Alright. This is a long one. Just trying to draw some attention to what might be the most obnoxious use of power I've witnessed in my time in Philadelphia, at least in Northern Liberties.
Councilman DiCicco drafted an ordinance to strike Bodine St (between Spring Garden and Green Streets) from the city plan. The intended use of the street? To allow Finnegan's Wake to build a 3 story outdoor/balcony structure over what is now little Bodine Street. DiCicco intended to introduce this bill to council without neighborhood input, but luckily, somebody from the neighborhood saw it on the agenda and intervened to get the parties involved, and DiCicco held the ordinance, for now.
So, here's are the facts of the situation.
1. The Democratic City Committee, lead by the esteemed Congressman Bob Brady, purchased the lot just east of Finnegan's Wake (I believe 219-227 Spring Garden Street) in recent months to construct the new headquarters for the DCC, which used to be on Walnut Street. Construction is by-right and the proposed building is already under construction. I might add, that plans for the project were presented tonight (the new DCC building) and they look quite nice. It is important to know, that during the presentation on this manner, there was a plot of land on the west side of the DCC building which was rendered as open space. Again, there was nothing presented for approval for the neighborhood, as everything is by-right. It was more of a information-only presentation.
2. The subsequent presentation was by Finnegan's, speaking to their ambitions to have not only Bodine Street stricken from the city plan, per DiCicco's ordinance, but to also close off the street and to construct a 3 story outdoor structure which will be directly accessible from the interior of the building. The presenters were the owners of Finnegan's Wake, Mike Driscoll and one other individual whose name escape's me, but it was communicated that they both own Finnegan's. There would be no amplified music, but patrons would be free to come and go from all levels of the deck, even though it was claimed that the top two levels would be primarily used by private parties in banquet rooms upstairs.
3. The argument presented by the proprietors who want to strike the street were: 1. It removes an ugly, unsightly dumpster from the street, and 2. It's not really a street, it's an alley, and an ugly one at that.
4. In all of my time in Northern Liberties, this street has been blocked off by Finnegan's dumpster, which has evaded citation, not coincidentally, from L&I and other city agencies. Some in the audience corroborate that the dumpster has been there at least 10 years, others even longer. It has been there for all of my time in Northern Liberties, which is about 7 years. The dumpster has been a perennial issue for the neighborhood, and complaints about it to aforesaid agencies and council people have been summarily ignored.
5. During the presentation, the neighbors expressed concern that with the proposed structure, the dumpster would be relocated further to the rear of the street, closer to private homes on Green, Bodine, and American Streets. Mr Driscoll and his partner, at this point, expressed that there would be no dumpster, because they would be keeping the bulk of their refuse internal to the building using new "european" systems to condense the waste. Only small receptacles would be on the property. It should be noted that in past discussions, the dumpster was presented as the only option for storing refuse.
6. Part of the proposed Finnegan's structure is to be built over not only the stricken street, but also a portion of the land on the new DCC headquarters, much of it rendered as "open space" in the aforementioned presentation, which the architect and others in the room asserted was separate from the Finnegan's project.
7. DiCicco is a lame duck Council person.
8. It is well known that Finnegan's is in bed with the DCC. It's a regular location for functions of all manners of union and public employee functions, and I am assuming that the proprietors donate freely to all of the individuals involved (Brady, DiCicco, etc), though I have not confirmed this myself.
Needless to say, this went over like a well, brick. A really big friggin brick. But, what to do from here?
Aside from the obvious QOL issues (NOBODY wants to live near a 3 level outdoor space filled with drunken patrons)...questions about which were addressed by the presenters by saying that noise wouldn't be an issue. Yes, that was the answer. Voices don't project like other things...cars, etc. And Spring Garden is "loud" (it is not)...this is also clearly the machine at work. It's a damned if you do damned if you don't situation.
I'm not going to discuss the actual decision of the neighborhood, because it hasn't yet been communicated to the parties involved, but I think it's pretty clear that the decision of the neighborhood will have no bearing on this project. How can this happen? I want a street. I know Bob Brady, so I get the street? And my justification for being able to just have the street is that because I've made it unsightly for 10+ years by illegally putting a dumpster there and using it as my trash heap, while being totally immune to the laws that the rest of us must follow, to render it an un-useable street?
The only alternative is to air this very dirty laundry in the press, but I'm not sure who the best individuals are to contact at each outfit. Further, what are the best outfits? I'm hoping that somebody will pick the story up here. I really really wish there was some press there tonight. It was a real ****-show, and it wouldn't be difficult to dig up the background on this at all.