The beginnings of a coalition to unite the neighborhoods of Northeast Philadelphia around a common agenda stemming from quality of life crimes took another humble step inside a Mayfair recreation center Tuesday night.
Just a handful of attendees cycled in and out of the John Perzel Community Center for the second meeting for the Northeast Philadelphia Now initiative, corralled by Mayfair Town Watch Founder John Vearling, and the conversation roamed wildly. The pitch is to bring various and sundry community leaders together to develop cohesive strategies to supplement stretched police details and maintain the family-first reputation that has been a Northeast staple since its post-World War II boom.
“Our question is what can we do in the Northeast and what can we do now,” Vearling said. “Whatever the rest of the city does, I don’t care. I want to fix the problems in the Northeast.”
Representatives from Lawndale, the 15th district and the Mayfair Business Association were in attendance, in addition to a delayed Al Taubenberger, head of the Greater Northeast Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce and the Burholme Civic Association/Town Watch. Vearling led the conversation, which ranged from police being pulled away to break up teenage fights to illegal parking and how those small crimes could affect the future of the Northeast.
A sentiment rang throughout the conversational meeting that the Northeast is weakened by a fractured, feudal collection of fiefdoms.
“‘One civic association doesn’t want to work with another civic association because no one wants to lose their title,” Vearling said. “And so we battle the same problems in different ways and no one seems to be making progress.”
Solutions varied from offering police wider discretion in code violation notices — in which officers can write tickets that require payment without court appearances — and better organizing town watch patrols that might lessen or even prevent the pressure on officers to handle the most mundane of calls and crimes.
Vearling began a conversation with Mike “Scoats” Scotese, the noted Grey Lodge owner and and Mayfair Business Association president, about partnering on fundraising for jackets and flashlights to equip the 45-person Mayfair Town Watch.
“We need to do something,” Vearling said. “The Northeast needs to take care of the Northeast.”