Eight hundred-sixty cars a day can be a lot of traffic for a small neighborhood that has only a few hundred households.
Yet, the new Philadelphia Police Academy could potentially draw that many vehicles every day — perhaps more — through the narrow and otherwise quiet streets of the Northeast’s Normandy section. The academy, formally known as the Philadelphia Police Training Center, opened in September at 2838 Woodhaven Road on the site of a decommissioned armed forces reserve center. The 78,000-square-foot facility is designed to support up to 160 staff, 300 police recruits and 400 in-service police officers at any given time.
During the planning of the facility, city officials assured neighbors that construction would include a new access road that would carry vehicles from Comly Road directly into the police academy parking lot, bypassing residential streets like Norcom Road and Normandy Drive.
But road construction has yet to begin … and neighbors are growing anxious.
Members of the Normandy Civic Association questioned a city project coordinator about the access road, its construction schedule and its planned configuration during the civic group’s monthly meeting on Nov. 10 at the Norcom Community Center.
Francis Matejik, the project coordinator from the Department of Public Property, told residents that the access road plans are the same that they were in 2012, when the civic group approved the road. Despite the impending winter, the city intends to move forward with construction as soon as possible, Matejik said. For now, work on the road awaits the completion of the contracting process. Matejik described the “target date” to start work as the end of this month. The work should take about six months to complete.
The plans call for a road that will intersect Comly Road between Joseph Kelly Terrace and the Philly Flash softball fields. The new intersection will be closer to the softball complex than the homes on Kelly Terrace, Matejik said. As the new access road continues northward to the rear of the police facility, it will angle closer toward Kelly Terrace and connect with the police facility’s east parking lot.
The road will cut through an existing wooded area that was previously owned by the city’s Division of Aviation and is on the approach to one of the Northeast Airport runways.
The road will provide ingress and egress for staff, trainees, police and visitors.
As part of the new configuration, the city will close routine access to two of the three existing entrances and exits. That is, concrete barriers will be installed to block one access point on Kelly Terrace and another access point along Woodhaven Road. A third existing access point on Woodhaven Road just east of the training center will be converted to exit-only. Angled curbing will be installed to prevent cars from entering the site from Woodhaven Road, Matejik said. The project coordinator added that the existing entrances could be reopened for emergency situations.
Normandy Civic President John Wisniewski asked Matejik to provide the group with a copy of the schematic drawings for the road so that neighbors can examine the details further. Matejik agreed to do so.
One resident said that he remains concerned that lights along the new road will shine on the homes of neighbors. Wisniewski noted that it would have been better if the city had completed the access road while it was refurbishing the former military reserve building into a police training center. Matejik replied that the road project was handled separately due to the consideration of the airport in the land transfer and planning.
In the meantime, traffic on Norcom Road, Normandy Drive and other neighborhood streets has been intensified. A lot of motorists speed and disobey traffic regulations, Wisniewski said. The civic group has been working with City Councilman Brian O’Neill to install a stop sign at Norcom and Nature Road, to paint no parking street markings on Norcom at the Comly Road intersection and, in time, to install speed cushions along Normandy Drive.
Michele Borbidge, the Normandy Civic secretary, reported that neighbors have reorganized a community Town Watch and are encouraging all residents to report suspicious and potentially criminal activity to the police by calling 911. Calling 911 to report a potential crime in progress may not result in immediate police response — depending on the severity of the circumstances — but it will in any case help the community create a record of complaints that police commanders can use to gauge the need for additional officers in the neighborhood.
In short, if there are more complaints on record, a persistent problem may become a higher priority for police.
Non-emergency complaints, such as short dumping, abandoned cars, vacant properties or unmaintained yards, should be reported via the city’s 311 hotline. ••