West Rockland Street holds its first block meeting

Ann Doley, of West Rockland Street in Germantown says the balance between homeowners and renters is shifting and that’s leading to problems. It was one of many issues aired at the first ever West Rockland Street Neighbors meeting held earlier this month.

Doley, who was a homeowner 30 years ago and recently returned to Rockland, has seen the street change to more renters. She believes that renters and absentee landlords tend to be less invested in the area, which has made drugs and crime increase, she said.

A starting point

On March 21, she was at a community meeting at St. Francis of Assisi to support her daughters, who organized it, and to voice her issues. About 40 people attended.

Emaleigh Doley, who is a co-block captain for Rockland, is hoping to teach by example. A small group has taken to cleaning the block, which has caused a decrease in litter. But she is hoping that instead of just sprucing up the block, there are more lasting solutions, such as making gardens of empty lots, she said.

The meeting was originally going to be just for one block of Rockland Street, but it was opened to others in Germantown to give them the opportunity to learn more about resources. City officials attended as well.

“There are a lot of city programs and resources,” Emaleigh Doley said. “You just have to find them and tap into them.”

Official presence was high

Rosetta Lue, Philly 311 contact center director, said the non-emergency line was an avenue for people to report issues, which are stored in a database and can hone in on an area’s specific problems.

When people call the center, they are given a reference number to keep track of the request online or through the call center.

Lue said the call center, which started on Dec. 31, 2008, helps people contact local government, who may be difficult to reach.

“Our goal is not to transfer you all over the city,” she said. “We’re the ones who do all the heavy lifting.”

Maurice Sampson, chairman of RecycleNOW, held up a styrofoam cup and asked the crowd if it could be recycled. The crowd mostly said no.

He then explained how materials Numbers 1 through 7, which the cup falls between, could be recycled and that 70 percent of what is discarded in the trash can be recovered through proper recycling.

From the 39th Police District, Joseph Lukaitis, crime prevention officer, and Carol Keys, community relations officer, informed the crowd about how to report drug issues happening in their neighborhoods.

Lukaitis also encouraged people to play a bigger role in their neighborhoods. If there are abandoned cars and littering, a drug dealer will look at it and think that no one cares and conduct business there, he said.

Carlton Williams, deputy commissioner of The Philadelphia Streets Department, and Christopher Fields, of SWEEPS, also spoke to the crowd.

Packed agenda welcomed by residents

For the first community meeting in the neighborhoods around Rockland, this one was long and packed full of agenda items. But Deborah Montague didn’t seem to mind. Instead, she praised the amount of information that was available to the audience.

John Fortune, age 16, attended on behalf of his neighbors and grandmother. He thought the resources offered at the meeting were a match to neighborhood concerns.

“We always complain about the litter on the block, the messed up streets and the sidewalks,” he said. “Right now Greene Street feels like a roller coaster.”

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