North Philadelphia neighbors upset after city denies block party permit

The city denied the permit, calling the 2900 block of Camac Street a "problem block."

Beccah Hendrickson Image
Monday, August 15, 2022
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The streets department sends all applications to Philadelphia police for review, but officers denied the application, citing "criminal activity."

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- An annual block party that has happened for nearly 50 years in one North Philadelphia neighborhood will not go on as planned this year after the city denied the request for a permit.

Every year on the Saturday before Labor Day neighbors on the 2900 block of North Camac Street shut down the road for a block party that includes barbecues, dancing and family fun.

"This is my cousin," said Joan Amos, pointing at a picture of one of the parties in the 1990s. Her mom started the tradition of holding the parties.

"We just wanted to create a day that one day where all family and friends get together just because," said Amos.

That party won't happen as planned this year. The city denied her permit, calling the 2900 block of Camac Street a "problem block."

"Problem block? I didn't understand that. It's a lot of older people living around here, grandmothers, great-grandmothers," said Amos.

Amos says she followed all of the same steps to hold the annual event. She collected signatures from her neighbors and filed with the streets department for the block party permit more than a month before the proposed date.

The streets department sends all applications to Philadelphia police for review, but officers denied Amos's application, citing "criminal activity."

"That's not the case here. To the best knowledge, I'm not aware of any block party that we've had that there's been an account of violence there," said Edward Geiger, the block captain.

According to city data, total applications for block parties have plummeted in recent years, but the rate of denial has also gone up.

So far in 2022, the streets department has received 1,516 requests for block parties. Of those, 263 have been denied, or 17%. In 2019, the department received 4,899 requests and denied 10% of those.

Of those denied, the vast majority don't give a reason, but criminal activity was the reason for 1,587 permits over the four years, or about 17% of all requests. In 2022, nearly 200 requests were denied for "criminal activity."

Philadelphia police said in a statement "The Commanding Officer of the Police District where the application is for analyzes the block for safety concerns, crime, violence, and impact on emergency services. The totality of the situation is considered, with primary emphasis on safety of residents and attendees."

Amos said she spoke with the police captain for her district, who cited shootings that have happened nearby.

"It's like being kicked in the head because like I said, you're saying we can't do this because there's a lot of activity with guns or whatever, but, on the Parkway on the 4th of July, two police officers got shot," she said.

Neighbors add they will still have their party on Labor Day weekend, the street will just have to stay open. They worry about the safety risks of having cars driving down the block during their party.