At the heart of Carroll Park, lies a block unscathed by frequent crime and littering. For many years the upkeep of the 1400 block of Redfield Street has been the pride and joy of its residents. The sense of community, interaction and care for one another is evident when walking down the narrow street.
Few issues have continuously posed a threat to the livelihood of the block’s residents.
“Periodically there are times when things break out but its a relatively quiet block,” Block Captain Charles Young said. “About two or three years back a man was shot and killed on the corner and we still don’t know who is responsible, but that was probably the biggest and worst incident in the last five to 10 years.”
There have been no incidents of crime on the 1400 block of Redfield Street in the past six months, according to Crime Reports, a crime mapping database used by the Philadelphia Police.
However, the relatively quiet block and home to many elderly and retired occupants has been under attack by several invasive critters.
The raccoon infestation first started about five years ago,Young said, who has lived on the block for 20 years.
“We found a wildlife couple, man and wife who does that kind of work,” Young said. “They come out and set the traps and then remove them, for a fee of course”.
The couple charged $65 to remove the animal. When an animal was caught the couple would collect the cages then transport the animal three miles outside the area and release them, Young said.
If residents encounter a raccoon in or around their home, Philly 311, a city services directory, advises residents to contact the Animal Care and Control Team. However, the wildlife control service provider does not respond to animals trapped in uncommon spaces in the home, such as the attic,wall or roof.
The average cost of raccoon removal in Philadelphia is $195 for an initial inspection and installation and an additional removal fee of $150, a representative from the Allstate Animal Control said.
“The last catch, we caught one on my front roof, and the thing just howled all night long and I guess that was a signal for the rest that were hanging out in the neighborhood that it is not safe around here,” Young said.
The raccoons became a distant memory until they reappeared one or two months ago, Young said. Because of the high cost of installing and removing cages, residents have resorted to sealing the holes, thereby preventing the animals from entering their homes.
Still experiencing problems with the raccoons, residents contacted another licensed wildlife control agency, however were disappointed with the results.
“The cage on my neighbor’s roof is still there. They [the agency] just disappeared, they don’t call to check. That’s why we’re still looking for someone and that’s why we’re not just going to call anyone that says they work with raccoons. If they want to work with us fine, but that’s the point we’re at now,” Young said.
Husband and wife, Mark and Valerie Crawford, residents of the block, said they believe the increase of raccoons in the area is due to the recent cleaning up and purchasing of local parks.
“As houses become vacant, cats, raccoons, opossums, squirrels find their way inside houses. They set up camp and it gets worse and worse,” Young said.
In addition to the infestation of raccoons on the block, trees on the street have become somewhat problematic. Residents find the uprooting of the trees and the elevation of the sidewalks have caused an unsightly appearance to their block.
When Johnie Rogers first moved onto the block about 50 years ago, the city maintained the trees and cut them every once in awhile.
“Now they don’t come around as much,” she said. “We would report something and would not get a response. They said they would take care of it and they don’t. This is the worse I have ever seen it.”
Rogers, who lives with her adult daughter, noticed trees in front of the houses which have been remodeled or rebuilt, have been taken care of.
The block has collectively contacted the Fairmount Park Commission, which manages all park and street trees in Philadelphia. Dwight Wilson, administrative operations manager at Philly 311, attended the January 16 block meeting where he informed residents their requests would be met. However, residents have yet to see any change to the trees on their block.
The lack of changes to the trees on Redfield Street is due to a shortage in the budget, first deputy commissioner of the Philadelphia Parks and Recreation, Mark Focht, said.
The department received two requests last August from the residents, however, due to the budget constraints of the current contract, there is no money to remove trees. Once the contract is renewed in June and new funds are allocated, the department will start on a list of removals.
Raccoons and unkempt trees are not the only issues troubling residents of the 1400 block of Redfield. The new property tax assessment has caused much confusion, so much so that Young had lawyer, Reverend Edward Sparkman, attend a block meeting earlier this year to explain the tax assessment.
Effective in the 2014 tax year, the new property tax assessment, better known as the Actual Value Initiative, will re-evaluate real property to determine the current market value of land and buildings. According to the city’s Office of Property Assessment size, age, condition, use and location will be considered when determining the new value of real properties.
“It will affect the senior citizen, the fixed income people. And it will be terrible,” Rogers said.
“How are you gonna make an assessment on someones property by just coming and looking on the outside of their houses?” Resident Mark Crawford said. “Why wouldn’t you look inside the house to check for other things? We think its a plot to get you out of your house. And the University of Pennsylvania is buying up all the property, so what are they going to do? Force people out of their homes? Its just not right.”
The City of Philadelphia has begun to notify residents of the proposed changes in property values, while allowing for appeals. In addition to filing an appeal, residents can apply for the Homestead Exemption.
If eligible for the Homestead Exemption, residents could possibly see a $30,000 reduction in “new taxable assessed value,” according to a letter from Mayor Michael Nutter. In order to be eligible, a resident must file for their property of primary residence. Any reductions will be reflected on the taxes for the following year.
Rogers is hopeful the assessment doesn’t vastly affect her neighbors and worries about the retired residents as well.
“I’m very concerned about them. They are going to be affected,” Rogers said. “For people who haven’t been working. It’s just not right.”