Street violence, public drunkenness and zoning laws were all on the table at the Manayunk Neighborhood Council's meeting Wednesday evening, and the discussions at times became a little heated.
Truck driver John “Yo” Mallen was especially vocal during the meeting at the Venice Island Recreation Center about his concerns with what he perceives as the overall degeneration of the neighborhood. He urged residents to notify the police and apartment owners when they see vandalism or public drinking.
“People need to pick up their phones ... start calling,” he said. “This is our community. If you let it go, you’re going to have graffiti on your building.”
The main topic of discussion was a resident who said he was attacked by three younger adults a few months ago and left with two black eyes, bruised ribs, a broken cheekbone and a broken nose.
There is an arrest warrant out for one of the suspects, and council President Kevin Smith suggested bringing the issue up at a yet-to-be-scheduled meeting with Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey.
The main purpose of this meeting would be to discuss safety concerns during the upcoming bike race, but Smith thinks approaching the commissioner directly about the attack could be effective.
Darlene Messina tied these concerns together by introducing the rough draft of a proposed brochure that she hopes will be circulated to residents in early April. Created by the council and the Manayunk Development Corp., it gives a brief run-through of the neighborhood’s policies on crime, noise, partying, parking, trash and recycling.
“It’s a friendly way to talk about how we all have to be involved and respect each other in terms of making this neighborhood more safe and livable,” Messina said.
The council also heard details from attorney Bill O’Brien on behalf of David Branigan, who wants to bring his Baker Street property up to safety codes as a three-unit, five-bedroom apartment building.
Some residents expressed concern with this, arguing that another five-bedroom rental property would just result in more congested parking on the block, and more raucous twentysomethings.
Given the neighborhood’s density, Council Trustee Hilary Langer wants the number of bedrooms reduced to three, with one in each unit, he said.
But Branigan said his building, which is 2,700 square feet, is spacious enough to be divided in his proposed layout, and could even be rented to a family.
“Anyone in here would live in any one of those bedrooms,” he said. “It’s huge.”
O’Brien set up a petition after the discussion for council members who support Branigan’s proposal, and the issue is expected to be revisited at the group's next meeting.
Two long-awaited ventures–the Manayunk Towpath restoration and the recreation center underground watertank project–are in the works for this year, Smith said. The towpath restoration will involve bridge repair and laying down new gravel, and will probably leave segments of the path closed off at various times.
Smith ended the meeting with a viewing of a 10-minute video made by the council that illustrates the history and future of the Manayunk Canal. The video was an entry in the Scribe Video Center's "Precious Places" project.