This week the 1300 block of Price Street in East Germantown got a long awaited Christmas wish – attention from city officials.
Official Philadelphia has neglected the area for years, according to residents. Absentee property owners, poor city oversight, poverty, blight and crime are constant concerns.
But on Wednesday residents and organizers associated with the block took Licenses and Inspections Commissioner Fran Burns and Eighth District City Councilwoman Donna Reed Miller on a tour of all the abandoned properties in the neighborhood, and they demanded that the city finally do something about them.
“Some of these homes have been abandoned for nearly 20 years, it’s ridiculous,” said Jasmine Rivera, an organizer from Action United.
Action United is a Pennsylvania low income advocacy group with national ties that formed only months ago out of the ashes of the embattled ACORN.
Despite a legacy of voter fraud accusations from conservative groups and last year’s controversial scandal allegedly depicting inappropriate behavior of Acorn officials in other states, the old contacts appeared to pay off for Action United.
Organizers joined local residents to lead the city officials on a walking tour of seven grossly neglected properties, and present Miller and Burns with a set of demands for fixing the properties or demolishing them.
Rivera said they kept the list limited to seven so as not to overwhelm the officials. Miller and Burns requested a complete list of problem properties from the organizers.
For residents like Brian Johns the blight has a daily impact on quality of life. He and his mother have been calling the city for months about a leaking water main directly in front of their house, and when the vacant lot next door gets overrun with trash, the city has fined them as much as $800 for collecting it and putting it in cans on the sidewalk, Johns said.
“We have a lot of people in Germantown who do care, who do make these phone calls,” Rivera said. “And as we often see, when that one person makes that phone call, that one person gets ignored.”
This time Johns and his mother might have had the fates on their side as well as good organizing. On the day of the tour that old water leak apparently got worse. It started bubbling up through two additional sections of pavement a half block away, just as the city officials walked past.
Some local residents are still skeptical the city will take action on any of the problems but Johns thinks progress is on the way.
“Little by little hopefully we’ll get a great response from the officials,” he said. “Now they have to stand up and take notice to exactly what’s going on.”
In the video above Price Street residents Roy Clark, Tom Hilliard and Brian Johns talk about the water main breaks that have been pouring over 1300 Price Street for months and appear to be getting worse as the cold weather closes in. (Patrick Cobbs)