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U. unveils programs to help employees live in area

(04/01/98 10:00am)

Penn will help faculty and stuff purchase or renovate homes as part of an effort to improve University City. In the University's latest attempt to stop faculty members and staff from leaving University City when they leave work for the day, Penn officials unveiled two new programs Monday that give cash incentives for living in the surrounding neighborhood. The Home Ownership Incentive Program -- modeled on a successful program at Yale University -- will provide University faculty members or staff who buy homes in University City and agree to live in the house for at least seven years with either $3,000 for seven years or $15,000 up front for housing costs. And the Home Improvement Loan Program allows those who already own homes in University City to get up to $7,500 in matching funds for exterior home improvements. "We hope the program will increase home ownership in University City, which is very important to increasing stability in the community," said Penn Managing Director of Community Housing Diane-Louise Wormley, who will administer the programs. The programs are the latest of Penn's efforts to improve the surrounding neighborhoods and convince people that University City is an attractive place to live. Other related endeavors include the University City District, the UC Brite program and the University's initiative to buy and renovate dilapidated properties. Penn had previously announced a plan that, in association with Commerce Bank, offers "120 percent loans" to Penn faculty members and staff who buy homes in University City. These loans provide 100 percent of the purchase price, 15 percent of the total costs of housing rehabilitation and 5 percent for closing costs, the expenses incurred in transferring ownership of property. For 30 years, the University has offered another version of the guaranteed mortgage plan, which allows for 105 percent financing for homes in West Philadelphia and 100 percent financing for those located in certain parts of Center City. "The system we established encourages people to not just move to University City, but remain there," said Wormley, a longtime resident of the 4800 block of Regent Street. Although each of the programs currently has a cap of 150 participants, Wormley said she would seek to expand the program if it proves to be more popular than expected. The money for the program come from University general operating funds. The new cash incentive programs remove many of the obstacles that have previously prevented people from buying homes in University City, according to area residents. The high cost of renovations is one of the main barriers people face in buying a home in University City, said History Professor Lynn Lees, a longtime West Philadelphia resident. "The houses are old, they tend to be rather large and require a lot of capital to fix up," Lees said. "But with the new program, people would be able to afford to buy." Lindsay Johnston, the broker-owner of Common Ground Realtors, said he believes many more people will want to buy homes in University City since they know they will have the funds to renovate them immediately. "Usually the prospect of buying a home uses all the money you have, and you have to wait to renovate," Johnston said. "But these initiatives make it so you can live in the house you want now and not five years from now." In addition, the quality of the area's public schools might no longer deter potential home buyers from living in University City, according to Spruce Hill Community Association President Joe Ruane. "It helps because people will be able to use the [extra] money for private schools," Ruane said. Besides bringing in new home buyers, Lees said she hopes the program will "encourage faculty and staff who are renting in the area to make a long-term commitment." But Johnston said that the new program will not be the only reason that more Penn faculty members and staff will choose to live in University City. "In the last couple of years, the neighborhood has been on an upswing," Johnston said. "This [program] will just be another incentive." Penn's cash-incentive program is similar to one that Yale -- another Ivy League school located in a neighborhood that has seen better days -- began in 1994. Yale's program gave $2,000 a year for 10 years to faculty and staff members who bought a home in New Haven, Conn., according to Yale spokesperson Tom Conroy. Yale later limited the program to a few neighborhoods around the campus. About 280 homes have been bought and $5.6 million has been distributed through the program, he said, adding that "our program has been helpful in bringing professionals into the city and turning some properties that had been vacant into occupied homes."

U., vendors reach agreement without pesky UCVA, PCA

(03/31/98 10:00am)

The controversy over a proposed city ordinance to regulate vending on and around campus is finally over, with a compromise that will turn Locust Walk into the vending epicenter of University City. In a surprise turn of events, a coalition of individual vendors approached University administrators and City Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell late last night and engineered a last-minute agreement. While the new ordinance still removes vendors from most streets and sidewalks around campus, it places all the trucks and carts displaced by the ordinance along Locust Walk. The ordinance, which City Council is scheduled to vote on Thursday, seemed destined to go down to defeat after a previous version prompted a large outcry from community members and vending groups. But Blackwell said she now expects it to pass easily. "This deal makes everyone happy," Blackwell said. "The vendors are no longer on Penn's crowded streets, but they still have a highly visible presence on campus." Jack Shannon, the University's top economic-development official, said the administration is also very pleased with the new proposal. "Now we don't even have to pretend we are building those food plazas anymore," he said. "I was getting tired of announcing locations and then canceling them two days later." The settlement talks began last night at 11 p.m. when the owners of Rami's food truck, Kim's Oriental Food and Greek Lady Olga met with Shannon and Blackwell at the Wawa at 38th and Spruce streets. The agreement was reached after two hours of negotiations and frequent cellular-phone calls to each of the three Le Anhs. The old ordinance proposal, which banned vendors from locations such as much of Walnut and Spruce Streets, would have deprived many students of the chance to buy conveniently-located Chinese food and fruit salad. While the new ordinance retains all the location restrictions, it also calls for all sculptures and trees along Locust Walk and College Green to be removed and replaced with vendors. "Sure, I'm going to miss the Peace Sign and the seemingly year-round Christmas lights on the trees, but it's all worth it if I can still get my Kung Pao chicken," said Carol Scheman, Penn's vice president for government, community and public affairs. College senior John La Bombard said the vending talks were so intense he was just glad that they "didn't hit my penis." The latest talks did not involve the Penn Consumer Alliance or the University City Vendors Alliance, two groups which had been involved in the conflict up to that point. "We felt that those groups were just getting in the way," said one vendor who asked not to be identified. "If your negotiating strategy is to storm into a meeting that [Penn Executive Vice President] John Fry is having with someone else in order to get his attention, you are not contributing a lot to the process." Uncharacteristically, neither UCVA spokesperson Scott Goldstein nor PCA spokesperson Matt Ruben would comment. In a related development, Shannon said he would recommend that Greek Lady Olga be hired as a guest lecturer in international relations, noting that the "department could use whatever it can get."

U. reveals location of remaining food plazas

(03/27/98 10:00am)

Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell said the site near Meyerson Hall and Franklin Field may change. After months of searching for two noncontroversial locations, University officials said yesterday that one of the two remaining fresh air food plazas will be built by Franklin Field at 33rd and South streets, blocks away from the busy Walnut Street corridor where many vendors currently operate. The other plaza will be built behind Meyerson Hall near 34th and Walnut streets, as Penn officials had previously indicated. Although Penn officials say the announcement means that locations for all five plazas have been finalized, City Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell -- who represents West Philadelphia -- said yesterday that there might still be "one or two changes" in the actual locations of the plazas. University officials were not immediately available for comment on Blackwell's remarks. In the wake of a proposed City Council ordinance that would ban vendors from most of the streets and sidewalks in the area, many students, faculty and employees said they hoped Penn would allow vendors to continue operating in a plaza in the busy area along Walnut Street between 34th and 37th streets. Penn is building five food plazas on its property so the displaced vendors will have a place to operate away from the campus' busy thoroughfares. The plazas are separate from the proposed ordinance. Vendors and consumers have been vocal in expressing concerns about the proposed locations of the food plazas. Administrators canceled plans for proposed plazas near Van Pelt Library and Bennett Hall in February after protests from people who work in those buildings. Jason Eisner, a member of the Penn Consumer Alliance -- one of the ad hoc groups formed last summer after Penn proposed its initial ordinance -- said he was "shocked" at the new locations because they do not provide for adequate vending on Walnut Street. "The point of the two plazas that were eliminated was to provide for truck vending on Walnut Street," Eisner said. "The administration still has not come through on that promise." Three other plazas are scheduled to be built: between the Gimbel Gymnasium and the parking garage on the 3700 block of Walnut Street; at 34th and Spruce streets next to the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania; and on 40th Street between Locust and Walnut streets. The HUP plaza is roughly across the street from the Weightman Hall plaza. The contract to build the 40th Street food plaza has been awarded to Syma Construction, and construction on it will begin within the next few weeks, according to Jack Shannon, the University's top economic development official. Since announcing that they were abandoning plans for the two food plazas at 34th and Walnut in the face of faculty and staff protests on February 12, University officials have spent time trying to find two other locations. University officials explored placing a plaza next to Hill House, but decided against it when they met with strong opposition from the residents of that dorm. Shannon said that the two new sites would not face the same problems the other locations did. He said that he had "personally spoken with the administrations in the buildings" next to the potential sites and had involved them in the planning process to avoid potential protests. The plazas will provide outdoor seating for customers, as well as electrical hook-ups, sewage, water lines and improved lighting for vendors at the cost of $1 per month. The Meyerson Hall plaza will house four vending carts. As part of construction for that plaza, the trash bins currently at that location will be repositioned and a "more appropriate front door presence for the building will be constructed," according to Shannon. The other plaza, which will be constructed on the parking lot at 33rd and South streets next to Weightman Hall, will hold five vending trucks and five vending carts. As part of the plaza, "a landscaped environment" will be constructed and sufficient parking will be maintained, Shannon said. Eisner said the main problems with the new sites is the number of vendors that will be housed at the new locations is far fewer than at the two originally proposed sites. "The two plazas these would replace would have a total of 17 [vendors], of which 11 would have been trucks, but the news ones have 14 vendors with only 5 trucks," Eisner said. But Shannon said the new plans fulfill the University's original promise of constructing five plazas that will hold a total of 45 vendors. Construction on the plaza on 40th street will begin in April and take four to six weeks, Shannon said. University officials will now begin soliciting bids for the four other locations, according to Shannon. All five food plazas will be ready by September, Shannon said. The University moved ahead with plans for the 40th Street plaza before the others because it wanted to demonstrate "good faith" to the community, Shannon said. But the ordinance, if passed, is scheduled to go into effect on April 30, four months before four of the food plazas will be completed. Hearings have not been scheduled yet but are expected to take place in April. Shannon said he expects Blackwell to "make reasonable provisions to smooth the transition between the passage of the ordinance and the completion of the food plazas." But yesterday, Blackwell indicated that she felt no special measures needed to be taken during the transition period. "Everybody should still be able to work until the plazas open," Blackwell said. According to Blackwell, the ordinance will provide for 101 on-street vending spots in designated areas. That, she said, will be more than sufficient for the 98 vendors currently on campus -- even before all 45 food plaza spots are open in September. Also, Blackwell said the final locations in which vending will be permitted under the ordinance are far from settled. "In terms of the map [of vending locations] that exists, I think that there are going to be some changes," she said. Daily Pennsylvanian staff writer Binyamin Appelbaum contributed to this article.

SEPTA, union delay meeting

(03/26/98 10:00am)

It's hard for SEPTA and its union to make progress on contract negotiations when they don't meet face to face. That was the case yesterday, when officials from the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority canceled a scheduled 3 p.m. meeting with negotiators from the Transport Workers Union Local 234 at the Center City hotel where they have talked. The meeting was rescheduled for 8:45 a.m. today. While union officials continued with their policy of not commenting on their strike plans, SEPTA officials said they expected the city's buses, subways and trolleys to run as usual today. It was not immediately clear why SEPTA negotiators missed the meeting. TWU spokesperson Bruce Bodner said union officials were slightly annoyed by SEPTA's cancellation, especially "given the fact we asked for a specific meeting." In an attempt to demonstrate rank-and-file support for the union's negotiators, TWU officials plan to hold a rally today at SEPTA headquarters at 12th and Market streets. Bodner said he hopes that between 500 and 1,000 union members will attend the rally. A strike by the 5,300-member union would shut down must buses, subways and trolleys in the city. Regional rail lines would be unaffected. The two sides have been negotiating for 12 straight days with little progress on issues such as wages, pensions and a drug and alcohol policy. Contract talks have continued since March 14, when the union agreed to keep talking past the contract deadline and postpone a threatened strike. SEPTA officials did meet with union representatives from its suburban Frontier division yesterday. Union members from Frontier and another suburban division, Victory, voted Tuesday to strike if they do not have an agreement by the time their contracts run out on April 1. The TWU has gone on strike six time over the last 23 years, most recently for two weeks in 1995.

City Council to look at vending bill with care

(03/20/98 10:00am)

Although the bill deals with local issues, it has drawn city-wide interest. When a proposed City Council ordinance affects a specific region of Philadelphia, Council members typically defer to the person who represents that area, voting for the bill without much debate. Or so say many City Council staffers. But in the case of the controversial, Penn administration-backed bill regulating vending in University City, Council members say they are keeping an open mind. Many Council members expressed their desire to hear from the vendors and consumers affected by the bill during public hearings in April before they decide how to vote. The members said they had received a large number of phone calls and letters opposing the ordinance. "This is a people's council," said at-large Councilwoman Angel Ortiz. "We're going to listen to all those people out there before we make any decisions." Of the seven Council members who commented to The Daily Pennsylvanian this week, only Councilman Thatcher Longstreth said he had already decided to support the ordinance. The 10 other Council members did not return repeated telephone calls. City Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell, who represents West Philadelphia, introduced the ordinance in February. Blackwell did not return repeated calls for comment for this article. Among its many provisions, the ordinance bans vending in many parts of campus, prohibits the use of electrical generators one year after its enactment and establishes a Vending Advisory Board which will review vending regulations and recommend applicants for certain locations. Separately from the bill, Penn plans to build five or six fresh air food plazas, housing a total of about 45 vendors, on its property this spring. The introduction of the bill was the latest round in a controversy that began last May when Penn sent Blackwell its initial ordinance proposal. Representatives from the Penn Consumer Alliance and the University City Vendors Alliance, who want to make the ordinance less restrictive, have accused University administration officials and Blackwell of not negotiating compromises in good faith. University officials have sought to regulate vending for several years, citing safety concerns and the vendors' negative impact on Penn's ability to lure attractive retailers to the area. According to Councilman Frank DiCicco's chief of staff Robyn Schutz, members usually consider region-specific ordinances to be the "prerogative" of the Council member who represents the district. But in the case of the vending ordinance, "that is not necessarily the case," Schutz said. Schutz said the South Philadelphia councilman's office had received "a lot" of letters and phone calls from community members who oppose the ordinance. "For [DiCicco] to make a decision before he hears these people [at the hearings] would be irresponsible," Schutz said. Spokespeople for at-large Councilman David Cohen and at-large Councilwoman Happy Fernandez also said they received many calls from people expressing their opposition to the ordinance. And at-large Councilman Frank Rizzo said he is awaiting the hearings before he makes any decisions. "That's what the community hearing process is for, to hash it all out," Rizzo said. "I want to listen to the community and get their views on the ordinance." Rizzo said the hearing process will be especially important because of the "confusion and controversy" surrounding the proposed ordinance. "Who knows what plan they will end up using?" he asked. "As you can imagine, it's been very confusing for the Council members." The proposed ordinance's chances of success are unclear, according to Rizzo. "We're going to hear the pros and cons and then decide whether to be supportive or not," he said. Ortiz said he wants to be sure that the vending locations are going to be accessible to members of the University City community before he agrees to the bill.

Strike looms as SEPTA talks fail to resolve issues

(03/19/98 10:00am)

Transportation will probably not be affected today, officials said. Although Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority buses, subways and trolleys are expected to run on schedule today, the threat of a strike by the agency's union as early as tomorrow still looms large, with neither side willing to budge in the bitter contract negotiations. The Transport Workers Union Local 234 presented SEPTA with its latest contract proposal at about 8 p.m. last night. The brief meeting was the first contact between the two groups since union negotiators walked out of the downtown hotel where they had been negotiating almost 24 hours earlier. Although union officials made no formal pledge not to strike, union spokesperson Bruce Bodner said as long as the informal talks continue until 1 a.m. or 2 a.m. as expected, service will continue today. Bodner did reiterate the union's earlier pledge that union workers would not strand SEPTA riders by beginning a strike midday. Contract negotiations had continued virtually around-the-clock since midnight Saturday, when union representatives agreed to extend their talks beyond the March 15 deadline. A strike by the 5,600-member union would shut down most buses, trolleys and subways, leaving the transit system's 450,000 weekday passenger searching for other ways to get around the city. SEPTA and TWU yesterday continued to publicly criticize each other's bargaining strategies. SEPTA chief strategist David L. Cohen told reporters at the Franklin Wyndham Plaza Hotel that SEPTA had laid out a framework within which any agreement must fall during earlier, informal talks with TWU. "The union knows precisely what it needs to do to get an agreement," said Cohen, Philadelphia Mayor Ed Rendell's former chief of staff who is now chairperson of the law firm Ballard Spahr Andrews and Ingersoll. "The union needs to take a good hard look at the framework." Bodner said the latest union proposal works within SEPTA's "basic frame of reference." But Bodner said earlier yesterday that SEPTA was negotiating in bad faith by "insisting that [their] solution was the only solution." He added that "the union has already gone as far as it can go" in making concessions. Likewise, Cohen said SEPTA's proposal is "cemented to the table." Earlier in the week, Cohen said the negotiations, which have been ongoing since late December, focus on the issues of work rules, employee absenteeism, SEPTA's ability to sustain itself financially, workers' compensation and health benefits. The current negotiations began in reaction to an 85-page contract SEPTA proposed in late December, which left the union claiming management would have too much power. At the time, the union countered with a 15-page list of contract proposals, which included changing the company's pensions system to allow employees to retire. Daily Pennsylvanian staff writer Ben Geldon contributed to this article.

U. plans for possible strike

(03/17/98 10:00am)

Penn and Drexel universities were ready during the last city-wide transit strike in 1995, and they're ready this time, too. In preparation for a possible union strike against the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, the neighboring University City schools have developed contingency plans to transport students, faculty members and staff around the area. In the event of a strike, four Penn buses and two Drexel buses will shuttle people from both institutions between Houston Hall and three sites: 30th Street Station, Lindenwold Terminal at 16th and Locust Streets and the 69th Street Terminal in Upper Darby. Buses will leave every half-hour from those locations between 7 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. The schedules for the buses to the three locations varies in the afternoon, but the vehicles will leave from Houston Hall from 4:15 p.m. until 9:45 p.m. Riders will need to show Penn or Drexel ID to get on the buses. But because of the "abnormal traffic conditions" that usually accompany SEPTA strikes, the schedule is only an approximation, Penn Transportation Services Manager Ronald Ward said. The University used a similar plan during the last SEPTA strike, which lasted two weeks. SEPTA and the Transport Workers Union Local 234 have been negotiating since December. The current contract expired on March 15, but the union said Saturday night it would continue to negotiate without declaring a strike as long as the two sides were making progress. According to Ward, "the [contingency] plans are ready to be implemented if and when the strike begins." Because the University is sharing the cost of the transportation services with Drexel, the financial burden is not "tremendous," Ward said. He could not estimate the daily cost of running the shuttles yesterday. "We could probably continue [the service] for one or two months. We might be able to go longer if we need to," Ward said. In order to have enough drivers for the additional buses, Ward and his assistant will both drive buses in the morning and afternoon. Some Penn employees work as both parking-lot attendants and bus drivers. Those workers will be used as bus drivers full time, Ward said. The University is also encouraging administrators to allow for some lateness by employees if the strike occurs, Ward added.

Crime over break remains steady

(03/17/98 10:00am)

A study escaped an attempted robbery near 40th and Spruce streets. The number of robberies and burglaries reported to University Police over spring break declined slightly from from last year's break, although thefts rose 20 percent, police said. The 25 thefts, auto thefts, robberies and burglaries that were reported during this year's spring break -- from March 6 to March 16 -- held steady from the 26 reported last year. No homicides, rapes or aggravated assaults were reported. University Police figures showed there were 18 actual or attempted thefts this year, up slightly from the 15 reported during the comparable period a year earlier. Eighteen incidents were reported during the break two years ago. The number of actual or attempted burglaries fell from five reported incidents in 1997 to three this year. Two burglaries were reported during spring break in 1996. The one attempted robbery reported to police this year is a decrease from the three reported last year, but equal to 1996's total. In the robbery attempt, which occurred at about 6:40 p.m. on March 6, two men got out of a car on the 4000 block of Spruce Street and tried to rob a student using a simulated weapon. The student ran away before he was robbed and did not see which direction the suspects fled, University Police Det. Gary Heller said. In one of the thefts, a $2,500 laptop computer was stolen from a fourth-floor room of the office building at 3440 Market Street between noon on March 10 and 9 a.m. on March 16, Heller said. There were no signs of forced entry. One of the burglary victims was a newsstand on the southeast corner of 36th and Walnut streets. Between 6 p.m. on March 13 and 7:20 a.m. on March 16, the newsstand was broken into and $2,000 in cash and merchandise were stolen, police said. University Police are investigating the incident. Actual or attempted auto thefts remained the same as last year's three reported incidents, which is two more than the amount of thefts reported in 1996. Also, four wallets and two bicycles were reported stolen during spring break. The number of simple assaults -- which are not considered major crimes -- also rose to three incidents this year from two in 1997. On March 6, a student in High Rise East struck his roommate four times in the face at about 3 p.m. The victim refused medical treatment and the matter was referred to the Office of Student Conduct, according to Heller. At about 2:15 p.m. on March 10, a student struck a professor in a room in the Clinical Research Building at 415 Curie Boulevard. Police did not arrest the student, and the matter was referred to the Office of Student Conduct as well, Heller said. Another incident of simple assault occurred on Saturday at the Gap store at 3423 Walnut Street. A woman threatened the store manager by throwing clothes and a pen, which hit her in the face, Heller said. The suspect, described as a 5'5'' black woman wearing a red jacket, red scarf, dark pants and DKNY shoes, fled from the scene after the incident. The store manager refused medical treatment. Police also arrested a 24-year-old man for allegedly assaulting the mother of his child at approximately 5:45 a.m. on March 7 in the emergency room of the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. In addition, police arrested Austin Welcome, 55, for obstructing the highway after he was found lying in front of CHOP at 34th Street and Convention Avenue on March 10 at about 5:40 a.m. Daily Pennsylvanian staff writer Maureen Tkacik contributed to this article.

Police investigate magazine theft

(03/06/98 10:00am)

University Police are investigating the alleged thefts of about 300 copies of The Red and Blue from Chats this week. The Red and Blue is a student-run magazine which often publishes conservative views at odds with the campus' generally liberal climate. The magazine temporarily lost its Student Activities Council funding in 1995 because of its alleged political slant. Wharton and Engineering junior Michael Bressler, the magazine's managing editor, and College junior Jeremy Katz said about 250 copies of the magazine were stolen from the dining hangout in Class of 1920 Dining Commons at 38th Street and Locust Walk at about 1:00 a.m Wednesday. In addition, Bressler said about half of the 100 to 150 issues he put in the same location Wednesday night to replace the stolen issues were also taken. After the second incident, Bressler said he decided to report the alleged thefts to the police. University Police Det. John Peterson said yesterday that the police were looking into the alleged thefts. He declined to comment further. A pile of the magazines was on a desk near the entrance to Chats, according to Katz. He said he was talking to Bressler when "a bunch of kids walked into Chats and then left. We didn't think anything of it. When we looked over at the desk, every one [of the magazines] was gone." A security guard sitting at the desk told Bressler that "if we had a problem, we should go call the Penn Police," according to Katz. The following night, Bressler said he placed between 100 and 150 issues in the same spot from where the copies had been stolen. He said he watched the magazines, but when he turned away briefly and looked back, half of them had disappeared. "You can tell that many people don't take the magazines to read in that short period of time," Bressler said. Both Bressler and Katz are members of the Undergraduate Assembly. If the magazines were indeed stolen, it would not be the first time issues of a campus publication disappeared. On April 15, 1993, The Daily Pennsylvanian's nearly entire press run of 14,000 copies was stolen from distribution sites around campus by a group calling itself the "Black Community" to protest an allegedly racist columnist.

Blue light phones not yet reliable

(03/06/98 10:00am)

The new cellular type of emergency phones may not work properly due to technological glitches. Although the Division of Public Safety installed more than a dozen new blue light emergency telephones last week after a 16-month delay, the official overseeing the project warned that the phones are not yet fully functional and would only "probably work" if someone tried to use them. About 15 phones employing new cellular technology have been installed in locations around campus, according to Security Services Director Stratis Skoufalos. The phones are the first of a planned 60 new phones to be installed, he said. Skoufalos said the new phones -- which have long been marred by technological glitches -- are still undergoing testing and are not fully operational, even though their outer cases contain no signs or markings warning that they are still being tested. "We don't want anything that is being used as an emergency device not functioning perfectly," Skoufalos said. "But if someone needed to use them, they'd probably work." Public Safety officials hope to complete the first phase of installation within "the next few months," he added. "When the phones operate to maximum efficiency, we will let the community know," Skoufalos said. Following a September 1996 crime wave that culminated in the shooting of a Penn student, officials announced that October that the new phones, which provide a direct connection to University Police, would be installed on November 1 of that year. There are already about 150 such phones in operation around campus using older technology. Various glitches, however, prevented a timely installation of the new phones. The cellular phones transmit their information through a signal back to the police station, while the older phones are directly connected to the building via a wire. Penn recently signed a contract with Comarco Inc., a wireless technology company in Yorba Linda, Calif., to provide the new phones. One factor slowing the installation is the long process necessary to erect each phone, Skoufalos said. Workers first construct the bases and the poles that will support the phones. Then, Comarco technicians install the phones as well as the solar panels and blue strobe light on top of each pole. The older phones, on the other hand, are not solar-powered and have a bright blue light at ground level. The extensive testing necessary for each phone also slows the process of achieving full functionality, according to Skoufalos. Both Comarco and the University test each phone. But Skoufalos insisted that the installations are going smoothly -- despite the lengthy process. "Everything is fine so far and we are still on target," he said. Before installation could even begin, the phones faced many other obstacles. The University needed approval from a variety of groups, including city officials and neighborhood groups, to install the phones in off-campus locations. Some community groups worried about the locations and aesthetics of the proposed phones. According to Associate Director of Security Services Chris Algard, some of the existing phones based on old technology will be replaced, but most will remain in use.

Police still searching for Wawa stabbing suspect

(03/05/98 10:00am)

and Maureen Tkacik Nearly a week after a Penn employee was stabbed -- allegedly by a homeless man -- in front of the Wawa convenience store at 38th and Spruce streets, police have few clues about the identity of the attacker and University officials have no plans to upgrade their anti-panhandling program. A Wawa employee said yesterday that it is difficult to prevent homeless people from loitering in store's rear booths facing 38th Street because "they slip in when it's really busy." Regardless, more University and Philadelphia police officers have been frequenting the store since the incident last Friday morning. University Police Det. Patricia Brennan, who is investigating the incident along with Philadelphia Police detectives, said the increase is simply due to the fact that police "want to catch the criminal." Although a surveillance camera inside the store recorded a very clear image of the suspect, police have not had an easy time finding him. Police said the suspect walked south on 38th Street after the incident. Witnesses described him as a 5'9" black man with a small build and a thin mustache who wore a long beige jacket. The man allegedly stabbed University maintenance worker Broderick Barnville, 31, in the arm. Barnville was released Saturday from the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania after undergoing surgery to repair a major artery. According to witnesses, Barnville -- who many said was visiting his girlfriend, a Wawa employee -- saw the suspect try to steal a pack of cigarettes and instructed him to leave the store, escorting him out the door to the front of the building. The man then allegedly stabbed Barnville. One witness who was in the seating area of Wawa during the stabbing said Barnville had "taken swings" at the suspect before being stabbed. Office of Community Relations Director Glenn Bryan said the stabbing was "an isolated incident and involved criminal activity," and would not have a major effect on the University's efforts to deter panhandling. Bryan stressed that the University already has a "very effective" program in place to combat panhandling known as "Don't Give Change, Help Penn Make Change." The program encourages donors to give their money or volunteer hours to participating service providers, or use their money to buy food for panhandlers. The program's hallmark is the collection bins and information brochures in various stores around campus. Among the participating stores are the Wawas at 38th and Spruce and 36th and Chestnut streets; the Le Bus restaurant at 34th and Sansom streets; the 7-Eleven convenience store at 38th and Chestnut streets; and My Favorite Muffin on 40th Street. The program contributes the money it receives from the collection bins to human service agencies such as Horizon House, the University City Coalition, the Philadelphia Coalition Against Homelessness and ACCESS Philadelphia. University officials hope to expand the program to many new stores, especially the ones coming to campus as part of the Sansom Common complex under construction on the 3600 block of Walnut Street. Division of Facilities Services Hard Surfaces Superintendent Mike Ferraiolo, who supervises Barnville, said the department's policy toward the homeless is to contact University Police if there is a problem, adding that the department teaches its employees not to disturb homeless people or their belongings.

Family, friends mourn shooting victim

(03/04/98 10:00am)

Police said Anthony Davis, 22, was a drug dealer, but those who knew him describe Davis as a kind and loving friend and father. Police and news organizations have described Anthony Davis, the man killed in the shooting outside the Palestra Sunday, as a drug dealer who was deeply involved in a gang. But those who knew him best said he was actually a loving father and friend caught in a bad set of circumstances. "He was truly loved and will be truly missed," Davis' lifelong friend James DeShields said. "He was just at the wrong place at the wrong time." Davis, 22, lived in a third-floor apartment on the 1400 block of North 17th Street with his mother, Iona. He had three children, ages 3, 3 and 1, according to DeShields. Davis was pronounced dead at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania after he was shot twice in the chest shortly after the end of the Philadelphia Public League boys basketball championship game Sunday afternoon. Three others were wounded in the shootings. College senior John La Bombard, 21, was hit in the leg by a stray bullet while he worked in the Blauhaus; Philadelphia resident Latisa Feribee, 20, was shot in the arm while walking north on 33rd Street; and Jeffrey Noble, 19, was treated and released Sunday night for gunshot wounds to the back. Davis and Noble were driving north on 33rd Street between Chestnut and Walnut streets when Davis stopped their green Lexus and got out. He had a gun in his possession and fired at least one shot before being gunned down, police said. Feribee was an acquaintance of Davis and Noble, according to police. The circumstances that prompted the incident remain unclear. Craig Davis, Anthony's brother, insisted his brother was not a drug dealer. "My brother never sold any drugs in his life," Davis said. But Davis was sentenced to three years' probation for a drug conviction in November 1994, police officials said. Davis was also supposed to stand trial tomorrow for theft, receiving stolen property and unauthorized use of a motor vehicle as a result of an arrest last May, according to police. In addition, Davis was charged with carrying a firearm without a license in September. The District Attorney's office dropped the charges in December. Still, DeShields said Davis "was young and caught in a bad set of circumstances." "That doesn't mean he was a bad person," DeShields added. And despite reports to the contrary by various news organizations, DeShields insisted that Davis had never been in any gang . The Philadelphia Daily News reported yesterday that Davis belonged to the Stiles Street Gang, which had an ongoing fight with the 5th Street Gang of South Philadelphia. The fighting that led to Sunday's shooting started because of an argument over a girl, the Daily News reported. "It wasn't about any gang or any girl," Deshields said. "The incident was about one black hating another black for no reason." DeShields speculated that the people who gunned down Davis were from South Philadelphia and jealous of all his possessions. The people responsible for the attack "just didn't like [Davis] because of his status and all the stuff he had," DeShields said. Davis did not have a job and supported himself and his family through extensive gambling in Atlantic City, N.J., and his North Philadelphia neighborhood, according to DeShields and Craig Davis. "He gambled to get anything," Deshields said. "He was very skilled at gambling, so he got a lot of money." Deshields also said Davis was very generous with all the money he won. "He liked the nice things, but would give you anything. If he saw you down, he would help you," DeShields said. "He liked buying his mom and his babies things." Davis liked to be called Tupac because of his admiration for Tupac Shakur, the rapper who was killed in September 1996 as a result of a drive-by shooting. Davis' neighbors spray-painted their building and decorated their cars with messages like "RIP Tupac" and "We loved Tupac" in memory of Davis. Craig Davis said his brother only liked Tupac's lyrics and did not try to emulate Shakur's lifestyle of gangs and drugs. DeShields expressed similar sentiments. "[Davis] didn't do anything like Tupac. I like Tupac's music too, [but] that doesn't mean I want to be like him," he said. DeShields said he did not want all that was good about Davis to get lost in all the "lies about who he was." "Just coming out in the morning and seeing him there would make my day," DeShields said. "I've known him since we were little, and you don't find people better than him." Funeral services are being held Saturday at 9:30 a.m. at National Temple Baptist Church at 17th and Massey streets.

THE VICTIMS: Few details available on victims of shooting

(03/03/98 10:00am)

As detectives continue to investigate the deadly shooting outside the Palestra Sunday that killed one man and wounded three other people, mystery continues to surround the backgrounds of two of the victims -- including the man police suspect may have been the target of the gunfire. Anthony Davis, 22, of the 1400 block of North 17th Street, was pronounced dead at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania from gunshot wounds he suffered in the incident, which began shortly after the conclusion of the Philadelphia Public League boys basketball championship game Sunday afternoon. Three others were wounded in the shootings. College senior John La Bombard, 21, was hit in the leg by a stray bullet while he worked in the Blauhaus; Philadelphia resident Latisha Feribee, 20, was shot in the arm while walking north on 33rd Street; and Jeffrey Noble, 19, was treated and released at Jefferson University Hospital Sunday night for a gunshot wound to the back. According to witnesses and police, a suspect inside a car began shooting at Davis and Noble as the two sat in Davis' green Lexus on 33rd Street between Walnut and Chestnut streets. The two were hit as they tried to flee the car. The Philadelphia Daily News reported yesterday that the shooting was a continuation of a fight between Davis, who was also known as Tupac, and a group from South Philadelphia during halftime of the game. Officials from the Philadelphia Police Department's Homicide Division, as well as the University Police detectives investigating the incident, refused to comment on most aspects of Davis' background. They also refused to disclose much substantive information on Noble, who lives on the 800 block of North 16th Street. And when reached by telephone, more than 40 of Davis' neighbors and more than 20 of Noble's neighbors declined to comment on any aspect of the two victims' lives. The incident occurred after the championship game between Ben Franklin High School, which Noble attended, and the Franklin Learning Center. Police said the incident was not related to a rivalry between the schools. Noble has a contract with the school board allowing him to attend Franklin High School despite being an adult, according to Sgt. Alex Strong of the PPD's Homicide Division. La Bombard, the sole Penn student involved in the incident, was released from Allegheny University Hospital-Hahnemann yesterday at 4 p.m. after being treated for a gunshot wound to the lower thigh. La Bombard was working on a project for a Design of the Environment class when a stray gunshot went through the Blauhaus' thin wall and hit him in the leg. "I think maybe we should get a brick building with sturdier walls," said College sophomore Mike Gagliano, who is also a DOE major. La Bombard, a Queensbury, N.Y., native who lives on the 4000 block of Spruce Street, was described by College sophomore Alayne Rowan as a "really great guy" who always goes to gymnastics meets to support his friends on the team. La Bombard did not return calls for comment yesterday. Feribee, a resident of the 1600 block of Bailey Street, was shot in the arm, breaking several bones and having bullets lodge in her wrist, according to her grandmother, Gloria Feribee. She underwent surgery yesterday to have pins placed in her arm and will not be able to use her arm for six months, Gloria Feribee said. Latisha Feribee works at the Logan East Retirement Home and attended Peirce College in Philadelphia.

Food plaza faces opposition

(02/27/98 10:00am)

Hill House administrators and residents asked Penn officials to not put vending near the dorm. University officials want to put two fresh air food plazas near the busy intersection of 34th and Walnut streets. The problem is, no one seems to want one in their backyard. Yesterday, it was representatives from Hill House who met with Managing Director of Economic Development Jack Shannon to express their strong opposition to a possible plaza next to the residence, leading officials to say they will probably search for other sites, people who attended the meeting said. Fifteen residents from the dormitory, including its faculty master, assistant dean and 13 students, met with Shannon for 45 minutes yesterday to voice their concerns about the plazas, which they said would result in problems such as noise, odors, rats and disrupting deliveries to the building's commissary. "It was pointed out that no University administrator would have a cluster of food trucks 10 feet from his bedroom," said Philosophy graduate student Michael McShane, a Hill House graduate fellow who attended the meeting. "We asked them to extend us their own courtesy." At the meeting held in Shannon's Franklin Building office, Shannon presented a proposal to place four carts and five trucks in or near the parking lot between Hill House and the Zeta Psi fraternity house, attendees said. The student and staff representatives expressed their concerns with the proposal and agreed to put them in writing in a letter to Shannon, attendees said. University officials have spent the last two weeks trying to identify two to three locations for plazas to replace the two sites -- next to Bennett Hall at 34th and Chancellor streets and behind Van Pelt Library on the 3400 block of Walnut Street -- which they abandoned on February 12 in the face of faculty and staff protests. Some faculty members opposed the Bennett Hall site because of potential food odors and noise, while staff members opposed a location behind the Van Pelt Library because of potential overcrowding and the hindering of deliveries to the library. Shannon said Penn officials have already identified a site for another food plaza, but he declined to identify the site. But on Tuesday, Executive Vice President John Fry said that one of the new sites would likely be located near Meyerson Hall. University officials had previously announced three other locations for food plazas: on 40th Street between Locust and Walnut streets; between Gimbel Gymnasium and the parking garage on the 3700 block of Walnut Street; and at 34th and Spruce streets near the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. Because of protests from various groups, University officials have postponed the announcement of their comprehensive plans for the plazas indefinitely, Shannon said. "We will not announce the locations until we reach consensus as to what the best food plaza locations are," he explained. The plazas, which will provide outdoor seating as well as electrical hook-ups, sewage and water lines and improved lighting at a cost of $1 a month for five years, are designed to offer vendors an attractive place to operate away from the crowded streets of campus. The University will build the plazas while it awaits City Council's approval of an ordinance banning vending on many streets and sidewalks around campus. Plans for the plazas are separate from the ordinance. McShane said that since Hill House is a dormitory, its situation is different from other buildings near potential plazas. "Unlike other places, the plaza is in our front yard. It would be only five yards away from our bedrooms," he said. Since the meeting was resolved to their satisfaction, Hill House representatives decided to cancel a larger meeting, scheduled for 7 p.m. yesterday, during which Shannon was scheduled to present the proposal to all interested parties, attendees said.

U. to announce two or three food plaza sites today

(02/25/98 10:00am)

One of the replacement food plazas may be close to Meyerson Hall. University officials will release theircomprehensive plans for all fresh air food plazas today, including the locations of two or three new plazas to replace two recently canceled sites, Executive Vice President John Fry said yesterday. One of these new locations will likely be behind Meyerson Hall near 34th and Walnut streets, Fry said. Both Fry and Jack Shannon, the University's managing director for economic development, declined to comment on the locations of the remaining plazas until plans are finalized. Administrators had originally announced plans to build five plazas: next to Bennett Hall at 34th and Chancellor streets; behind Van Pelt Library on the 3400 block of Walnut Street; between Gimbel Gymnasium and the parking garage on the 3700 block of Walnut Streets; at 34th and Spruce streets next to the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania; and on 40th Street between Locust and Walnut streets. But February 12, University officials said they were abandoning plans for the food plazas next to Bennett Hall and behind Van Pelt Library in the face of faculty and staff protests. Some faculty members opposed the Bennett Hall site because of potential food odors and noise, while staff members opposed the Van Pelt Library location because of possible over-crowding. In determining the new locations, officials face the problem of balancing the needs of the vendors with the wishes of the people who work in the buildings near potential plazas, according to Fry. "Everyone's for the vendors until they're going to be located near them," Fry said. The University will build the plazas while it awaits City Council's approval of an ordinance regulating vending on and around campus. Among other provisions, the proposed ordinance, which was introduced to City Council February 12, bans vending on many streets and sidewalks.Plans for the plazas are separate from the ordinance. Fry also insisted yesterday that University administrators did not renege on any promises they made at a February 9 meeting convened by Blackwell to finalize a vending ordinance proposal. Many people who were at that meeting have accused University administrators, including Fry and Shannon, of making promises on certain issues -- particularly that they would include locations of street vending in the ordinance -- and then reneging on them in drafting the final proposal. The two locations the administrators allegedly agreed to, according to many of the meeting's attendees, were on 34th Street between Walnut Street and Locust Walk and directly in front of the Penn Tower Hotel. Fry admitted to agreeing to the site in front of Penn Tower Hotel, but said he "never agreed to open, unrestricted vending on 34th Street. The most we agreed to was a food plaza in the area." Fry said his position might have been misrepresented to the people at the meeting. But he stressed that he "made his positions clear in separate phone conversations with Jack [Shannon] and Blackwell." University officials released plans for the first plaza, to be located on 40th Street, last week. Construction on this plaza is scheduled to begin next month and finish in May. The other plazas should start going up soon after work on the first has begun, Shannon said last week. Fry refused to comment yesterday on the construction timetable. The fresh air food plazas -- which will provide outdoor seating as well as electrical hook-ups, sewage and water lines and improved lighting for vendors for $1 per month for five years -- are designed to offer vendors an attractive place to operate away from the crowded streets of campus.

Vending bill shows few changes

(02/24/98 10:00am)

The final bill bears close resemblance to the one Penn submitted last May. Despite countless hours of negotiations between University administrators and two ad hoc community groups, the ordinance regulating vending at Penn that was introduced to City Council this month largely resembles the first proposal Penn submitted last May. Like the original, the latest proposal bans vending from the vast majority of campus streets and sidewalks. Penn officials, expecting the bill to pass, plan to build five fresh air food plazas separate from the ordinance to accommodate about 45 vendors. There are currently about 90 vendors in the area around the University. The University recently canceled plans for two fresh air food plazas near 34th and Walnut streets after faculty and staff members complained about potential problems. Officials have yet to identify the two new locations. There are only a few significant changes in the latest ordinance, which will be debated in City Council in April. The changes affect the rules governing the Vending Advisory Board, increase the number of available University City vending slots from 75 to 100 and relax some operational restrictions. University City Vendors Alliance spokesperson Scott Goldstein said he is not surprised by the similarities between the two proposals. "The University administration creates the pretense they are looking for input from the community, [but] they don't care about anyone's interests but their own," said Goldstein, who owns the Scott's Vegetarian Cuisine truck at 36th and Walnut streets. But Jack Shannon, the University's managing director for economic development, stressed that Penn made "significant compromises." "The revised bill reflects movement on both sides to a middle ground," he said. University officials have sought to regulate vending for several years, citing safety concerns and the vendors' negative impact on Penn's ability to lure attractive retail. City Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell, who represents West Philadelphia, introduced the latest version of the ordinance to Council on February 12. The introduction came three days after Blackwell convened a meeting between University administrators and affected constituencies to negotiate a final unified proposal. Vending and consumer groups, faculty and staff members and students have accused University officials of reneging on promises they made during those negotiations, particularly on certain street vending locations to which the University allegedly agreed. The controversy over vending began last May when University officials sent Blackwell its initial ordinance proposal. But following protests by the two groups formed in response to the ordinance -- the Penn Consumer Alliance and the UCVA -- University officials withdrew their first proposal. Penn submitted its second proposal on November 25, sparking a new round of protests from the community groups. The PCA and UCVA each submitted alternate proposals to Blackwell on January 12, leading her to call the February 9 meeting. Although the earlier version only designates specific locations where vending is banned -- whereas the current one specifies where vending is allowed and says it is banned everywhere else -- the results are largely the same. In both proposals, street vending is banned on Walnut and Spruce streets from 33rd to 41st streets and on Market Street from 36th to 38th streets. Both versions also ban both street and sidewalk vending on many major University City thoroughfares, including parts of the following streets: 34th Street, Spruce Street, Walnut Street, Sansom Street and 40th Street, as well as many other blocks. The current version of the proposal goes further than its predecessor in banning vending on all of Walnut Street, Chestnut Street and 36th Street. Vending would also be banned on all of 33rd Street except for three sidewalk vending locations between Walnut Street and Smith Walk. But the current version allows street vending on Market Street between 34th and 36th streets, far from the center of campus. Both ordinances ban the use of electrical generators with internal combustion engines, although the current version allows the vendors a year to find a new power source instead of instituting the changes immediately. The composition and practices of the Vending Advisory Board changed from the first to the latest proposal. In the first proposal, the board had one vending, two business, three non-profit, one neighborhood and two other representatives, for a total of nine. The current proposal is more specific, with five vendors; two business representatives; three representatives from non-profit organizations; three members appointed by the University Council representing students, faculty and staff; and two from neighborhood groups such as the Spruce Hill Community Association. In addition, the new proposal does not guarantee that if a vendor is issued a license, he or she will be able to vend at a specific location for the extent of the license.

Critics say U. violated vending deals

(02/20/98 10:00am)

Penn allegedly reneged on promises to relax restrictions in the proposed vending ordinance. University officials reneged on significant promises they made at a February 9 meeting designed to put an end to the controversy over regulating vending on and around campus, many of the people present at the meeting said. The closed-door meeting, attended by about 20 people and lasting more than five hours, was convened by Philadelphia Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell in her City Hall office to create a final proposal for an ordinance to regulate vending. Three days later, Blackwell introduced the ordinance -- which prohibits vending in many places around campus and has many University and community groups up in arms -- to City Council. During the meeting, Penn Executive Vice President John Fry personally approved two compromises allowing vending trucks on 34th Street between Walnut and Spruce streets and in front of the Penn Tower Hotel, according to numerous people present at the meeting -- including a University official. Fry, who was not present at the meeting, gave his approval via telephone to Managing Director for Economic Development Jack Shannon, who was at the meeting, the attendees said. But the University did not include those compromises in the proposal Blackwell requested that it draft based on the agreements made at the meeting. Neither Fry nor Blackwell -- who represents West Philadelphia -- returned repeated telephone calls for comment yesterday. Shannon declined to comment on whether Fry was consulted during the meeting or on the content of those conversations. But he said the University only agreed to find "suitable locations along 34th Street and along Penn Tower" separate from the ordinance. Shannon said vendors in those areas will be accommodated by the five fresh air food plazas the University plans to build. At the time of the meeting, the University planned to build plazas behind Van Pelt Library at 34th and Walnut streets; next to Bennett Hall at 34th and Chancellor Streets; at 34th and Spruce Streets; and at two other locations. But Penn Director of Community Relations Glenn Bryan, who was at the meeting, said Fry "tentatively approved" two locations for street vending during phone calls with Shannon. Shannon could not be reached for comment on Bryan's remarks. Penn Associate General Counsel Roman Petyk, who attended the meeting, would only say that Shannon consulted Fry. But History Professor Jeffrey Fear, who represented the faculty at the meeting, said administration officials "definitely" agreed to put the two locations in the proposal. Several other attendees said such an agreement occurred, and they were upset that the University reneged on its promises. "The meeting was obviously a complete waste of our time," said Maria Oyaski, who represented the Spruce Hill Community Association. Two groups that have sought to make the ordinance less restrictive -- the University City Vendors Alliance and the Penn Consumer Alliance -- said they did not get a chance to review the proposal before it was introduced to Council last Thursday morning. Many attendees said the University agreed to send a copy of the new proposal to the PCA and the UCVA to review it for accuracy before officials forwarded it to Blackwell. Hearings on the proposed ordinance will not be scheduled until April, Blackwell said last week. The controversy began last May when Penn sent Blackwell its initial proposal without what many affected constituencies said was sufficient consultation. University officials have sought to regulate vending for several years, citing safety concerns and the vendors' negative impact on Penn's ability to lure attractive retail to the area. Attendees from the PCA and UCVA said one of the reasons the consumer and vendor groups agreed to many of the provisions of the ordinance was the promise of plazas at the two now-cancelled locations. But three days after the meeting, Shannon announced the University was abandoning plans to build the plazas near Van Pelt Library and Bennett Hall because of complaints from faculty and staff members. Another promise attendees accuse the University of making and later breaking was to specifically write in the proposal that the University administration could only hold one of the three spots designated for non-profit institutions on the Vending Advisory Board, according to PCA spokesperson Matthew Ruben. But Shannon said the language provides for that agreement. "The ordinance calls for three different non-profit institutions," Shannon said. "It could be three institutions other than the University of Pennsylvania."

U. releases plans for 40th St. food plaza

(02/19/98 10:00am)

If all goes as planned, the new 40th Street fresh air food plaza will create a colorful, park-like atmosphere on the east side of 40th Street behind the building formerly housing the Philadelphia Free Library, according to plans released yesterday by the University. Construction on the plaza, the first of five the University is building, is scheduled to begin in March and finish in May. The plaza will house eight vending stands -- for produce and other merchandise -- and four food carts. The University will also assist five vending trucks in operating on the east side of 40th Street south of the plaza, officials said. The plazas -- which will provide outdoor seating for customers, as well as electrical hook-ups, sewage, water lines and improved lighting for vendors at the cost of $1 per month -- are designed to offer vendors an attractive place to operate away from campus' crowded streets. The University is building the plazas as it awaits City Council's approval of an ordinance regulating vending on and around campus. Among other provisions, the proposed ordinance, which was introduced to Council last week, bans vending on many streets and sidewalks around campus. The plazas are separate from the ordinance. The 12 spaces available will accommodate the 7 to 10 vendors presently in operation on 40th Street, according to Jack Shannon, the University's managing director for economic development and top development official. Some of the vendors themselves, however, are not happy with the University's plans. "If [the University] moves me somewhere else, my business will be cut by at least half," said Sami Dakko, the owner of Rami's Lebanese Luncheonette located on 40th Street between Spruce and Locust streets. The stands in the plaza are being designed so vendors can easily install them in the morning and take them down in the evening. The plaza will also contain benches and landscaping to give it a park-like feel. The University intends to build a total of five plazas. Penn officials announced last week that they had abandoned plans to build the plazas at two of the proposed sites, next to Bennett Hall and behind Van Pelt Library, because of complaints from faculty members and staff. An announcement about two alternate sites will be made later this week, Shannon said. Two other food plazas will be built between Gimbel Gymnasium and the parking garage on the 3700 block of Walnut Street and at 34th and Spruce streets near the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. Construction on the food plazas was originally scheduled to begin in December. But University officials delayed their plans when the passage of the proposed vending ordinance was delayed because of a dispute between Penn and vendor and consumer groups. The other four sites should go up shortly after construction on the 40th Street sites starts, Shannon said last week.

UCD banners area to spruce up community

(02/17/98 10:00am)

The University City District will hang about 135 banners near campus promoting the area. Do you know where University City begins and ends? If you're not sure, the University City District wants to make the boundaries a little clearer -- and enhance the area's appearance at the same time. In an effort to define the area more clearly and promote it to outsiders, the special services district hung the first of about 135 banners on city-owned light poles yesterday. Using the gold, green and royal blue colors of the UCD logo, the 4'-by-8' banners depict different themes representative of the community. They will be hung at areas determined to be "gateways" to the district, including streets on and around the Penn campus. The UCD -- established last summer and led by Penn, Drexel University, Amtrak and other area institutions -- aims to improve and promote University City. The district is modeled on the Center City District, a 7-year-old quasi-governmental group designed to improve the appearance of the area that is funded through a tax on Center City businesses. The banners are the group's first marketing project. The UCD's 30 safety ambassadors also patrol the area, and workers regularly clean streets and remove graffiti. Penn Executive Vice President John Fry is chairperson of the district. "[The banners] are part of the overall plan to make University City [and] West Philadelphia more appealing," said Marty Cabry, a member of the UCD board of directors. The first banner was hung yesterday near the intersection of 30th and Market streets. The group expects to finish hanging all the banners by March 1, according to UCD Executive Director Paul Steinke. Many of the banners will be hung on and around the Penn campus. Locations include: 40th Street from Market Street to Spruce Street; South and Spruce streets from 31st Street to 38th Street; Market Street from 38th Street to 41st Street; 38th Street from Powelton Avenue to Baltimore Avenue; and 34th Street from Ludlow Street to Walnut Street. The banners depict seven different themes reflecting the many facets of life in University City: arts and culture; dining and cuisine; education; athletics; neighborhood and community; science, medical and information technology; and transportation. One of the main purposes of the banners is to beautify University City for its residents. The banners will also help outsiders identify the community and the attributes that distinguish it from the rest of Philadelphia, UCD officials said. "They're really aimed at people who drive through the community and don't give it a second look," Spruce Hill Community Association President Joe Ruane said. Cabry stressed that the banners were only one part of the UCD's plan to help the community. "I don't think by themselves they can solve the community's problems," he said. "But they are part of our overall effort to improve the neighborhood." The banners were designed by UCD officials in conjunction with the Center City firm Articus Ltd. The UCD, the Philadelphia Art Commission and the Philadelphia Streets Department approved the design prior to the banners' installation. Local community groups and the UCD worked together to identify the best locations for the banners. The parties chose several "gateways" in the community, selected for their high volume of pedestrian and vehicular traffic, as places for the banners. In addition to the locations around the Penn campus, the banners will be hung as far west as 50th and Chestnut streets and 47th Street and Woodland Avenue.

Vending ordinance finalized

(02/13/98 10:00am)

Philadelphia Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell's introduction yesterday of an ordinance that would regulate vending on and around campus did little to calm the 9-month-old controversy surrounding the plan. Among its many provisions, the ordinance regulates locations where vendors can operate, prohibits the use of electrical generators one year after its enactment and establishes a Vending Advisory Board which will review vending regulations and recommend applicants for certain locations. The controversy over the vending ordinance began last May when Penn sent Blackwell its initial ordinance proposal. The two other groups involved in the conflict, the Penn Consumer Alliance and the University City Vendors Alliance, sought to make the ordinance less restrictive. "I tried in principle to honor all sides," Blackwell said. "But it was very difficult, because it's a specific issue and people have specific wants." The three parties met with Blackwell Monday to try to create a single proposal. Blackwell then asked Penn to draft a new ordinance incorporating the various compromises. On Wednesday night, Blackwell made final revisions to the ordinance. University officials have sought to regulate vending for several years, citing safety concerns and the vendors' negative impact on Penn's ability to lure attractive retail to the area. Although the ordinance was introduced yesterday, hearings will not be scheduled until April, Blackwell said. The councilwoman said she expects some slight changes in the ordinance. But she added that she believes her proposal will be the framework for the final legislation. Blackwell's proposal of an ordinance did little to calm the strong feelings on both sides of the issue. "We're glad some parts of the ordinance have been changed, but some of the most important parts of the ordinance are dreadful," PCA spokesperson Matthew Ruben said. Ruben, an English graduate student, said he was particularly angry because the University did not include certain compromises reached at the Monday meeting into the final draft of the ordinance. "The University reneged on the promises they agreed to in front of the councilwoman and everyone else who was there [at Monday's meeting]," he said. But University officials denied they did not fulfill their promises. "There were significant compromises made" by Penn, said Jack Shannon, the University's top economic development official. "The revised bill reflects movement on both sides to a middle ground." Blackwell also claimed that the interests of the two sides were equally represented in the ordinance. Still, the ordinance does reflect some successful compromises between the University and the groups. The parties were able to agree on the selection process and composition of the Vending Advisory Board: 5 vendors, 3 representatives of nonprofit institutions, 3 representatives of Penn's faculty, staff and students, two members of the business community and two members of "neighborhood resident organizations." The mayor would appoint them in consultation with Blackwell. Also, the ordinance guarantees there will be 100 public sites available for vending and that they will be filled if there is interest in them. In addition, the University made a concession to allow coolers outside vending carts. But the one issue causing the most conflict is the ban on vending on Walnut Street. Ruben said the prohibition is "the most egregious and mind-boggling aspect of the ordinance." The consumer group is also upset over the prohibition of vending in several areas: on 34th Street between Walnut and Spruce streets; on the north side of Spruce Street between 34th and 36th streets; and in the area directly in front of the Penn Tower Hotel near 34th and Spruce streets. Another controversial aspect of the ordinance is its ban on electrical generators. "With the ban on generators, the ordinance does not provide any kind of feasible method for the vendors to function," Ruben said. Despite requests by the PCA and the UCVA, the proposed ordinance does not contain a contingency clause that would allow for more public locations if the University fails to provide the promised 45 sites on private property. The University pledged to build five fresh air food plazas that will together hold 45 vendors displaced by the ordinance. Scott Goldstein, spokesperson for the UCVA, declined to comment because he had not yet seen a copy of the proposed ordinance.