On the 200 block of Westmoreland Street in Fairhill residents are fed up with the dangerous condition of a section of sidewalk and frustrated with the failure of the city to fix this problem.
Carmen Morales, who lives at 232 E. Westmoreland St,, is one of many residents complaining about her conditions on this street for over a year. The main reason for neighbors’ complaint is the fact that there is a large hole in the sidewalk. Although it may not look terribly bad, this hole has caused many problems plus unnecessary stress for the neighborhood.
This hole is in front of an abandoned house, which is located next door to Morales at 236 E. Westmoreland St. The house has been abandoned for a few years, but squatters have been living in the house off and on for the past 10 years. The hole formed right in front of this abandoned house about a year ago, causing inconvenience and safety hazards to those living in the area ever since.
Morales is currently the block captain and she’s been the key person neighbors have been complaining to about the pavement problems.
“There are little kids and elderly people that pass through here. How can I keep my block safe if problems like this pavement aren’t fixed when I ask for the city’s help?” said Morales.
An elderly resident, Francesco Ruiz, who lives up the street from Morales at 216 E. Westmoreland St., fell into that hole a few months ago and had to be rushed to the emergency room. That accident left Ruiz walking with a cane and many trips to the hospital for surgeries.
“I was walking [and] the pavement was high, about four inches, and I hit the pavement and I rolled into the hole,” said Ruiz.
Morales has taken charge in getting the city involved by making phone calls to Councilwoman Maria Quiñones-Sánchez, but the councilwoman has yet to return her calls. Other city officials, Morales said, told her that the hole in the sidewalk is the responsibility of the owners of the house that it is in front of what happens to be the abandoned house. The house at 236 E. Moreland St. is scheduled to be demolished, which raises another question about damage to Morales’ backyard and to the side of her house.
“I feel helpless when people who live on this block come to me about this hole. But I’ve tried so hard to get the city to listen and I continue to try for them,” Morales said.
A few months ago, city officials came to fix the first hole that had formed on that section of sidewalk, but within a short period of time, a new hole in the street formed because the sidewalk on the block is generally very weak and hollow. Morales called to complain again, but she said city workers told her if she wanted it fixed that badly—she would have to do it herself.
“How can I afford to fix the pavement when it wasn’t my fault for its damage? They asked me to fix the hole, but what if the same problem happens again?” questioned Morales, miffed at the response.
The issue of paying for the repair with her own money is secondary to a larger issue: the city has not taken care of the hole.
Morales’ husband, Nelson Diaz, has also tried to get the city to come out and survey the block for damages.
“The whole sidewalk up and down the block is a mess. There is no way people can be safe walking along here, but the city doesn’t seem to care” said Diaz.
Block residents express concerns for the high school students that pass through the area every day to attend school right up the block, as well as for the customers going to the beauty salon on the corner at 238 E. Westmoreland St. located next to the abandoned house.
Owners of that salon, Frank Frias and Yasmin Frias, have suffered significant water damage in their building because the hole in the sidewalk causes water to travel down below the surface and into the basement of the salon.
“The damage the hole has caused is too much and too expensive. There needs to be a way we can get this fixed so our business doesn’t suffer anymore,” said Yasmin Frias.
Norma Torres, Morales’ mother, has lived on the block for years with her daughter and suffers from many injuries and has undergone many surgeries. She now has trouble walking and breathing comfortably, so the damages along the sidewalk don’t make things easier for her.
“I can barely walk on my own because of my own problems, but now with the street conditions being a mess I can’t trust even trying to walk on my block,” said Torres.
Morales and her team of neighborhood friends have joined together to do something about the hole in the sidewalk. Unfortunately after a year of complaining, after a year of injuries occurring and after a year of other damages taking place, the City of Philadelphia has yet to address the collapsed sidewalk problem on this block of E. Westmoreland St.
“My hope is that the City will finally listen to us because we are just as important as people living in Center City and in the suburbs,” said Morales. “Just because we live in North Philadelphia doesn’t mean they can treat us like this and leave our neighborhood in a hazardous and horrible condition.”
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