This is the second in a two-part series about quality of life issues in Tacony and Holmesburg, and the neighborhoods’ approach to growing stronger together. You can read the first part here.
Short dumping is a problem all over Philadelphia, and in some Northeast neighborhoods, the issue is weighing down the community.
Short dumping is the illegal act of disposing trash and debris on a street or vacant lot. Industrial areas -- like those along Torresdale Avenue and State Road in Holmesburg and Tacony -- tend to be dark at night, which allows for people to come and dump their trash and other items in this area.
The railroad tracks at James Street and Bleigh Avenue is a particular hotspot for short dumping. There, you'll see trash and other debris, as well as abandoned tires.
ConRail, which owns the tracks, says the issue is being looked into.
Steve Alper, owner of Alper Automotive at 7384 State Rd., said he wishes the area would get cleaned up. While he said he doesn’t think it affects customers coming in, he said he knows it doesn’t look appealing to customers and that the mess makes the community look worse.
Mike Rossetti, owner of Rossetti’s Auto Collision Service, shares the building with Alper. He declined to comment on the situation but said dumping in that area is nothing new and has been a problem for years.
Nick Grigoras, president of World Auto Service at 4763 Rhawn St., has his shop right along the train tracks and has had a problem with short dumping as well. Grigoras was warned by the city a few months ago because someone went and dumped close to 700 tires on his property over night.
“It cost money to clean it up,” Grigoras said. “It looks bad for the neighborhood and it looks bad for my business.”
Since the tires were on his property, Grigoras had to pay to have them removed. He is currently working with an architect to build a wall so no one can dump anything on his property again.
“I had no fence,” Grigoras said. “It took me a long time to clean it up. Now I have to spend money to get a wall so people can’t get in.”
Who should clean it up?
A representative from the office of congressman Bob Brady, D-1, met with ConRail recently to get the area cleaned up. Another meeting is scheduled for mid-May.
“Regarding additional trash at the site, ConRail said that it may have been dumped by a business located next to the site,” according to a statement from Brady’s office. “ConRail will investigate whether or not the business was rented from ConRail.”
John Enright, ConRail spokesperson, confirmed that ConRail is investigating to see whose property the tires are on. Enright said if it is ConRails property, then the company will clean up the site. ConRail is currently looking into finding the people responsible for the short dumping.
Rich Frizell, president of the Holmesburg Civic Association, said he is aware of the problem at James Street and Bleigh Avenue. He said that he is talking to one of the businesses about a possible solution.
“If we get cameras up there, then maybe we can stop some of the dumping,” Frizell said.
Alper has cameras on his building, but said they can’t see the people doing it because it’s so dark back there at night.
“If there was a street light there it would help,” Alper said. “You’d be able to see them. We can see the car coming around and dumping the stuff, but we can’t see what kind of car it was because it’s dark. People might just see that it’s lit up and then they wouldn’t want to do it in the light.”
The Tacony CDC announced Tuesday the "SAFECAM" grant program will help qualified Torresdale Avenue business owners install security cameras that can be remotely accessed by the Philadelphia Police Department.
"Where there's short dumping, there's graffiti"
Besides short dumping, graffiti is also a growing problem in Holmesburg and Tacony. The same lack of light that contributes to the ease of short dumping also invites vandals.
Christina Nicoletti, vice president of the Tacony Town Watch, said she wants the graffiti problem to stop. Nicoletti works with the 15th District so they can control the graffiti problem in the area. The district was unable to comment on the issue because of the ongoing investigation.
Councilman Bobby Henon, D-6th, said short dumping and graffiti go hand in hand. He said he notices the graffiti problem is at its peak during the spring and summer months.
“It invites kids and people who think you’re already in a blighted neighborhood that’s already ruined so they graffiti,” Henon said. “It continues to be an issue. Where there’s short dumping, there’s graffiti.”
Many in the neighborhoods praise the Community Life Improvement Program for its Graffiti Abatement Team -- a free service that comes out and removes graffiti on public and private properties in the city. Thomas Conway, CLIP's deputy managing director, said graffiti can only be maintained.
“We will never be able to eliminate graffiti vandalism,” Conway said. “The best we can do is maintain it by removing it as soon as possible.”
Tacony ranks as one of the worst areas in the city in regards to graffiti issues, Conway said.
“Tacony has a bigger graffiti problem than Holmesburg,” Conway said. “We collect graffiti data by ZIP code and 19135 is in the top 10 graffiti removal ZIP codes in the city.”
Henon said that a solution to short dumping and graffiti will take a community effort. He said he wants people to call him or the police if they see any of these illegal activities occurring instead of taking actions into their own hands.
“Tacony needs some tender loving care,” Henon said. “There are some parts in this city and in this district that could use a little TLC.”
Steven Mitchell is a student reporting for Philadelphia Neighborhoods, the publication of Temple University's Multimedia Urban Reporting Lab.