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2013: The Year in Review


An artist’s rendering of the Wynn Resorts plan for the casino and green space along the Delaware River in Fishtown. Wynn withdrew his application for the city’s second casino license this year. FILE PHOTO

Wynn withdraws casino plans

After a big push to get River Wards community groups and local residents on board with his plans for a casino in Fishtown on the Delaware River, Vegas casino magnate Steve Wynn withdrew his application from consideration by the Gaming Board on Nov. 11.

Wynn was one of six applicants for the city’s second casino license. Wynn Resorts stated it was pursuing business opportunities elsewhere.

The casino proposal had the potential to activate unused waterfront space on the Delaware River, and had received the support of the FNA, ORCA, NKCDC and PROPAC.

With the application’s proposed green space along the river, the casino’s potential for job creation, and the possibility of a community benefits agreement similar to that of SugarHouse Casino’s Penn Treaty Special Services District, Wynn’s withdrawal was seen as a letdown by some.

Said City Councilman Mark Squilla (D-1st dist.), “I looked at it as an opportunity for that area as well as the surrounding community. It’s a little disappointing.” ••

The loss of a legend in Council

Philadelphia City Councilwoman Joan Krajewski was a Port Richmond native and aggressive supporter of what she believed was best for Northeast Philadelphia neighborhoods.

She died at age 79 on Aug. 29 after a long battle with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

After winning her Council seat in 1979, she was easily re-elected seven times after her initial victory.

Krajewski often took meetings and spent a lot of time at the Aramingo Diner in Port Richmond.

Said her successor in Council, Bobby Henon (D-6th dist.): “She taught me to keep a sense of humor about this job.” ••

Opening the river to locals

For too long, the River Wards of Port Richmond and Bridesburg weren’t really living up to their name very much at all — there’s no real access to the Delaware River, and without development along it, there never really will be.

That’s why 2,500-mile East Coast Greenway project is so critical. The project will one day stretch from Florida to Maine, and 750 miles of it will be a “greenway” of trails along the river through the state.

On Tuesday, Oct. 29, Port Richmond saw a valuable bit of that greenway open up in its backyard, as officials cut the ribbon on a 1.6-mile train of the greenway, along with students from Our Lady of Port Richmond school.

Mayor Michael Nutter joined them in celebration.

Nutter said at the ceremony: “This trail will offer residents a space for walks and bike rides, just minutes away from the neighborhood.” Bridesburg Trail construsction is slated to begin in the spring of 2014. ••

A halfway house in the neighborhood?

In June, the Kintock Group, which specializes in re-entry facilities for parolees, announced its intention to move its corporate headquarters offices to an isolated industrial site in the northwest corner of Port Richmond, at 2121 Wheatsheaf Lane.

The site was not planned for use as a halfway house at that time, but Kintock’s chief executive Daniel Faulkner said it could be. Though the site was distant from most residential areas, residents expressed great concern.

State Rep. John Taylor (R-177th dist.) in August wrote a letter to the Kintock Group which read, “I cannot support your proposal at this time and cannot express said approval from my constituents.”

At this time, there is still no plan for a re-entry facility at that location. ••

Three River Wards schools close down for good

On March 7, the School Reform Commission voted closed three River Wards schools as part of the largest mass public school closure in the city’s history. Charles Carroll High School, 2700 E. Auburn St., Douglas High School, 2700 E. Huntingdon St., and Sheridan West Academy, 3701 Frankford Ave., closed in June after the unanimous vote.

Before the schools were announced closed, about 75 students from Carroll protested the potential closing.

The school did close, however, along with the others, which created great student increases at other River Wards schools — Penn Treaty Middle School in Fishtown expanded to include grades 3 through 9 in September, and also took in students from Sheridan West, Carroll and Douglass. Students in grades 5 and 6 from Hackett Elementary School in Fishtown also transferred to Penn Treaty Middle School. ••

Port Richmond’s fight for senior housing

Most residents in Port Richmond seem to know the story of the former Nativity B.V.M. School — the school closed in 2008, and has fallen into disrepair ever since.

It had been broken into seven times between 2009 and January of this year. In October 2009, Catholic Health Care Services of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia won $11 million, plus overwhelming community support, for converting the building into housing for seniors.

It also won support from the Zoning Board, the state Court of Common Pleas, and the City Planning Commission. Then, an appellant, neighborhood resident Gloria Marshall — represented by her son, Jon Marshall, in court proceedings — appealed to the ZBA. The case was tied up in court ever since.

That is, until Port Richmond stepped up — a petition for the senior housing saw 923 signatures, neighbors wrote letters to the state Supreme Court urging it to hear the case, locals held rallies with the support of local politicians who supported the project, like John Taylor, Bobby Henon and Mark Squilla.

The neighborhood activism worked — In August, CHCS was informed that the state Supreme Court accepted the petition to hear the case. Currently, CHCS awaits the Court’s decision or the need for oral argument in the spring. ••

The River Wards rally around fire victims

In the early morning hours of July 21, a fire gutted five homes on the 2800 block of Memphis Street, displacing several families.

In response, the River Wards rallied around the victims of the fire. In Port Richmond, churches, schools and the office of State Rep. John Taylor all served as drop-off points for donations for victims. Fishtown’s liberty church east and Anthony’s Café collected, as well, along with the L.O.V.E. Social Club, which raised more than $1,300.

All told, fundraisers for victims totaled more than $4,000, plus a roomful of donated goods for the displaced families.

Nicole Frazier, who lived on the block with her teenage son and daughter, said of the fundrasing: “Until this, I didn’t realize I had so many people in the area who are concerned and care about other people,” she told Star by phone on July 26. ••

City Councilwoman and Port Richmond native Joan Krajewski, died on Aug. 29. FILE PHOTO

Mayor Nutter celebrates the opening of the Port Richmond trail with students from Our Lady of Port Richmond. FILE PHOTO

The building that could become The Kintock Group’s headquarters in Port Richmond on Wheatsheaf Lane, which could then become a halfway house for parolees. FILE PHOTO

Students from the now-closed Charles Carroll High School in Port Richmond rally in support of keeping their school opened, before it closed in the fall. FILE PHOTO

State Rep. John Taylor addresses the crowd at a Port Richmond rally in support of converting the vacant Nativity B.V.M. School into senior housing. FILE PHOTO

Nicole Frazier, one of the victims of the fire that burnt through five houses on Memphis Street, looks up at her ruined home. The community collected thousands in donations and items for the fire victims this year. FILE PHOTO

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