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Murder trial of handyman accused of rape and murder of Drexel grad student begins

Posted on 28 March 2017

             Jasmine Wright was 27.

The trial of a handyman accused of the July 2015 rape and murder of 27-year-old Jasmine Wright, a Drexel graduate student, at her apartment near 50th and Locust Streets, got underway on Monday.

James Harris, 56, had worked in the building where Wright lived, but had been fired a week earlier, according to reports. He still had keys to the building when Wright was murdered. Police said his DNA and fingerprints were found at the scene.

Harris, also known as “Jimmy Camp,” had dozens of prior arrests, according to court records.

Harris is being tried in a non-jury trial, which continued today. The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that Harris waived a jury trial in exchange for the District Attorney’s office promise not to pursue the death penalty. If found guilty, Harris will face life without parole.

The trial is being held in courtroom 607 at the Juanita Kidd Stout Center for Criminal Justice at 13th and Filbert.

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Victims held at gunpoint during home invasion, robbery near 48th and Baltimore

Posted on 28 March 2017

Police are investigating a home invasion and gunpoint robbery that took place early Friday morning on the 800 block of South 48th Street.

An 18-year-old male, reportedly a homestay student, was entering the residence at approximately 2:30 a.m. when he was approached from behind by three unknown young males. One of them pointed a gun at him, and then the men forced their way into the property, according to police.

Once inside, the men put the 18-year-old and two other people – reportedly the property owners – on the floor and robbed them. They took the 18-year-old victim’s wallet, cash, a debit card and cell phone. They also made the property owners open a safe, located on the second floor, and took $1,500 from it, according to a police report.  Continue Reading

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Become a Bartram’s Garden Boathouse volunteer and enjoy free boating

Posted on 27 March 2017

Photo courtesy of Bartram’s Garden.

Here’s a great and unique volunteer opportunity this spring and summer in Southwest Philadelphia. The Bartram’s Garden Community Boathouse has few dozen open volunteer spots for its upcoming season. In exchange for helping run free boating programs, volunteers have access to the fleet of kayaks, canoes and rowboats on the lower Schuylkill River.

The boating season at Bartram’s begins on April 22 and ends on October 29, 2017. Volunteers are needed to help with the following programs: Saturday Free Walk-Up Boating, Tuesday Sunset Kayaking, weekday rowboating trips, monthly kayak tours, and more, as well as during special events at Bartram’s Garden, such as Tidal Schuylkill Boat Parade, the Philadelphia Honey Festival, Harvest Fest, and the Southwest Philadelphia Fishing Derby.  Continue Reading

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Two sought in murder of West Philly community organizer Winnie Harris

Posted on 24 March 2017

Police are asking for the public’s assistance in identifying two “persons of interest” wanted for questioning in connection with last month’s murder of longtime Powelton resident, community activist and green space advocate Winnie Harris, 65. Police have also released a video that shows the two people walking near Harris’ house (one of them appears to be holding a gun):

Harris, Executive Director of UC Green, was found shot to death inside her house on the 300 block of North Holly Street in West Powelton on February 3. According to a more recent police report, she had multiple gunshot wounds (initially it was reported that she was shot once in the abdomen). Harris was found in a second-floor bedroom. She lived alone in her house.

No arrests have been made.  Continue Reading

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From West Philly to West Africa: Dance workshop with choreographer Anssumane Sillá this Saturday

Posted on 24 March 2017

Dancer and choreographer Anssumane Sillá was born and raised in Guinea Bissau and moved to Philadelphia in 2008.

A distinguished African-born dancer, drummer and choreographer, Anssumane Sillá, will offer a West African dance workshop this Saturday (March 25) at The Children’s Community School (1212 S. 47th St).

Sillá, a Guinea Bissau native, began performing at the age of 11 and danced professionally with the National Ballet of Guinea Bissau for almost 20 years. He moved to Philadelphia in 2008 and since then has toured the U.S. with the Voices of Africa Drum Ensemble, choreographed for the Kùlú Mèlé African Dance Ensemble, and taught numerous workshops and classes on both traditional West African and contemporary dance styles.  Continue Reading

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West Philly Porchfest to return for second year; Host porch registration is now open

Posted on 23 March 2017

Photo by Sasha Aleiner

Last year, West Philly witnessed its very first Porchfest, a concept that was introduced into the neighborhood by musicians Owen Lyman-Schmidt and Ross Hoffman (Liana Moskowitz, Abram Taber and Bobby Szafranski also helped organize last year’s festival). This year, Lyman-Schmidt and Hoffman are joined by new organizers and West Philly Porchfest (WPPF) is back for year two. Host registration is also now open for interested parties.

New organizers include Carmen Greenwood, Morgan Melissa Robinson, and Ciara Chaly.

“I think it was a really wonderful sort of proof of concept that we could bring this to West Philly and it was embraced so quickly within the first year. I wouldn’t want to say that we were surprised at the turnout, but it was certainly validating to have seen it somewhere else and think this could work in our community and then have folks agree with us,” said co-organizer Lyman-Schmidt.  Continue Reading

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Support Saint Mary’s Nursery School at Annual Fundraiser on Saturday, April 22 (Sponsored)

Posted on 22 March 2017

Do you want to support early childhood education and have a fun evening while you’re at it? Would you vie for a luxurious dinner & night at a Society Hill hotel? How about a party package to University Family Fun Center or action packed sessions for you or your kids at HFS Parkour? These are just a few of the exciting auction items featured at the 13th annual Saint Mary’s Nursery School (SMNS) annual fundraiser:

Spring For Our School Silent Auction & Party
Saturday, April 22 6:00 pm to 10:00 pm
Harnwell College House Rooftop Lounge
3820 Locust Walk
Tickets $45 (adults only) at: www.stmarysnursery.org

Special Attractions

Shakespeare in Clark Park’s Kittson O’Neill will host the event. DJ Duiji 13 will not only provide ambience, but a dance party after the auction. Philly Homebrew West will offer beer tasting with a backdrop of breathtaking panoramic views from this rooftop lounge. Chef’s Table catering will leave you satisfied.  Continue Reading

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A family-friendly, pop-up beer garden on a decrepit West Philly block?

Posted on 22 March 2017

Longtime West Philly resident Jeff Lutzner pitches “Pentridge Station,” a playground/park/beer garden proposed for a vacant lot on the 5100 block of Pentridge Street (Photo by West Philly Local).

A longtime West Philly resident is gambling that people will want to travel down a troubled street that is lined with abandoned cars, empty buildings and a quasi-legal automotive shop that sometimes hosts raucous outdoor parties during which shots have been fired to visit his kid-friendly, pop-up beer garden.

It sounds risky, but several people who attended last night’s Cedar Park Neighbors zoning committee meeting to discuss the proposed seasonal beer garden in an abandoned lot on the 5100 block of Pentridge Street said they will support it. Jeff Lutzner, a longtime resident and block captain on the 4900 block of Cedar Avenue, owns the lot and hopes that the beer garden/playground might bring some much-needed attention to the block.

“We really want it to be a place where families could convene,” Lutzner told the 30 or so people gathered at the meeting.  Continue Reading

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Artists sought for public projects in Powelton; presentation next Thursday

Posted on 21 March 2017

Lola38, a creative placemaking project in West Philadelphia, is seeking artists to design and create art installations at the former United Bank building and the fence around the site of the demolished University City High School in an effort to beautify neighborhoods surrounding Lower Lancaster Avenue.

On March 30, these artists will pitch their ideas to neighbors, some of which are fellow artists and curators themselves. The five-minute-presentations, which will begin at 6 p.m. at the former bank (3750 Lancaster Ave) will be done in the style of PechaKucha, a Japanese method in which 20 slides are displayed for 20 seconds each. In addition to arguing why their work should be chosen, artists are also encouraged to respond to one of the following three questions: “How does progress feel?“, “Which walls are invisible?“, and “Is there a good rate of change?”  Continue Reading

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Spring gobbler shows up at The Woodlands

Posted on 21 March 2017

It’s not that unusual to see wild turkeys in our area, with several sightings over the last few years. Most of them hang out at Bartram’s Garden, but some venture out into West Philly neighborhoods from time to time. One was spotted today at The Woodlands Cemetery at 40th and Woodland. Check out their video in the tweet below:

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Detective Joe Murray is moving on from West Philly; we caught up with him briefly

Posted on 21 March 2017

From Detective Joe Murray’s Twitter feed – @PPDJoeMurray.

 

Detective Joe Murray, the social media savvy cop who entertained and informed followers with pithy tweets about everything from police policy to top-shelf donuts and Wrestlemania, is moving on after 11 years in West and Southwest Philly.

He announced in a March 7 tweet (natch) that he had been transferred to the PPD’s Homicide Division, a much-deserved promotion. Murray won the Richardson Dilworth Award for Innovation and Government in 2015 and didn’t shy away from calling out the highest levels of the PPD. His story made it to NPR in 2012 after the PPD’s top brass figured all his tweeting was a good idea. They did make him professionalize his Twitter handle, though, so he gave up his trademark moniker “The Fuzz” to the more official “@PPDJoeMurray.”

We recently asked Murray a few questions about his time on the West side.  Continue Reading

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Curry Bird brings dumplings and bubble tea to 46th and Woodland

Posted on 20 March 2017

After working as a server in Philadelphia for many years, Guo ‘Sunni’ Tang was done. “As a server, you work 12 hours a day and don’t make much money,” she explained. “I want to make more money to improve life for my parents.”

Driven by a goal of supporting her aging parents and the desire to provide a wider selection of food for the University of the Sciences student population and the area surrounding it, Tang decided to open a dumpling and bubble tea spot. Curry Bird, a new Cantonese and Thai takeout restaurant, is at 4604 Woodland Ave. (where New China Gourmet used to be), adjacent to Noah’s Pizza.

The shop had its soft opening on Saturday, where chicken curry and veggie dumplings samples were given away to neighbors at no charge. News spread via word of mouth.

The interior has been completely redesigned with wooden panels and wooden floors. Another thing you’ll notice is that there are no servers, but just a takeout restaurant with minimal seating.  Continue Reading

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Pop-up Beer Garden proposed on 5100 block of Pentridge St.; Community meeting on Tuesday

Posted on 17 March 2017

Cedar Park residents and all interested individuals are invited to a community meeting on Tuesday, March 21 to hear a proposal of a pop-up (temporary) beer garden on the 5100 block of Pentridge Street. The meeting is organized by Cedar Park Neighbors.

The beer garden is being proposed at 5112-5120 Pentridge St. (see map), the area that currently includes a few empty lots. A search of the BRT database revealed the owner of the property as Fatty Tuna LLC. The meeting is an opportunity to meet with the owner, see the plans of what they would like to do and voice your opinion on this issue.

The meeting will be held at the Calvary Center (4740 Baltimore Ave.), beginning at 7:30 p.m.

Those who would like to comment but cannot attend the meeting are welcome to send their comments to CPN: zoning@cedarparkneighbors.org.

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SEPTA proposes fare increases; public hearings next month

Posted on 17 March 2017

SEPTA is proposing price increases on pretty much everything except transfers. Cash fares will go from $2.25 to $2.50 and discounted fares (with a token or Key card) will increase to $2 from $1.80. If approved the new fares would take effect on July 1, 2017.

This increase was supposed to be proposed last year as part of the plan to raise fares every three years, but was postponed for the rollout of the new SEPTA Key program.

Here are the changes in other SEPTA products:

• Weekly TransPass increases $1.50 to $25.50
• Monthly TransPasses increase from $90 to $96
• Disabled fare increases 25 cents to $1.25
• A Convenience Pass goes up a buck to $9 as do Independence Passes, which go from $12 to $13 for an individual and $20 to $30 for a family.

SEPTA will hold public hearings on its proposed 2018 budget (including the proposed fare increases) in April. The one in Philadelphia (others are in Bucks, Delaware, Montgomery and Chester Counties) is scheduled for Monday, April 24 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at SEPTA headquarters, 1234 Market St. Comments can be e-mailed to operatingbudget@septa.org

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Philadelphia Parks & Rec seeking young people for lifeguard positions this summer

Posted on 17 March 2017

Philadelphia Parks and Recreation (PPR) has begun its competitive lifeguard recruitment process for the summer. PPR hires 400 lifeguards annually to staff its 70 outdoor and four indoor pools (read our earlier post here).

This is a great summer job for young people because it pays between $12.33 and $14.60 an hour and most people are able to work in their own neighborhood. PPR staff can even assist interested candidates that may not be the strong swimmers, if they start the process early.

The first step for interested candidates is to attend a screening at one of PPR’s three indoor training facilities during the following screening days and times from now until June:  Continue Reading

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Philadelphia energy company offers a cleaner way (Sponsored)

Posted on 16 March 2017

The Power Smoothie from Inspire on Vimeo.

It’s time you changed the power status quo

Do you think about where your power is coming from when you flip a switch? While the source of power going to your neighborhood may be far away, its effects hit very close to home. Unless you generate it yourself, your home uses the power supplied through a municipal grid. It gets energy from a variety of sources, both clean and dirty. In Pennsylvania, the grid is dirty since its main source of energy is comprised of coal.

Guess what? It doesn’t have to be that way. You have the power to switch up the source of power in the grid, simply by paying your monthly electricity bill.  Continue Reading

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Armed suspect sought in two West Philly food truck robberies

Posted on 16 March 2017

                                       Click to enlarge.

The Philadelphia Police Department has released surveillance video and is asking for the public’s assistance in identifying an armed suspect who they believe robbed two food trucks in the area on Monday.

The first robbery took place at approximately 6:30 p.m. when an unknown male entered the Halal food truck parked near the corner of 45th and Walnut Streets, armed with a black handgun, and demanded money. He took $500 and fled north on 45th Street toward Sansom. Surveillance video shows the suspect getting out of the passenger side and then getting back into a black sedan parked near the corner of 45th and Sansom.  Continue Reading

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DA candidates in West Philly for forum on Thursday

Posted on 15 March 2017

The seven candidates running for District Attorney are scheduled to attend a forum in West Parkside on Thursday (March 16) from 9-11 a.m.

Candidates Teresa Carr Deni, Tariq El-Shabazz, Beth Grossman, Joe Khan, Lawrence Krasner, Rich Negrin, and Michael Untermeyer will discuss issues ranging from mass incarceration to police oversight at the Philadelphia Business and Technology Center (5070 Parkside Ave). The Business Association of West Parkside is sponsoring the forum.

Craig Ey, Editor-in-Chief of the Philadelphia Business Journal, will moderate the forum. This will be the first official event with all seven candidates present. Attendees will also have the chance to ask specific questions.  Continue Reading

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Landscaper job training, employment opportunity for West Philly residents

Posted on 14 March 2017

University City District’s West Philadelphia Skills Initiative (WPSI) continues offering job training and employment opportunities to West Philly residents. Now through March 24, WPSI is recruiting for a training program with Green City Works, University City District’s in-house landscaping operation.

WPSI is seeking applicants who possess a high school diploma or GED, are currently unemployed, and live in the West Philadelphia zip codes of 19104, 19131, 19139, 19143, or 19151. WPSI is seeking applicants with a track record of excellence in landscaping or related fields.

In addition to learning the skills needed to successfully connect to employment, program graduates are guaranteed an interview with the employer and receive a performance-based stipend during the training.

Interested applicants can visit www.westphiladelphiaskill.org to learn more about the program and submit an application, available under “Opportunities for Job Seekers.” Applications are also available here. Paper applications are available at First District Plaza, Suite 206 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. The application deadline is March 24 at 5 p.m.

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