What Happened Next: Updating stories from Jan. and Feb.

NewsWorks went back to check in on several of the stories it covered this year. Stay tuned for additional installments of the “What Happened Next” series in the final days of 2013. 

Math teacher sues Springside Chestnut Hill Academy for racial discrimination, Jan. 7

The Story: In a lawsuit filed in Dec. 2012, former math teacher Arthur “Chuck” Matthews alleged that the private school severed ties with him because he was black. He further maintained that school President Priscilla Sands, who is white, violated his civil rights and defamed him when she allegedly fired him for “inappropriately texting” with a female student.

Matthews, who taught at the school for 14 years starting in 1998, sought, among other things, $5 million in damages. A school spokesperson would not comment on pending litigation.

What Happened Next: The case was settled in April. Willan Joseph, Matthews’ lawyer, said both parties agreed to keep the terms of the settlement confidential.

“It was a compromise on both sides and I think it was in the best interest of both sides and my client feels vindicated in the sense that it was resolved,” said Joseph.

SCH Academy’s lawyer confirmed the settlement and also declined to discuss details. (Aaron Moselle)

East Falls rock climbing gym shoots for March opening, Jan. 18

The Story: Before climbing gym group Philly Rock Gym even finished construction on its new location at 3500 Scotts Lane, they already had 10 birthday parties booked.

The East Falls location of Philly Rock Gym — located in a former self-storage facility — was meant to be the largest project yet for this growing chain of indoor rock-climbing gyms.

The 15,000 square foot facility planned to offer a variety of climbing packages for kids and adults, from top-rope courses to top-out bouldering walls.

What Happened Next: “Things have been going really well, better than we had ever expected,” said Jay Pringle, Operations Manager at the East Falls location.

For its “opening days,” a soft roll-out where potential members climbed for free, the gym attracted patrons from around the block and as far away as Reading, Pa. in March.

Since opening, the membership base has grown to 400-500 people, “a very diverse group from college groups to families,” said Pringle.

In September, the gym hosted a climbing competition of 130 climbers and another one is planned for February 2014. Partnerships with Temple’s climbing club, youth organization Urban Blazers and area businesses, like the Bryn Mawr Running Company, ensure that the gym has stayed busy.

“We are excited to be a part of revitalization in the area,” said Pringle. (Laura Benshoff)

$50,000 reward offered to help police make arrests in Chestnut Hill meetinghouse arson, Jan. 22

The Story: At some point between 4 p.m. on Dec. 19, 2012 and 6 a.m. on Dec. 20, 2012, about a dozen points at the Chestnut Hill Friends Meetinghouse — at that time still a construction site — were targeted with acts of vandalism and arson.

By January, a $50,000 award was being offered up to find those responsible for what officials were quoting was $500,000 in damages.

What Happened Next: According to Officer Christine O’Brien, spokesperson with the Philadelphia Police Department, there have been no arrests made. The case remains an open investigation. (Neema Roshania)

Germantown art gallery doubles as rehearsal space for new public-access TV show, Jan. 24

The Story: Germantown’s iMPeRFeCT Gallery became the site of a television series called “Accent-U-Ate,” airing on PhillyCam’s public-access channel.

Created by poet, author and playwright Terri “Nightowl” Lyons, the idea for “Accent-U-Ate” came to Lyons after she met guitarist Osiris “Wildfire” Aikens, trumpeter Victor Puentes and songstress Bethlehem Nelson and decided that the she wrote needed musical accompaniment.

The rehearsal and show were lined up to air PhillyCam in March on Comcast (Channels 66/966) and Verizon FiOS (Channels 29/30), and was also released on Youtube.

What Happened Next: Technical problems significantly delayed airing the first episode.

When Lyons and her guests tried to record content practiced at the iMPeRFeCT Gallery rehearsal, she says, “We ran into so many post-production problems down at the [PhillyCam] studio.”

After a hiatus, Lyons recorded two more episodes at PhillyCam in August. The first episode debuted in October, the second in November, and the third is playing on Comcast (Channels 66/966) and Verizon FiOS (Channels 29/30) every Sunday this month at 3pm. The show has since left its initial space at iMPeRFeCT and is now shot exclusively at PhillyCam.

When NewsWorks asked Lyons if she plans to perform in front of a live audience in Northwest Philadelphia again, she replied, “Oh, yes!”

Lyons performed one-woman show on the meaning of Christmas on Saturday, Dec. 21 at the Personal Chef in Germantown. (LB)

Unsolved hit-and-run death on City Avenue prompts $5K reward, upcoming Manayunk fundraiser, Jan. 28

The Story: When 50-year-old Patrick Coyle was fatally struck by a vehicle on City Avenue less than three hours into 2013, the case became what’s believed to be the country’s first fatal hit-and-run involving a pedestrian of the year.

About a month later, the Coyle family held a fundraiser in his memory at St. John the Baptist Church in Manayunk where $14,000 raised would help cover funeral expenses and increase the reward amount. Of the more than 400 people who attended the memorial event, many grew up in Roxborough alongside different generations of the large Coyle family.

“Around Roxborough,” said attendee Beth Berry, “You say the name ‘Coyle’ and everyone knows who you’re talking about.”

What Happened Next: Despite reaching out to NewsWorks and other media outlets for help identifying the vehicle which fled after fatally striking Coyle, Philadelphia Police Officer William Lackman with the Accident Investigation Unit said this month that there is nothing new to report on the tragic case. (Brian Hickey)

Schuylkill Project shoots for 2014 Manayunk Bridge trail completion, maintains focus on Venice Island and the canal, Jan. 30

The Story: NewsWorks spoke with Kay Sykora of the Manayunk-based Schuylkill Project to speak about the signature projects of her organization, the conversion of the Manayunk Bridge into a recreational space and installation of a stormwater drainage basin on Venice Island.

What Happened Next: Kay Sykora, director of the Schuylkill Project, said in December that “everything is in line” with the Manayunk Bridge project, including the final design, permits, and $3.5 million in funding.

Bids for the project are expected to be released by January, with construction expected to take approximately one year. At present, Sykora expects the project to be completed by the spring of 2015.

Improvements on nearby Venice Island are almost complete: Landscaping is being installed, and the building on the site is expected to be completed in January. A groundbreaking will occur on the spring of 2014. (Matthew Grady)

Manayunk filmmaker prepares for ‘Detonator’ movie premiere, Jan. 30

The Story: In the summer of 2011, Manayunk resident Keir Politz shot his first full-length feature film, using Kensington, West Philadelphia, Roxborough and Manayunk as backdrops. Last January, “Detonator” was poised for its premiere.

With punk-rock soundtrack homage from Manayunk icon Joe Jack Talcum of The Dead Milkmen, the film follows one conflicted family man’s dangerous night in the city. Politz said the film explores what happens when a wild past taps you on the shoulder just as you’re trying to embrace adulthood.

What happened next: “Detonator” became an official selection at the Indie Memphis Film Festival, Hell’s Half Mile Film and Music Festival, and others. Star Lawrence Michael Levine won the Best Lead Actor award at Hell’s Half Mile, and “Detonator” was nominated for the Philly Geek Award’s Indie Feature Film of the Year.

“We’ve got some good reviews, and now what we’re doing is trying to get it out and make it more available to people,” Politz said of ongoing talks with possible distributors.

Meanwhile, he’s working on his next feature, “All the Beautiful People We Once Knew,” based on an unpublished novel of the same name by longtime friend and fellow St. Joseph’s Prep alum Edward Carlson.

The script, which Politz is developing, follows a corporate defense attorney in an existential crisis.

“I’ve been working on the story with [Carlson] for years with the understanding that I could do the adaptation,” Politz said. He plans to shoot the new movie in Philadelphia. (Alaina Mabaso)

Mt. Airy USA one step closer to winning grant for Lovett Park, Feb. 1

The Story: Mt. Airy USA was named one of 105 finalists for a creative placemaking grant from ArtPlace, a consortium of 13 foundations and six banks which funds arts and culture initiatives that help to transform communities.

MAUSA submitted an application for the revitalization of Lovett Park on Germantown Avenue.

What Happened Next: Mt. Airy USA did not win the grant, but is planning to reapply for the 2014 cycle and meanwhile, has made significant progress throughout the year on improvements to the park.

Most notably, a fundraising drive over the summer raised over $6,500 to go towards paving, lighting and trash cans as well as longterm furniture for the park adjacent to Lovett Memorial Library. 

MAUSA hopes to begin working on updates to the park in the spring, but many of the plans for the park are dependent on Lovett Libaray’s plans to expand, according to executive director Anuj Gupta. Plans for the library have not been finalized yet.

In addition to the annual summer movie series that is held in the park, the group plans to use the space as a public viewing venue for the 2014 World Cup. (NR)

Northwest Philly activist and mom arrested at White House protest, Feb. 16

The Story: In February, writer and activist Eileen Flanagan of East Falls was arrested for handcuffing herself to the White House gate in Washington, D.C. as a part of a protest urging President Obama to deny approval for the Keystone XL pipeline.

Proposed in 2008, the pipeline remains a contentious environmental and political issue in the United States and Canada. Flanagan participated in the protest as a member of the Earth Quaker Action Team (EQAT), a Philadelphia-based Quaker environmental justice group.

What Happened Next: Flanagan was released a few hours later.

On being arrested, she says, “It was my first time. Something interesting was how many people though I was being really courageous. Knowing people who have risked a lot more, that people’s experiences of being arrested vary …This was D.C. in front of the White House, so they give arrests like speeding tickets.”

And the pipeline?

President Obama has not made a decision. “We see this as a good sign, that we’re being affective,” said Flanagan. If he approves it, she and other trainers through EQAT and other environmental groups have trained thousands of people to take part in coordinated civil disobedience.

In the meantime, Flanagan and EQAT are campaigning citizens to divest from PNC Bank for their support of mountaintop removal coal mining in Pennsylvania. Flanagan describes the act of being arrested as “empowering. It made me want to take more risks, to do more.” (LB)

Mt. Airy group pushes to legalize backyard chickens, Feb. 20

The Story: In February, NewsWorks ran a story on a Mt. Airy-based group looking to lead a citywide effort in lifting the ban on backyard chickens.

At the time, the group had teamed up with Weavers Way Co-op and was looking for ways to raise awareness on the issues and amend the city law that defines chickens as backyard animals.

What Happened Next: Since the story ran, Philadelphia Backyard Chickens has joined the community gardens advocacy coalition Healthy Foods, Green Spaces. Through their partnership with HFGS, the group has been working on an Environmental Protection Agency initiative that would use food scraps from landfills to feed chickens. The initiative is set to begin in Jan. 2014.

There is one catch, however: “Sadly, since chickens are still illegal in Philadelphia, only our few non-Philadelphia members will be able to participate in this program at this time,” said Maureen Breen, who heads up Philadelphia Backyard Chickens. (NR)

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