New pet waste stations installed on 44th, 45th streets

Posted on 30 June 2014 by


New pet waste station on 45th St.

Dog owners who live around S 44th/45th and Pine/Spruce streets have something to be happy about. The area that lacks regular trash cans, now has two brand new pet waste stations on 44th and 45th streets between Spruce and Pine, next to the apartment buildings owned by Campus Apartments.

There was a pet waste basket on 45th Street before but it broke and was removed a few months ago. Earlier this month, we reached out to Campus Apartments to let them know about the basket, that it was broken and asked if they were responsible. We didn’t hear back, but a couple of weeks ago two new pet waste stations were installed near Campus Apartment buildings. That’s a great response! We even noticed bags in the pet waste dispenser.

Wouldn’t it be great to have more such stations installed around the neighborhoods? As part of our research for the recent trash can story, we learned that trash receptacles are a joint responsibility among community organizations, block captains, and the city. So why don’t pet waste baskets and bags fall under their responsibility as well? It would be very helpful to local dog owners and help keep our streets and sidewalks cleaner (we’re talking about responsible dog owners, of course, since there are those who don’t pick up after their dogs).

As for the pet waste stations themselves, they’re supplied by Great American Property Management Products and cost as low as $99 for the starter and $299 for the deluxe.


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Burglaries a big concern in University City; crime prevention event this Friday

Posted on 17 April 2014 by


Map courtesy of UCD (click to enlarge).

Unfortunately, the number of burglaries in the University City area continues to grow, according to the latest monthly crime update distributed by University City District. Over 30 burglaries were committed in March, which is twice as many as in February and, by far, the largest number of burglaries in the past year. UCD is asking residents to be vigilant and use extra caution (for tips on how to prevent a burglary at your residence, click here).

A number of these burglary incidents seem to have been related to a recent arrest, according to UCD. We’re trying to get more information about that.

Overall, 64 serious crimes were committed within the University City District boundaries last month (see map).

As burglaries remain a concern in the area, the 18th District Police Department is inviting residents to a crime prevention event this Friday (April 18), where the discussion will focus specifically on burglaries. The event will take place from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. at the Rite Aid parking lot located at 57th and Chestnut Streets.

The event will also spread awareness and encourage participation in the following programs designed to combat property-related crimes: Operation I.D., B.O.N.D. (Business Owner Notification Decal), S.A.V.E. (Stolen Auto Verification Effort), and VIN Etching (Vehicle Identification Number Engraving). If you are unable to attend tomorrow’s event, please contact for additional information on these programs. Some more details are also available here.

There’s also a monthly community meeting with police tonight, at 6 pm at Calvary Center (48th & Baltimore). As usual, Lt. Brian McBride and Sgt. Ron Washington of the University City Division of the 18th Police District will hear your concerns and discuss current crime and neighborhood issues. Such meetings happen every third Thursday of the month and all community members are welcome.


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What a great neighbor!

Posted on 15 February 2014 by

richguffantiMany Spruce Hill residents know Richard Guffanti, a retired teacher and community organizer who lives near 45th and Spruce. Richard is always ready to help his neighbors with various problems and is also keeping an eye on his block.

This thank you note and photo came from our reader Veronica:

“This is Rich Guffanti, shoveling the pedestrian walkway on 45th and Spruce – an area he isn’t even responsible for as a homeowner! He was just doing it so that people can get through safely. I was catching the bus on 45th and Spruce and saw him being a great neighbor. Thank you, Rich.”


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‘Them That Do’ Profiles of West Philly block captains: Leonia Johnson, 200 South Millick Street

Posted on 05 February 2014 by

This is the next in the series of vignettes of local block captains drawn from Them That Do, a multimedia documentary project and community blog by West Philly-based award-winning photographer Lori Waselchuk. Make sure to go to Them That Do for more photos, videos and other information and updates.

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Leonia Johnson, 200 S. Millick Street

Leonia Johnson is a young block captain on the 200 block of S. Millick Street in West Philadelphia. Photo by Lori Waselchuk


Last March, Leonia Johnson stood up at the Cobbs Creek Block Captain Association’s monthly meeting to speak about the murder of her neighbor and friend, Gregory “Chop” Scott, two weeks earlier. Scott had been shot seven times, at point blank, in front of his home on South Millick Street. When Johnson described cleaning the bloody crime scene after the police finished their work, the meeting room filled with moans. Her listeners, too, knew such pain.

“Chop was old school,” she said. Perhaps she wanted her audience to know that for her, age meant wisdom and experience. She was the youngest member of the association by decades.

Johnson described how Scott helped her keep the block safe. “If he saw young people selling drugs, Chop would ask them to move on and they would. They might not have liked what he was saying, but they respected him.”

Her message was both a memorial and a call for unity. She said that the people who lived on the 200 block of S. Millick had “prayed together and declared as a block that this will not make us weaker.”

She knew that several members of the association also had experienced violent crime on their watch. So she said: “I say all this to you so that you do not give up your hope… and so that you do not become complacent.”

Johnson’s block has a history of unity, not violence. “We are like a family,” she told me during a recent interview. Then, after thinking about her words, she smiled to herself and added, “And we can be quite dysfunctional at times.”

Block captains have been a steady influence on S. Millick. “We’ve never not had one,” said Johnson.

“When I was young, my mother was block captain. I watched the respect my mother got.” Johnson was a junior block captain, too. “I thought it was the coolest thing in the world to have a title,” she recalled.

After she graduated from college, Johnson got a job as a youth counselor at the Philadelphia Anti-Drug/Anti-Violence Network, then moved into her mother’s home. Johnson, who now is 34, became the block captain eight years ago, after the previous captain moved away.

Being a young block captain has its advantages and disadvantages. One advantage is Johnson’s ability to relate to youth. She once interrupted a dice game on a porch and a boy came up to her afterward to complain that he lost money because of her. “I told him ‘Well, you owe me thirty thousand dollars!’ and when he said ‘What?’ I said, ‘When I see ya’ll gambling, all I think about is how my property value is dropping thirty thousand!’”

Johnson understands why there are so few young block captains. “Very few 30-40 year-olds do community service,” she says. “They are trying to establish themselves and they don’t think about the next generation.”

She had her own doubts too, she said. “I wondered how I’d be able to be effective and still have a life.”

Johnson is concerned that the block captains with whom she works are getting old and there are no volunteers to take over. If the older block captains simply fade away, “we won’t benefit from their knowledge,” she worries.

Johnson has built friendships with the elder block captains and feels responsibility to assist them when she can. It’s a lot to take on. “Somebody needs to help me bridge the gap!”

Lori Waselchuk

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‘Them That Do’ Profiles of West Philly block captains: Freda Egnal, 4800 Osage Avenue

Posted on 29 January 2014 by

Editor’s Note: This is the latest in the series of vignettes of local block captains drawn from Them That Do, a multimedia documentary project and community blog by West Philly-based award-winning photographer Lori Waselchuk. Make sure to go to Them That Do for more photos, videos and other information and updates.

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Freda Egnal, block captain for 43 years on the 4800 block of Osage Avenue.

Freda Egnal, block captain for 43 years on the 4800 block of Osage Avenue. (Photo by Lori Waselchuk)

“Stop Bitching, Start A Revolution,” reads the Zendik Farm bumper sticker on the Prius parallel-parked between handicap parking signs. The sign poles are decorated with beads, fabric, earrings and ribbons. This is Freda Egnal’s spot.

Egnal is a funky lady. She dyes flashes of blue, green, yellow and purple into her white hair to match the rainbow rims of her glasses. She covers the walls of her front-porch office with posters and buttons shouting slogans like HOUSES NOT HIGHWAYS (1970’s) or REFORM HEALTHCARE NOW! (2000’s) – most are from community campaigns and projects that she has worked on.

When I met Egnal a year ago, she had been a block captain for over 40 years. A few months ago she passed on that position to a young couple who volunteered. But she hasn’t been able to rewire her captain habits. “I still send out e-mails,” she says. The neighbors can’t break their familiar patterns either, Egnal says. “People still come to me with small problems and I try to help them.”

Egnal speaks proudly about her block. “We became organized in the 1970s and we made a big effort of looking out for each other.” She says never felt unsafe and remembers feeling “offended when Penn told their students that it wasn’t safe west of 40th Street.”

Her fondest memories from her block-captain days are the First Friday Block Club meetings, in which block business was mixed with socials. “We had a lot of neighbors make presentations about their own areas of expertise.” Egnal remembers. “And of course we would always eat.”

After graduating from the UPenn School of Social Work in the late ‘60s, Egnal moved into the home on Osage Street with her partner, Herbert Bickford, and worked for the city of Philadelphia as a community and labor organizer.

As a civil servant, Egnal was ‘hatched’ – the term used to describe the federal Hatch Act that forbids government employees to work in party politics. Now retired, Egnal is free to dedicate her time to a lifelong passion for politics. She represents her neighborhood division on the Democratic Party Committee. Egnal says it’s “the lowest rung on the party apparatus.”

But her humble rank in the Democratic Party doesn’t keep her from still believing in change. “I think capitalism clearly has failed. I still think we need a revolution.”

Lori Waselchuk

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Get help signing up for ObamaCare at local library branches (updated)

Posted on 28 January 2014 by WPL

According to latest statistics, 210,000 Philadelphians are without health insurance. This is where the recently introduced Affordable Care Act, or “ObamaCare,” comes in. If you’re considering this health care coverage but don’t know how to sign up or are confused about something along the process, here’s some help. The Free Library of Philadelphia is offering individuals and their families free appointments with Certified Application Counselors who will answer your questions and help you sign up for health care coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

Open enrollment for 2014 coverage ends on March 31, so if you need assistance in the application process please call ahead to one of these Free Library branches in West Philadelphia and schedule an appointment with a Certified Counselor:

Lucien E. Blackwell West Philadelphia Regional Library
125 S. 52nd St. | 215-685-7429

Charles L. Durham Branch
3320 Haverford Ave. | 215-685-7436

Walnut Street West Library (starting Monday, Feb. 3; make an appointment with Certified Application Counselor Tiffany Nardella)
201 S. 40th St. | 215-685-7671

Wynnefield Library
5325 Overbrook Ave. | 215-685-0298

In addition, the Tech Lab at the Parkway Central Library, 1901 Vine Street, will offer regular open hours from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., during which you can drop in for Affordable Care Act assistance without an appointment. Certified Application Counselors will be available on a first come, first served basis.

For more information, visit this page.

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