The Review

Saturday, October 17, 1998

Civic groups gear up for bitter battle over rental units

By Carole Boynton

To residents in a Manayunk neighborhood bounded by Fleming, Gay, Silverwood and Carson Sts., it's not a question of not wanting new neighbors, it's a question of how 67 plus tenants - and their cars - could possibly fit in a 2.3 acre lot - not to mention how they would get in and out of the complex every day given the block's narrow streets.

Developer Dan Neducsin has proposed a 67-unit apartment complex smack in the middle of the densely populated block, and rattled residents are gearing up for a bitter battle.

More than 75 area residents turned out for a Manayunk Neighborhood Council meeting last Wednesday evening at Venice Island to vehemently protest the proposed apartments.

The neighborhood that would be impacted by the new construction includes the 4400 block of Fleming and Silverwood Sts.,the 300 block of Gay St., the 200 block of Lyceum Ave., the 200 block of Green La., and the 300 block of Carson St. These streets surround the hilly, 2.3-acre parcel.

"I call the Neducsin Project,'' said MNC President Kathy Tomosky, who, by her own admission, may not be as polished as the yuppies who have called Manayunk their own, but she stands fast with other long-time "Yunkers'' whose battle cry has become -"Enough development!"

Tomosky loves Manayunk and will fight tooth and nail to block the proposed development.

"A Mr. Grassi owns the property and is ready to sell to Neducsin on the premise that it's (been) approved by the zoning board for the 67 units,'' Tomosky said.

Last week, Tomosky rallied residents together for a trip to the zoning board hearing on the proposed project today at 2 p.m. The hearing will be held at 1515 Arch St., on the 18 floor. The calendar number is 98-1008.

"We have a bus, a free bus, that will take residents down to the zoning board to oppose these units, and the bus will bring us back,too,'' Tomosky said.

The bus will board passengers at Lyceum and Manayunk Aves. today at 1:15 p.m.

"The people are seriously concerned about the impact upon the neighboring streets,'' Tomosky said.

She said that Gay St. was extremely narrow.

"Remember, that's where the fire was a couple of weeks ago. The engines couldn't get there - that's how narrow the street is,'' she said.

Manayunk Neighborhood Council is squarely behind the residents in their opposition to the proposed units and has been joined by other area civics organizations.

"The opposition to this project is legitimate,'' said Sharon Brill Downs, a Fleming St. resident.

Coming out in support of Manayunk Neighborhood Council were representatives from Wissahickon Interested Citizens Association, 21 Ward Community Council, Central Roxborough Civic Association, Ridge Park Civic Association and Residents of Shawmont Valley Association.

Tomosky said the civic unity is historic.

"This is the first time in the history of the 21 Ward , that the civics have made a joint effort (on an issue),'' she said.

Tomosky said the site is in hospitable to development, and feels the proposed rental pricing is discriminatory.

"Neducsin wants his new building to be on 2.3 acres of land, a lot which is hilly and unbuildable,'' Tomosky said. "He wants to have be three stories high and he wants to charge $825 for one bedroom and $1,200 a month for two bedrooms...I think that's class discrimination.''

Residents of Silverwood St. said they fear flooding because of water runoff.

"When dirt is covered with asphalt, when trees are cut down, there is nothing to absorb the water,'' Downs said.

"The people on Silverwood have a legitimate concern. They are having problems now. What will happen when there is nothing to absorb the water?'' Downs asked.

Neducsin has proposed on-site parking spaces for any future tenants.

"We're very concerned with the fact that fire ladder engines won't be able to get there,'' Downs said. "If the fire department makes Gay St. a no parking street, where are the Fleming St.residents supposed to park?'' As is now, residents park very close to the corners, and some others even park on the sidewalk.

"When rental units are put into a neighborhood, homeowners' properties are devaluated,'' Downs said.

Downs said is "impossible'' to get onto Green La. in the morning as is, "and it's impossible getting onto Lyceum Ave. There will simply be too much congestion here,'' she said.

According to the Streets Department, Green La. handles about 7,000 cars per day. Lyceum Ave. handles about 1,000. Henry Ave. handles 15 to 20,000; Ridge, about 10,000; Umbria St. about 10,000; and Bells Mill road about 15,000 vehicles. The rest of the streets do not even get 500 cars a day, a spokesman from the Streets Department said.

Rep. Kathy Manderino (D-Roxborough-Manayunk) has thrown her support to the residents as well.

Councilman Michael Nutter said he spoke to residents in the area as well as to Neducsin.

"I wanted to see if there was a middle ground, and appears there really isn't,'' the councilman said.

"I know there are a lot of concerns about traffic and safety and the impact on the neighborhood,'' Nutter said. "I've raised those concerns with Dan.

Nutter said he is studying the controversial proposal.

"I'm gathering as much information as possible and will review the situation and come to a decision,'' he said. "In an already densely populated neighborhood, presents a challenge. I'll read everything and try to figure out what's the best solution,'' he said.

Tomosky fears that further development will rob her neighborhood of what little green space is left.

"I swear, Neducsin wants our last blade of grass in Manayunk,'' Tomosky said. "Our very last blade of grass!"

Patti Brennan, president of Ridge Park Civic Association, was also at the meeting imploring residents to support her group in their efforts to stop Barbera Dodgeland from tearing down the former Knights of Columns building that bought at the corner of Ridge and Fairthorne Aves.

Members of Manayunk Neighborhood Council pledged their support, as did the representatives of Wissahickon Interested Citizens and Central Roxborough Civic.