call him with any constituent requests that she may have.
In reference to the postcard, the woman tells him “you picked the wrong street,” denoting the large amount of vested homeowners on the street. In this neighborhood, out of control bike race house parties are typically associated with renters.
“We had some renters,” says the woman, “but they all moved out yesterday.”
Pointing to the trash heap, she adds, “It was good pickings last night.”
The hand-delivered postcards are just one of several methods being used to curb misbehavior at Sunday’s race.
On Tuesday, a press conference was held in Manayunk to highlight the various steps being taken by civic groups and government agencies to increase enforcement of applicable public safety laws.
As reported by Newsworks, officers from the 5th District will work with State Police and agents from the Liquor Control Board to curb open-container violations, underage drinking, and illegal alcohol sales. In addition, 5th District police will monitor private residences for breaches of the peace.
Representatives from 4th District Councilman Curtis Jones, Jr.’s office were in attendance at the press conference, distributing placards emphasizing zero-tolerance for the public usage of canned and bottled alcohol and other quality-of-life offenses.
In addition, Councilman Jones’ staff explained that the Night Bike Court – which was instituted last year as an offshoot of the city’s Nuisance Night Courts – will again return to Manayunk and Roxborough beginning on Friday night and continuing on an as-needed basis throughout the weekend.
Lest any stone go unturned, direct attempts to get these messages were also attempted.
On Thursday evening, automated “robo-calls” were placed by the Managing Director’s Office on Thursday night to residents of the 19127 and 19128 zip-codes. The voice of Everett Gillison, Mayor Nutter’s chief of staff, was featured on the calls.
‘I’ve got to stay and protect my house’
Attempting to make a personal connection with the woman, Cohen asks her if she has plans to leave for the weekend, a common practice among many long-term residents.
“I live here,” she says stridently. “Where am I going to go? I’ve got to stay and protect my house.”
Shortly after this declaration, two young men in slacks and black short-sleeve shirts approach Cohen and the woman.
“What are you selling?” she asks them.
In fact, it’s two interns from Councilman Jones’ office. They are assisting Cohen with the postcard distribution. Intern John Lauri is a second-year law student at Temple University. Intern Frank Mulbah is a junior at Cheney University, and this is his first day on the job.
Now outnumbered, the woman adopts a more congenial tone.
“It’s quiet around here,” she says. “If there’s any kind of problem, it’s not people who live here.”
Thanking the 4th District staffers for their work, she closes the interaction with a benign peroration.
“I thought you guys were trying to sell electricity,” she says.