The scene: Parkside Social Happenings

parkside-journal-4 winter 2013 (dragged) 1

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Leidy School sits silent for first time in 50 years!

For the first time in its Fifty year history Leidy school sat silent as September school bells rang at nearby schools in the area. For residents it was a little strange to experience the silence and emptiness at Leidy. . The good news is that the school system now has a web site that is up and running that is being used to sell the 27 closed schools. Leidy is among the 27 schools on the site. Some schools on the list have already received attention from potential buyers. University City for example is one such school. Leidy School has also received some attention from at least two developers; where this attention will go is anyone’s guess. To learn more visit the school web at http://www.phila.k12.pa.us/real-estate/ and see for yourself.

A look at how Leidy School is already showing signs of neglect:

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Parkside Education: Update

by Michael Burch

This article is a follow up to the discussion in the September issue of the Journal concerning “Education in Parkside.” Although Parkside has lost the long standing Leidy school due to budget cuts, our neighborhood is fortunate to have many other good schools within walking distance of one another. School choices in Parkside include Blankenburg Elementary, Global Leadership Academy, and The School of the Future. Now we can add two new schools to that list: Discovery Charter School (DCS) and the Kipp Dubois Collegiate Academy.

Screen Shot 2013-08-25 at 4.33.43 PMAlthough the Discovery Charter School has been in Parkside for eleven years, the school has recently moved to a larger (and better equipped) facility on Belmont Avenue. The community was very supportive of this move, although there were some initial traffic flow problems. After DCS opened this September at its’ new location, commuting problems immediately developed. Traffic was congested near the school during morning drop off and afternoon pick up times. It was challenging and problematic transporting over 760 students in and out of the facility each school day. Excited parents parked in no parking zones, at bus stops, in the middle of the street, and even in front of the Fire station.

It was not surprising that neighbors living close to the school were very concerned and upset about this. To the credit of Discovery Charter School, the school’s leaders were very willing to meet with neighbors to discuss the situation. Public meetings were held with staff members, area residents, parents, fire and police officials. A solution to the school transportation problem was developed and implemented and now traffic flows in a relatively normal manner along Belmont Avenue during drop off and pickup times.

The Journal feels that this shows that Discovery Charter School plans to continue being the good neighbor it has been in Parkside over the past eleven years. A key factor about the DCS has been its’ basic educational philosophy in which its’ students have been seen as children of the world. With that philosophy in mind, an important goal of the school has been to extend the horizons of its’ students far beyond the confines of the traditional classroom. Students have had the opportunity to travel far beyond the immediate Parkside region and enjoy cultural events and institutions in cities like New York and Washington, D.C. The Discovery Charter School also sponsors biannual international trips for its senior students.

In the past, seventh or eight grade classes have traveled as far away as South Africa and Spain. This school year, the school plans to take a class to Germany. These ambitious and enriching travel experiences give these young people an opportunity to develop an international perspective they would not ordinarily have had

The second (and newest) school welcomed to our area is the Kipp Dubois Collegiate Academy. Kipp is part of a national system of 141 charter schools from across the country. The Kipp system is a national network of free open enrollment college preparatory public charter schools with a positive record of preparing students for college who live in underserved communities. There are four Kipp schools in Philadelphia; Kipp Dubois is the first high school Kipp has opened in the city.

Recently I visited the school and met with the founding principal Mr. Arron Bass. He gave me additional information about the school. They have been in Parkside at this location since August of this year. Currently they have 465 students enrolled and plan to have 565 students next year. They are an open enrollment school and take students from all over the city. Somewhat like Discovery School they also have a global view of educating students. They have already taken a class of students to Ghana and they plan more international trips in the future. Like most charter schools they are a lottery based school. While at the school I met with several of their students and took a short tour of a few classes. All the students I talked to had college plans in their future. I saw real education going on in the classrooms. Mr Bass informed me that they have partnerships with over 30 colleges and universities that work with them and accept Kipp graduates.

The Journal will endeavor to keep the community informed about the schools mentioned and about Discovery and Kipp in particular.

A Community Vision for East & West Fairmount Park

by Andrew Goodman 

I am pleased to give an update on the “Community Vision for East and West Fairmount Park” initiative that was first reported by the Parkside Journal in August 2013. We have been making some great progress, thanks to the input we received from neighbors, park users, and community leaders.

English: "Smith Memorial Arch" (Civi...
English: “Smith Memorial Arch” (Civil War Memorial), North Concourse and Lansdowne Drive, West Fairmont Park, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (1897-1912), James H. and John T. Windrim, architects. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In May 2013, PennPraxis received a grant from the William Penn Foundation to work for Philadelphia Parks and Recreation, the Parks and Recreation Commission, and the Fairmount Park Conservancy to create a “community vision” for the biggest and most signature park space in our city: East and West Fairmount Park. When complete, this vision will be the City’s guide for future decision-making about improvements in the park. For this reason, we want to think big about the future of the park, starting by asking residents how they use the park and how they would like to use the park in the future. We know there have been many “plans” done for West Park, and we hope this can help further elevate community interests.

We have spent the summer and fall learning as much as we can about the park. This outreach culminated in four community meetings we organized to get public input into the process, with emphasis on near neighbors.
Thanks to the great help we received from the community, our public meeting at Discovery Charter School was the best attended to date! Thanks so much to those who helped pull it off: Mr. Burch, Ms. Gomez, Ms. Hudson, the Business Association of West Parkside, Discovery Charter School, and everyone who attended. It was an evening of rich stories and sincere hope for the future of the park.

During the meeting, citizens reviewed our draft “guidelines” of key issues we thought were important that the vision address. These guidelines were:

  • Start by improving how people enter and access the entire park.
  • Protect and enhance all that we already have in Fairmount Park, both natural and man-made
  • Allow people to better enjoy the water.
  • 
Help citizens better understand the park and all it has to offer.
  • Improve Fairmount Park for all residents, starting with near neighbors.
  • Make the park safer and more accessible for people walking and biking; reduce the emphasis on people driving.

We received great feedback from residents about what was missing from these guidelines. Some important points that we heard:

  • The park and nearby neighborhoods are linked: the health of one affects the health of the other.
  • Safety must be addressed as part of future improvements.
  • 
The Park should serve all ages, especially youth.
  • Don’t plan everything! Part of the park’s beauty is how it allows people to “choose their own adventure.”
  • Community organizations and residents need to be more involved in developing park activities.

We want to make sure we hear you accurately, so please let us know if there is something we are missing. Please call us at 215-746-3849 or you can email at praxis@design.upenn.edu.

More project updates can be found on the following website: http://planphilly.com/eastandwestpark. Full copies of the notes from our public meetings can be found online.

Public Forum: Real Estate Taxes

by Joyce Smith

If you haven’t heard yet, the City passed legislation in October 2013 to help homeowners who are facing collection activity because of delinquent real estate taxes.

Tax

The new bill has created a more transparent and uniformed system for homeowners seeking to make payment arrangements. The highlights of the new bill includes a “Owner Occupied Payment Agreement” (OOPA) application that will be used by the City’s Department of Revenue and their collection agents: Linebarger, Blair & Goggan, and GRB.

The amount of a payment agreement will be based on homeowners’ level of income. OOPA offers two options.

  • Option 1 is set at an amount based on income. This is the best option for low income homeowners.
  • Option 2 is an individualized amount that will be based on household income and expenses.

(Most likely the monthly payment will be higher than Option 1) Where you fall on the income scale will determine if you will have a portion (a percentage of penalties and interest) of your tax bill forgiven. The very low income are entitled to the higher tax forgiveness amount.

All applicants must also show proof of residency such as a utility bill or driver’s license. But, everyone must remain in good standing on payment agreements for back taxes as well as future

But, what is new in this legislation is that for the first time non record owners or heirs will be allowed to get payment agreements. For example, if a granddaughter is living in her deceased grandmother’s property and needs an agreement to pay back taxes she will be allowed to get a payment agreement even though the deed is not in her name.

Prior to this bill, heirs could not get a formal agreement if the deed was not in their name because of the Tangled Title problem. (Applicants will need to submit documentation to show their relationship to the deceased’s property owner). This allows the applicant time to get assistance they need to transfer the deed into their name.

But, all the changes are not good. There will be harsher penalties for people who fall behind in their payment agreements. In the old system, people would make agreements, fall behind or stop making payments for awhile and then apply for a new agreement. Sometimes they would do this over and over. But, this will not be the case now.

Homeowners must stay current on their agreement and pay their annual taxes in a timely manner. If you fall behind there is a limited window of time to catch up before you breach your agreement. And, The City can resume collections and have the property sold at Sheriff Sale.

So, Philadelphia homeowners should try to stay current on their taxes, and get a formal agreement on back taxes if needed.

If you are behind in your taxes, you should look into getting a payment agreement. And, if you find your self in a position where you might miss a payment or fall behind on your formal arrangement you should contact the City (or their agent). Don’t wait until you breach your agreement. It won’t be the time to procrastinate……but, it will be the time to act proactively.

If you have any questions about the new legislation or facing collection or foreclosure activity you can call “Save Your Home Philly Hotline at 215- 334- HOME (4663)

Health Corner: Glaucoma Awareness Month

By Yvette Burch R.N.

As we move closer to the holiday season, this is an excellent time to remember our own health needs. January is NATIONAL GLAUCOMA AWARENESS MONTH. What is glaucoma? Glaucoma is a disease of the eye caused by increased optic pressure which (untreated) can lead to nerve damage and POTENTIAL BLINDNESS. Vision loss due to glaucoma cannot be reversed.

The two main types of this disease are (1) open angle glaucoma and (2) acute angular closure. Open angle is the most common type. In this type, the structures of the eye are normal, but fluid does not flow properly through the drain of the eye. Angular closure is less common but can cause a sudden buildup of fluid.

Neovascular glaucoma
Neovascular glaucoma (Photo credit: Community Eye Health)

Drainage may be poor because the angle between the iris and the cornea is too narrow. It may also be poor because the pupil is too wide, narrowing the angle and blocking the proper flow of fluid through the channel.

Key RISK FACTORS for glaucoma are (1) having a family history of the disease, (2) being over the age of 45. African-Americans have a high incidence of this disease.

f you have health problems such as diabetes, you may need to visit your doctor more frequently (at least once or twice a year). Less common causes of glaucoma could include a blunt or chemical injury to the eye, severe eye infection, the blocking of blood vessels in the eye, or inflammatory conditions of the eye. Glaucoma usually occurs in both eyes, but may involve each eye to a different extent.

SYMPTOMS of early open angle glaucoma include loss of vision fields, while the loss of ‘side’ vision does not occur until late in the course of the disease. Rarely patients may also experience haziness of vision or see halos around lights, especially in the morning.

The symptoms of acute angular closure are dramatic and include the rapid onset of severe eye
pain, headache, nausea, vomiting, and visual blurring.

GLAUCOMA IS A DISEASE THAT CAN BE CONTROLLED, although nerve damage and visual loss from the disease cannot be reversed. Proper treatment can make eye pressure normal and prevent or stop further nerve damage and visual loss. Treatment may involve eye drops, pills (rarely), laser procedure, or surgery.

Here in the United States the use of eye drops is the standard treatment for both types of glaucoma.

Eye drops are generally taken several times a day and work by decreasing the production of aqueous fluid or by increasing the drainage of fluid out of the eye. Each type of therapy has its benefits and potential complications.

While primary open angle glaucoma cannot be prevented, optic nerve damage and visual loss can be prevented by early diagnosis, effective treatment, and compliance with treatment. Secondary types of glaucoma can often be prevented by the avoidance of trauma to the eye and by obtaining immediate treatment of eye inflammation and other diseases of the eye or body that may cause other forms of this disease.

The FUTURE treatment of glaucoma will be based on new eye drops which will continue to become available. Some drops will be new classes of agents while other drops will combine existing agents in one bottle to improve effectiveness and lower costs.

Researchers are especially interested in finding new ways to help those patients who seem to be having progressive nerve damage and loss of vision even though they have normal eye (ocular) pressure. If these new studies in eye drops can be shown to protect the optic nerve from the damage caused by glaucoma, this would be a great advance in preventing blindness.

Educating the public about this disease together with treatment is our best hope to reduce vision loss. For more information about glaucoma visit the Wills Wye website at http://www.willseye.org/glaucoma -service

News that is from, about, and benefits our Parkside Community in West Philadelphia.