Soft spot for Stock’s, hard on opioid epidemic

The opioid crisis is among the issues Patty-Pat Kozlowski is looking forward to tackling.

In the running: Patty-Pat Kozlowski spends time with family and supporters after the results of the primary election were released. MELISSA KOMAR / TIMES PHOTO

By Melissa Komar

When Patty-Pat Kozlowski officially announced she would run for the seat in the 177th Legislative District at her alma mater, St. George Catholic School, she served Stock’s pound cake. And, when voters came out for the May 15 primary election, it was no different.

In fact, Kozlowski has sliced up the Port Richmond delicacy at so many stops and events along the campaign trail, she now slaps a sticker on the half bricks with a new slogan: “You’ve been Patty-Caked.”

Kozlowski stopped at all 71 divisions on the day of the primary election, handing out Stock’s to the poll workers.

“I didn’t have a lot of money. And, if you look at our expense report, we bought pound cakes,” she said. “I knew my strong point was I could talk to people and give them a pound cake, You’ve been ‘Patty-caked.’ And, I thought that makes you laugh and everyone loves Stock’s.”

The Port Richmond native ran unopposed as a Republican and received state Rep. John Taylor’s endorsement, Taylor decided to not seek reelection after holding the office for 34 years.

While she emerged from the primary unscatched, Kozlowski is up against some tough competition for the general election in November.

Joe Hohenstein won the Democratic primary, besting Sean Kilkenny, Maggie Borski and Dan Martino with 37 percent of the vote.

When he lost to Taylor in 2016, he took 45 percent of the vote.

The opioid crisis is among the issues that Kozlowski, a Bridesburg resident, is looking forward to tackling.

“I came out really hard on the tunnels and the conditions of the tunnels, and the trickle-down effect,” Kozlowski said. “These tunnels have a trickle-down effect to our neighborhoods.”

“Maybe the tunnels aren’t right up against Port Richmond, Bridesburg and Mayfair, but these people under the tunnels do not work, do not have a home, yet, they will do anything and everything to get heroin. If that makes breaking into your husband’s car and taking his tools, stealing the change or CD player out of your car, taking your air conditioner out of the window, stealing your patio furniture or your kid’s bike, to scrap that money and get whatever they can, they’re going to do it.”

The trickle-down effect starts with the stolen tools, leading to the husband not being able to go to work, and losing pay that would have put food on the table and missing tuition for his kids’ school, according to Kozlowski.

Kozlowski is referring to Tulip Street, Emerald Street and Frankford Avenue, where the homeless and drug addicts, who were formerly living along the Conrail tracks, have now set up encampments of tents and mattresses.

Kozlowski isn’t just an outsider looking in; she joined Angels in Motion, the Philadelphia nonprofit that hands out “blessing bags” to drug addicts throughout the area, for a drop-off to experience the tunnels firsthand.

“One of the worst things I seen was under the Emerald Street tunnel. The men usually live in tents, but the women live on mattresses,” she said. “And, I went under there with the Angels in Motion ’cause I respect them immensely, we just have different views on how to take care of this problem, but I wanted to see it through their eyes, why they do what they do.”

What Kozlowski saw reaffirmed her belief that forced treatment is a possible solution.

A woman was using a plastic milk crate as a bed stand, with pictures of her three daughters and a “tin aluminum foil boat with a needle next to it.”

“And, I was standing in front of her asking if she wanted a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and she was giving oral sex to a guy with the pictures of the little girls right there,” Kozlowski said. “And, I’m thinking, ‘This woman isn’t sane. She’s not in her right mind. She’ll do anything to get that next $5 or $10 to get heroin.’ And, if she can’t do that, what’s she gonna do?”

One of the solutions proposed by the city in recent months is opening a safe injection site.

Kozlowski has been staunchly against the proposed safe injection sites.

“If the city does stab its citizens in the back and open up these safe injection sites, these safe injection sites are not going to stop the crime wave that comes with it. It’s just going to make it a safer place to shoot up,” she said. “They’re still gonna need that $5 or $10 for heroin, they’re just doing it in a cleaner place than the tunnels.”

Additionally, Kozlowski attended an opioid forum hosted by the city at the Community Center at Visitation, 2646 Kensington Ave., in early May, to hear residents’ concerns.

“I felt like I was in an emergency room with a cut finger, ’cause here are all the people of Kensington who are living with it, and yet, here I am from Port Richmond complaining about the quality-of-life problems that stem from it,” she said.

But, it’s the petty crimes that are “how neighborhoods change,” according to Kozlowski.

“I’m trying to nip it in the bud. I’m trying to stop it before the tunnels hit Aramingo Avenue and Thompson Street, and Belgrade Street,” she said. “That’s my main fight. I’m trying to stave off this scourge of quality-of-life crimes. I really think we need mandatory, forced treatment.”

And, while Kozlowski admits that providing help to the addicts is important, she pointed out the activity occurring in the tunnels is illegal.

“I was there on a Saturday and you couldn’t imagine the number of cars that stopped to buy and walk-ups of people who are addicted to come and buy their heroin,” she said. “It was a revolving door. That’s just open-air drug sales. You can argue with me people who use heroin are addicted, but they’re also selling it. So, yes, we’re going to arrest you and say, ‘You either go to jail and get dry and get treated or let’s put you in a treatment center.’ And, I’m not talking about these rogue halfway houses that don’t work.”

Opioid crisis aside, Kozlowski has continued to work on issues close to her heart in the community throughout the campaign leading up to the primary.

She organized the Justice for Ryan Kelly rally after learning the DA’s office planned to offer the St. George alum’s alleged murderer a plea deal.

Family members of other murder victims, including Gerard Grandzol and Donald Green, attended.

“These families are so afraid of this lawless society with the new DA,” Kozlowski said. “And, I’m on board with them. I feel law-abiding citizens are the minority now. And, we don’t feel safe and we feel there will be no consequences for these crimes that are hurting our families and communities.”

And, for those looking for a Hail Mary to save the recently deconsecrated Our Lady Help of Christians Church on Allegheny Avenue, Kozlowski put $400 out of her pocket and compiled an application for the building with Philadelphia historian Celeste Morello for the Philadelphia Historical Commission.

The application is unrelated to her run for office, rather it’s simply fulfilling a duty as a neighborhood native to try to save a church and clock tower that has been an iconic piece of Port Richmond’s skyline for decades, according to Kozlowski.

Ultimately, Kozlowski hopes to address an issue that affects every resident in the 177th district on some level. ••