By Sue Ann Rybak
Members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) placed signs outside the Trolley Car Diner and handed out fliers charging Ken Weinstein, the president of Philly Office Retail, of “helping to destroy wages and benefits” on Thursday, Feb. 6.
The labor union objects to Philly Office Retail hiring McCoubrey/Overholser, a Mt. Airy based general contractor, to convert the former St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, located at the corner of Wayne Avenue and Harvey Street into a private school.
Weinstein said his organization did get quotes from the IBEW but their bids were 30 – 40 percent higher than non-union contractors.
Weinstein said the development project will transform “a long vacant and deteriorated property in Germantown into a vibrant and active Waldorf School.”
The Gothic stone church, chapel, rectory and parish house sit on roughly two acres of land and were designed and built by Frank Furness and George Hewitt. The buildings were listed by the Philadelphia Preservation Alliance as one of the most endangered historic properties in the Philadelphia region.
Weinstein said his organization is investing almost $6 million into the Germantown development, which is one of the largest in Germantown in many years. He said the project will create about 100 temporary and permanent jobs.
Weinstein added that the development uses no government funding, other than historic tax credits that were awarded to help preserve the property.
“I do not appreciate this personal attack and I will not stay quiet while they spread lies and misinformation about our projects designed to revitalize our neighborhood,” Weinstein said. “I will put my record of revitalizing our region’s urban communities, anytime, against the efforts of IBEW to shut down projects that positively impact our community.”
Weinstein said several patrons have expressed their support of the Waldorf School development project and have criticized the union workers for handing out threatening fliers with Weinstein’s picture and cell phone number listed.
In a letter emailed to several friends and customers, Weinstein asked community members to visit the diner and tell the protesters that they disapprove of their efforts to shut down the development project.
“I don’t care whether or not you stay to eat at the diner, just that you let the protesters know that they do not have the support of our community and that they should support my efforts make northwest Philadelphia a better place to live, work, learn and enjoy,” wrote Weinstein.
“With all the homes still without power in Chestnut Hill and Montgomery County as a result of the winter storm, getting power back on for area families would be a much better use of the protesters’ time,” added Weinstein.