Jenks ramp has been a great benefit for school staff, parents

Over the past several months there have been numerous reports in the Chestnut Hill Local regarding the Ramp Project at the Jenks School that have focused on the concerns of nearby residents of the 8300 Block of Ardleigh Street. Our organization, The Friends of J.S. Jenks, tried to be of assistance in communications between the school district and the community association, and we were happy to see that because of community input the school district was able to modify aspects of the construction, within budgetary limitations, to improve its appearance in terms of fencing and landscaping.

While the focus of news coverage of the ramp has been very negative, we think it is important for voices to be heard about how wonderful this ramp has been for the school and its ability to function in this community. Below are some examples of how the ramp has benefited both the school community and the Chestnut Hill community at large.

  1. We hosted Astronomy Night during the Philadelphia Science Festival on April 28. The event grows each year and attracted numerous school and community members to the play-yard. This year the volunteer astronomers were able to drive right up the ramp to set up their equipment. In previous years they had to block traffic on Germantown Avenue in order to unload, and then haul their heavy scopes up to the play-yard.  The teachers were able to pull their cars up to the schoolyard for the event as well, thus ensuring they could stay late at the school without worrying about getting a ticket by parking on nearby streets that allow only one-hour parking after 4 p.m.  Only teachers and astronomers volunteering at the event (many of whom were loading and unloading astronomy night materials) left their cars on the property during the event.
  2. On several days over the past month, most of the streets around the school had “no-parking” designations because of roadwork. The teachers had no place to park as residents all had to move their cars to any open nearby streets. Our teachers have been chased out of paid lots and have been told not to park there. Some specific teachers (e.g., those who have disabilities) were thus permitted by the school to park for these few days at the top of the ramp. This ensured they were able to attend to the children in class on time, and helped alleviate parking shortages on the street for residents.
  3. Three weeks ago, volunteers rented a U-Haul and filled it with donated furnishings from IKEA that will be used to organize our STEM materials closet, make-over the teacher’s lounge and outfit each classroom with new desks and chairs for teachers.  Parents, community members and teachers came out on short notice Sunday morning to load the truck and deliver to the school.  To make things easier for all (especially in light of the street festival and rain) volunteers pulled their cars up the ramp for the duration of the move. Our maintenance supervisor came in on his day off to open the gate and open the school. It was a heartwarming effort by many people and goes to show the power of our school community.
  4. On May 20 the ramp was used during our Funfest Fundraiser.  In previous years our vendors and volunteers would have to find parking or double park on Germantown Avenue or Ardleigh to unload heavy tables and equipment and pull everything up the small playground ramp or up the steps.  The ramp reduced set-up time and stress both for vendors and volunteers.  Volunteers were able to unload and load their vehicles easily. The ramp was utilized by the fire department to bring up a fire engine to the event for the children to explore, and to learn about fire safety. An ice cream truck was able to bring in refreshments for sale. Robotics teams and the School for Circus Arts both participated in the event and were able to load and unload efficiently.

All of these examples demonstrate the school’s need for this ramp – be it daily deliveries or for special events. While we appreciate the neighbor’s concerns and their efforts to ensure appropriate stone, fencing, and landscaping were utilized for the project, the school should not now be in a position to explain every single time they need to use the ramp, nor should they be subject to having their cars photographed, their usage reported to the community association, or otherwise harassed by the neighbors. Neighbors have specifically objected to cars being left on the ramp during periods of use. We would like to clarify that having volunteers and teachers leave their cars up on the ramp during a school event so they can easily load and unload heavy items is NOT the same as using the ramp as a parking lot.

We realize that the situation regarding the trash containers along the rear of the school property is a continuing issue that is also causing concerns amongst the neighbors, and we have been trying to help in this matter as well. Our principal has talked with the Chestnut Hill Business Association and school district at length about the challenges that are occurring with putting the trash dumpsters back in the space since trash pickup often occurs after staff has already left for the day. We are happy to report that with continued efforts on the part of the school and the business association, the trash has been kept off the sidewalk more regularly now, and we hope that we can continue dialogue to ensure the situation is maintained satisfactorily.

Jenks is a school that is located in the heart of the vibrant business district of Chestnut Hill. Recent expansions like the Fresh Market, and the Outdoor Beer Garden at the Market at the Fareway all increase activity in this area, and the school is squeezed in the middle of all of this. If one owns a home close to the Avenue and close to a school, there are some inconveniences that must be expected in the trade-off of living close to such a great community. The needs of the school in this urban community must to be recognized and appreciated, and not drowned out by the voices of a few neighbors.

The Friends of J.S. Jenks Board: Haviva Goldman, president; Michelle Noonan, vice president; Josh Byrne, secretary; Rosemary Harley, treasurer; Gerald Tracy; Bridget Davis, Eva Dorcus, Genene Jones, Tanya Lopez, Tiffany Palmer, Maxwell Pistilli, Chris Rugen and Dari Sutton, members-at-large.


Problems with beer garden reporting

 Brendan Sample’s, June 1 article, “CHCA to Mediate Between Neighbors and CH Hotel,” misstates many important facts.

CHCA agreed to TRY to set up a conversation with Ron Pete. They agreed to mediate IF it comes to fruition. FIRST, Ron Pete must agree.

Our concerns include noise but “expressed concerns about high noise levels” far from covers them. Our concerns include what could become of the hotel complex without  deed restrictions and the covenant. Current zoning allows for a five-story building on the complex and could encompass the parking lot behind the hotel. Considering the strong opposition to One West – one would think more Chestnut Hill residents would be concerned.

Please stop referring to the neighbors as “those opposed to the beer garden.” First and foremost we are opposed to the illegal construction and use of the property. Referring to us as “opposed to the beer garden” infers we are just party poopers. This is not about the Brew Pub, per se. It is about any development of the property that breaches the covenant and deed restrictions.

Mr. Sample refers to the “original” covenant, but there is no a secondary or updated version. The covenant is the covenant.  Although signed by previous owners, both the 1981 deed restrictions and covenant are “intended” to run with the land. Ron Pete, by way of purchasing the property, has notice of the covenant and deed restrictions and therefore is legally bound.

It is irresponsible to report a discussion with a lawyer who does not have the facts. Carl Primavera has only second-hand information from Brendan Sample, who seems to have his facts confused. Has Mr Primavera spoken with Ron Pete?

It should be the Local’s quest to educate the public, not to take a position and report the authors opinion.

Ann Hartzell
Chestnut Hill

  • James Goodwin

    I support the Jenks ramp!

  • Merrie P.

    Ms. Hartzell thinks the Local’s reporting is biased because it doesn’t reflect her bias. Ms. Hartzell and her concerned neighbors don’t listen (indeed!, including to themselves!), don’t understand, frankly don’t care that their view doesn’t reflect the view of most of their community and that many find such pettiness offensive and against the best interest of Chestnut Hill. Noise and the challenges of city parking are anathema for some. For others, a vital, energetic, exciting urban experience in a lovely village setting trumps the inconvenience. Makes CH special. Of course, we all must protect against runaway noise and congestion. You’d think the Market at the Fareway, having successfully filled its stalls, put a fence and top about itself and attracted more customers (god forbid a business grows) had become an all night wild party. One that’s open til 8 three nights, 10 two nights and closed two nights. Wild! The Local has been remarkably unbiased and restrained about this unfortunate situation. Ms. Hartzell and her concerned neighbors could take a lesson from that, when next about to publicly hurl ugly accusations at decent, hardworking people. Neighbors.
    You folks bought houses behind parking lot, restaurants, shops and a hotel. And a block off a thriving commercial district. What did you expect?!
    This truly has been ugly. Please folks, focus your energies to positive, community-raising passions. A whole lot of us who root for our local business’ success hope that you stop this and other petty harrassments of your neighbors, residential and commercial, which no doubt you don’t find petty. But they are (and most are about things that don’t in fact affect you and are not any of your business), and they’ve caused pain. That will make you no less powerful, special or important. That will make you bigger.