What happened next: Community concerns and projects

NewsWorks went back to check in on several of the stories we covered in 2014. These “what happened next” updates will run by topic. 


Grassroots effort looks to establish police mini-station in GermantownJan. 29

The story: A meeting organized by the NW Neighbors of Germantown was held in late January to petition city officials for the purpose of initiating plans to convert the second floor of the ticket office at the Queen Lane Regional Rail Station into a police mini-station for southwest Germantown.  After nearly a year of organizing efforts, the city’s response to the NW Neighbors and Germantown residents was unequivocal:  there will be no police mini-station in Germantown.

What happened next:  While the police mini-station seems to be a non-starter, senior officers in the 39th District have been working together to most effectively deploy existing policing and crime prevention resources in the area.  Discussions concerning deployment remain ongoing.  Asked by NewsWorks whether the Queen Lane police mini-station proposal is dead, Lisa Hopkins, coordinator of the NW Neighbors group, responded, “Pretty much.”

-Daniel Pasquarello

Kelly House cat hoarder appeals conviction, hearing scheduled, Jan. 30

The story: As reported by NewsWorks, Marjorie Bamont pleaded no contest to more than a dozen counts of animal cruelty following the well-publicized removal of many pets from her custody in Oct. 2013. Bamont’s Henry Avenue residence is notable for being the childhood home of Grace Kelly.

In May, Bamont returned to court in an attempt to overturn the sentence handed down to her in April, which had ordered her to pay $7,000 in restitution to the PSPCA, as well as submit to regular home inspections and forgo acquiring any new pets for a period of 42 months. The sentence was upheld. At that time, according to a statement issued by PSPCA CEO Jerry Buckley, 13 pets had been in the organization’s care since October, and efforts were underway to place them in good homes.

What happened next:  One cat removed from Bamont’s residence is still looking for a new home.

-Daniel Pasquarello

Ironworkers charged in racketeering conspiracy that includes Chestnut Hill Meetinghouse arson, Feb. 18

The story: Ten members of Ironworkers Local 401 were arrested and charged with allegedly participating in “acts of extortion, arson, destruction of property and assault,” including the Dec. 2012 arson attack on the Chestnut Hill Friends Meetinghouse

The union members were accused of conspiring to intimidate contractors on job sites that chose to employ non-union workers, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, which held a press conference detailing an unsealed indictment (PDF) on Feb. 18.

What happened next: Of the 12 defendants, all but one have plead guilty. The remaining defendant is Joseph Dougherty, the longtime head of the union. He is set to head to trial on Jan. 5.

-Neema Roshania

Methodist pastor — defrocked for officiating same-sex wedding — speaks out in Germantown, Feb. 25

The story: Reverend Frank Schaefer delivered a sermon in front of a full congregation in February at the First United Methodist Church of Germantown after being defrocked for performing the same-sex marriage of his son in 2007. 

What happened next: In October, the Methodist church ruled that Schafer would be allowed to remain an ordained minister. He remains a gay rights activist. 

-Neema Roshania

Young Germantown boxer continues quest for pugilistic greatness , July 1

The story: James “Too Sharp” Barnett, a teenaged aspiring boxer from Germantown, has dreams of adding his name to the list of legendary Philadelphia fighters. Despite the time demands of training and fighting (not to mention of moving around from home to home because of unforseen financial issues), he remains atop the honor roll at New Media Technology Charter School. 

What happened next: As with many things boxing-related, the relationship between boxer and trainer became strained in recent months.

It’s a long-winding story involving money, prioritizing boxers to train and broken lines of communication. 

At the end of October, Barnett parted ways with trainer Bozy Ennis.

The relationship between Ennis and Barnett’s family remains “cordial,” said the boxer’s mother Uvuanka. At issue was a shift that saw Barnett having to train with younger boxers who were not up to his skill level. 

“Things got a little heated in the gym,” said Uvuanka. “My whole thing to him was this is never going to work out so I said it’s the best thing for us to go our own way.” 

The boxer has stopped traveling to as many tournaments but returned to training at Happy Hollow Rec Center in Germantown.

“It’s crazy how fast word travels, though,” she said. “We started getting text and calls from people in Ohio, in Washington D.C., from a guy named Chino in Jersey. They’re all saying they want ‘Meatball’ to come train with them.”

As things stand, the Barnetts are currently weighing their options and have narrowed James’ next boxing destination down to Ohio or D.C. and will let NewsWorks know when they reach a final decision.

-Brian Hickey

East Falls residents upset with noise incurred by local tranport company, July 23

The story: Residents in East Falls met with a local transportation company in July. They said the school buses the company deployed every morning were wreaking a noisy havoc on their neighborhood.

“We can hear the entire route, sometimes as early as five in the morning,” East Falls resident Julie Camburn said at the time. “It’s constant, it’s annoying, and it’s really intolerable.”

Many residents suggested the busses be rerouted to already-busy roads. Owner Eric Faust empathized with neighbors, but gave no indication that his company would be changing routes any time soon.

That meeting ended in a stalemate.

What happened next: Councilman Curtis Jones Jr. stopped by on a Sept. morning at 5:30 a.m — the time neighbors were saying disturbances would begin and did not find any transgressions being made. 

-Neema Roshania

Abandoned ‘choking’ pit bull rescued in Northwest Philly Park, July 23

The story: Responding to a cruelty-hotline tip in July, Pennsylvania SPCA humane law-enforcement officers rescued an abandoned, choking dog at Awbury Park in West Oak Lane.

The officers found the dog, a black and white pit bull, near the tennis courts. It had been tied to a chain-link fence with a cable and electrical tape.

What happened next: The pit bull, Venus, is still available for adoption. 

-Daniel Pasquarello

Smokin’ Joe Frazier statue will soon get bronzed, April installation expected, Aug. 20

The story: In a second-floor Frankford Avenue art studio, sculptor Stephen Layne toiled to put the finishing touches on a nine-foot, 400-pound version of the late, great Philadelphia boxer Smokin’ Joe Frazier.

When NewsWorks visited with Layne, the sculpture was a few weeks away from being bronzed, which was thought to be a process that would take several months to complete.

What happened next: At the end of October, Layne’s piece was broken down into smaller pieces and lowered down to the studio’s first floor, where Julia and Shane Stratton started the bronze casting process.

Layne described the process as such: A wax version of the piece was made and broken down to sections into which molten metal was poured.

“There’s maybe 25 pieces. A glove, a foot, a huge boxing glove and arm, the head itself is 18 inches tall,” said Layne, noting that the team is still deciding what color “the patina” will be. “It should be all be back together by the end of January, early February. The official date is still rough, but we’re looking at early April for installation.”

-Brian Hickey

Pennsylvania SPCA officials find three emaciated dogs inside West Oak Lane home, Aug. 28

The story: In August, PSPCA officials obtained a search warrant for a home on the 7000 block of Sommers Road in West Oak Lane.  Inside they found three emaciated pit bull terriers.  The dogs’ owner, 23-year-old Anthony Wall, was cited for animal cruelty and failure to provide veterinary care.

What happened next:  Two of the pit bull terriers are still looking for a new home.

Weavers Way members debate purchasing policy amidst Hobby Lobby, Eden Foods controversies, Sept. 18

The story: The Supreme Court decision ruled in Burwell vs. Hobby Lobby that “closely held” corporations could be exempt from the Affordable Care Act’s birth-control mandate if that mandate came into conflict with the company owners’ “sincerely held religious beliefs” sparked controversy at the Weavers Way Co-op when members learned the decision would cause the courts to reconsider a 2013 lawsuit by Eden Foods CEO Michael Potter. In that lawsuit Potter claimed that providing his employees with contraception as well as other “lifestyle” drugs including Viagra and even obesity medication was a violation of his religious freedoms.

Though the organic food company has been known for its high-quality products and strong advocacy for transparency in food policy, a community meeting was held where members discussed whether or not Weavers Way should boycott the company for failing to provide fully comprehensive health care to its employees. The meeting was held with mixed opinions and no definitive decision was reached.

What happened next: Under the bylaws of the Weavers Way Co-op, members by right could petition for a “special meeting” where a vote would be held concerning the Eden Foods boycott, but by the fall general membership meeting, no definitive action had been made by members, and the board of directors announced their official decision on the matter.

A report by board president Jeremy Thomas stated: “While many members object to Eden’s position and actions…the company’s practices in purchasing, producing and packaging its food products are very consistent with many of the values — and ends — of the Co-op…With the understanding that some members will object, the Co-op’s official position remains that members and shoppers should make their own decision about purchasing Eden foods products…we won’t make it for them.”

Thomas did not take further questions.

-Emily Brooks

Germantown tile artist is a finalist in ‘Martha Stewart American Made’ competition, Sept. 29

The story: Karen Singer Tileworks in Germantown was named a wildcard finalist in the “Martha Stewart American Made” awards competition.

The contest honors localized makers, small-business owners and creative entrepreneurs in the craft, design, food and style industries.

The entry came after Lisa Longo, the general manager, insisted they apply.

What happened next: Karen Singer and her team didn’t win the Martha Stewart American Made competition back in October but the team saw tons of support for their business with an upwards of 3,500 votes and 100 new Facebook likes.

Currently, Karen Singer and her team are continuing work on a donor wall for Our Lady of Good Counsel High School in Olney, Md. They also are creating donor gifts for the Pennsylvania School of the Deaf. They recently signed a new client, Bon Secours Health System in Richmond, Va., for which they’ll design and a donor wall mural for its new hospice house. 

-Lauren Gruber

City Councilman Jones calls for hearing into Ebola-related emergency preparedness, Oct. 10

The story: City Council unanimously approved a resolution on Oct. 10 that — sponsored by Northwest Philadelphia councilmembers Curtis Jones Jr. (4th district) and Marian Tasco (9th) — calls for hearings “regarding citywide emergency preparedness for healthcare emergencies” including the Ebola virus.

The resolution (PDF) holds that the Committees on Public Health and Human Services and Public Safety will examine the “identification and safe treatment of individuals who have contracted an infectious disease, such as the Ebola virus, and strategies to effectively suppress the spread.”

What happened next: Council met on Oct. 16 to discuss the city’s ability to handle Ebola if it were to come to Philadelphia. 

City officials said they are prepared to handle any infection if it show show up in Philadelphia.

If you have any Northwest Philadelphia stories from 2014 that you’d like NewsWorks to follow up on, please email us.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal