West Chester Weekly News Roundup: Nov. 5, 2021

Fall in the borough.

The easiest way to be in the know.

It’s Friday, November 5. Oh man, what a week. Two West Chester police officers (and the borough) are being sued for using excessive force during a 2019 arrest outside of Barnaby’s, the borough’s curbside compost program ends before it can begin and Everhart Park has a new playground and it’s spectacular. Plus, are we finally getting some action on the old post office? And oh yea, we have a new mayor. Welcome to November. Who’s ready? Let’s catch up.  

“Absolutely disgraceful.” 

A resident on Facebook on the state of the Gay Street Post Office

Mr. Postman bring me some action 

The sad state of the once stately U.S. Post Office on Gay Street.

For years Borough Council and the Business Improvement District have tried to get something done about the Post Office. When the Airport Road distribution and mail center was build it was meant to alleviate stress on the overtaxed Gay Street office.

“Well, with that the Postal Service was successful but they forgot to have a plan for either moving the West Chester building to a smaller location or just closing it all together,” Borough Councilman Bernie Flynn explained. So for two decades now West Chester representatives have met with varying degrees of post office officials. “The folder is 6 inches thick with correspondence,” said Bernie.

However, the building continues to fall into disrepair. Chipped paint, broken moldings, neglected grounds, underuse and despite all the wants and wishes of the borough, there’s been little success in persuading Federal action.

“It’s frustrating,” said Bernie “because we have local businesses that would love to buy the building and make it historic again.”

Then earlier this year they tried again. In August Senior Constituent Advocate Scott Nelson to Congresswoman Chrissy Houlahan, asked for some time to address the council members. Mr. Nelson had come to remind residents that the Congresswoman’s office is right down the street and open for those that need assistance in Washington. To which Mr. Flynn said, oh I think I have something you can help us with…

After some back and forth, borough officials got their meeting with members of the Congresswoman’s office including District Director Sue Walker. The meeting is scheduled for November 9 and will be open to the public. Now let’s just hope they get more than another record for their file.

A little information about the building:

  • The post office building is federal property 
  • The department of interior is responsible for the building 
  • The property is overseen by a 3rd party management team, a JLL Property management in Arlington Va.
  • There are 3 clerks and 1 custodian that work at the Gay Street facility
  • The Postmaster at airport road is responsible for the employees
  •  And just to dispel a long-standing rumor once and for all, Trader Joe’s was never one of the businesses interested. 

Excuse me, can I can call you a lawyer?

This week two West Chester police officers, Jerry Ferriola and Greg Cugino, and the Borough of West Chester were named in an excessive force lawsuit. The lawsuit was filed by a Barnaby’s patron after a 2019 incident. 

Officers were called to intervene after the plaintiff Kevin Nieves of Glen Lyon tried to re-enter the bar after leaving. After being restrained by the officers and seemingly in their custody one of the officers strikes Mr. Nieves in the head with a closed fist. The incident was captured on video and widely shared via Barstool West Chester back in 2019. 

“I am heartened that so many voters turned out in response to my messages of unity, collaboration, and shared pride in our borough.”

Lillian DeBaptiste West Chester Mayor-elect

Election results

You can go back to your regularly scheduled yard décor. This election cycle is over.

Despite a lot of noise, at the end of the day, there were not many surprises, at least not in West Chester, on Election Day. There will be, however, a few new faces around Borough Hall. Here are the results.

Mayor: Lillian DeBaptiste: “I am heartened that so many voters turned out in response to my messages of unity, collaboration, and shared pride in our borough.”

Ward 1: Patrick McCoy: “A sustainable West Chester is important to me, and its continued health, environment and economy is vital to the Borough’s appeal to all of us.”

Ward 3: Brian McGinnis: “I have seen the tremendous growth that has turned this town into one of the best places to live, work, and raise a family. I have also seen the severe impact that the pandemic has had on our local community and small businesses.”

Ward 5: Sheila Vaccaro: “It is time to focus on the details.  Every person in our community matters. We can and we will, together.”

Ward 7: Lisa Dorsey: After being appointed as a mid-term replacement, Lisa easily won her second election in two years.

School board: Joyce Chester won easily over challenger Ada Nestor.

While I try to keep politics out of this blog, I have to say I was not a fan of the outside money or the efforts to infuse national issues into our local elections, especially in the school board races. Manufacturing things to fight about is divisive and unproductive. Local races should be focused on local issues and areas where we have real problems that need solutions – like our now annual budget woes, closing education gaps caused by COVID or getting Greystone a playground.  

To quote Mayor-elect DeBaptiste, “Together we can work to strengthen our community through open dialogues and investing in areas that increase understanding and friendship.”

The warnings

Skip the Mother’s Day whipped cream. Last month West Chester-based diner Timothy’s was found out of compliance with the Chester County Health Department. The High Street eatery racked up 11 violations including one for having a can of whipped cream with an expiration date of 5/6/21. They were also cited for storing food such as chicken wings, steaks and produce at improper temperatures. Also, still being watched closely by the Health Department is Asuka. After being cited for a whopping 15 violations last month the Chinese/Japanese restaurant remains out of compliance after a follow up visit this month. 

Get out of my house. West Chester police are investigating another break-in or attempted break-in this time on the 200 block of E. Market Street. Not much is known about the incident at this time but if you can fill in some of the details, West Chester police would like to speak with you. You can reach the officers at 610-696-2700. In more positive break in news, the teenager behind the Dean Street home invasion was arrested.

Lock your bike if you’re going to walk away. West Chester Police are also investing the report of a stolen bike outside Henderson High School on Tuesday. The suspect was seen wearing a gray hoodie and red sweatpants. The bike was described as a blue electric bike with black accessories. Again if you have details, call the number above.

Avoid Church next week. PECO will be out and working on Church Street from Chestnut to Gay Street, Monday through Thursday, 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.  

The Accolades.

High fives to Henderson alum Chas McCormick who played in his first World Series game last week. Yes, he then lost his first World Series this week, but still, how many people can say that?  

Also, congratulations to West Chester University professor Alex Cohen, whose new retail endeavor, the Accessible Pharmacy, was recently featured in the New York Times. The digital retailer targets those with visual impairments and aims at making staying healthy easier for them by relying less on visual cues when it comes to medical devices and prescriptions.

Finally cheers to Split Rail Tavern which held off Barnaby’s to secure an upset victory in the first annual Drunks of West Chester Best Bar competition. Split Rail which recently celebrated six years in the borough was considered a huge underdog against the popular WCU hangout. “It’s obvious how honored we are by how dead serious our staff and customers took this tournament. Thank you for promoting all these beloved WC bars. We all made it through [a rough couple years] and it’s because of all this love and support,” the winners shared via Instagram.   

“I can go on it? Yaaaaaay!

Overheard Everhart Park

Hello. 

The new Everhart Park playground opened this week to a lot of cheers and a few scraped knees. Keep an eye on that merry-go-round.

That’s right kids, the Everhart Park playground is now open. Kids got their first go this week at the much anticipated, new and improved structure featuring six slides, a treehouse, a ninja obstacle course – and a monster zip line! After two years of dreaming children mobbed the equipment at the unofficial unveiling that took place Wednesday night, a soft opening event hosted by the Borough Park & Rec Department. 

The full grand opening is being reserved for the spring after some “final touches” have been addressed and landscaping is in place but as for what matters, the playground itself is approved and ready for use.

Also, settle in and say hello to staying here for the long haul. West Chester was recently named by personal finance website Moneywise as the best place in the state to retire. Among the amenities luring the over-65 set are our excellent downtown, proximity to Wilmington and Philadelphia, and an abundance of leisure activities.

Finally say hello to a new look for West Chester University. The University describes its rebranding as “Renewed. Inspired. Optimistic.” But I hear reactions from staff and students haven’t been quite so upbeat. I predict modifications on the horizon because man, is the typeface hard to read.  

Goodbye. 

Say au revoir to the idea of curbside composting. Mere hours after what was supposed to be the start of the borough’s compost subscription agreement, WasteWell owner Jen Panaro emailed subscribers to let them know she was discontinuing service. 

“I run WasteWell as a small business myself, and unfortunately, I no longer have the capacity to operate it,” she told subscribers on Monday.

So it appears West Chester residents are back to square one when it comes to a community composting option. “The West Chester initiative is dead,” West Chester Sustainability Director Will Williams said in an email.

Well, if you have a passion for compost and a knack for logistics, boy, do I have a business opportunity for you.   

Also say goodbye to Gender Queer. The award-winning memoir that attempts to bridge the gaps between a binary and nonbinary world has been removed from the shelves at East and Rustin high schools. The book was pulled for review by West Chester Area School District Superintendent Dr. Bob Sokolowski after concern over the graphic nature of the content was raised by a parent at a recent school board meeting. The book and its contents will now be reviewed by the district’s administrative team and, if questions persist, a committee will be formed to make a formal recommendation. 

In a letter that went out to parents last week, Superintendent Dr. Sokolowski reminded parents a process for reviewing literature has been in place for years.

“As outlined in School Board Policy 906, any person may bring a book they have concerns about to our attention,” he wrote. All questioned texts go through a similar review process, no School Board meeting needed.

Also say goodbye to West Chester Henderson from the District 1 4A soccer postseason. After winning the Ches-Mont championship with a record of 14-4, the Warriors earned a #4 seed in the state tournament but the placement was no consolation as they suffered a surprising loss to the 13th seeded Hatboro-Horsham. “Every game matters,” said senior midfielder Adam Gomaa, summing up the loss. So true, Adam.

And finally, say goodbye to unsupervised middle-schoolers at high school football games. Last week middle school principals indicated they would begin enforcing a rule that states that middle school students must be under the supervision of a parent or guardian to attend a high school football game. The enforcement came after a series of incidents were reported among Pierce and Fugett students at the East homecoming game against Henderson.  

As one parent reported via Facebook, “Middle school students were escorted out by police. Pretty sad! Takes a few to ruin it for all.”      

Pay it forward. 

West Chester Campus outside the new fountain area (yes, it is now up and running! Just of course, not when I went by.)

Last month West Chester University announced a generous $120,000 donation that would allow the University to grant students that carry a small semester end balance micro loans to pay off the debt and schedule the next semester’s classes. Students that have any outstanding balance with the University are often prohibited from scheduling future classes. “West Chester University is intentional in its efforts to do whatever it can to remove barriers that may impede a student’s ability to be successful. We are grateful to be able to align with partners who feel the same,” WCU president Christopher Fiorentino said in a statement. 

Looking for your own way to make a small difference on a big problem? The Shop on Market Street is partnering with the West Chester Police Department to raise funds, awareness, and chin hair lengths for the Blue Beards of Charity. 

From October through November the normally clean-shaven West Chester PD will be growing their facial hair in support of such nonprofits as Unite for HER, The Sambuco Children’s Educational Fund, A Child’s Light and Chester County Crime Victims Center. The beards will then be removed at a public event on Saturday, November 27. The event is open to the public. Join for food, games and general good natured ribbing. 

And if clean shaven is the only way for you, no judgement. Book a $20 shave at the Shop any time during the month of November and 100% of the proceeds will be donated to the causes above. Last year the program raised $40,000 for some amazing causes. Let’s see if we can help them do it again. 

Finally, passionate about this community? Looking for a way to help make it great? The Borough is looking for volunteers to help on a variety of boards and commissions including the Railroad Restoration Commission, Historic Commission, Zoning Hearing Board, Sustainability Committee, Park & Rec committee and the Library board. If this sounds like you, peruse the list below and learn more here – but do it now, the deadline for submissions is November 8.  

The freakin’ weekend. 

What a great weekend to get out and enjoy fall in the borough.

What are you up to this weekend? We are putting the Halloween decorations away and going to enjoy the lull before end of year holiday activities pick up again.

Also, SkateChesco is hosting a pop-up skateboarding session at Bayard Rustin Park this Sunday from noon to 3 p.m. ICYMI this is where they are hoping to add a new borough skate spot. I like these ideas for ways to get more out of our parks. Someone recently suggested a concrete skate rink for hockey players. We should look into that, too.   

Plus, it’s first Friday this weekend! Head downtown and check out what’s new.

Mark your calendars:

Nov. 5 – First Friday, Downtown West Chester, free metered parking. 

Nov. 6 – Craft Fair, East High School, 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. 

Nov. 7 – West Chester Wildcats season opener, Chichester Recreation Center, 3:00 p.m. 

Nov. 7 – Pop Up Skate Spot, Rustin Park, 12-3 p.m. 

Nov. 8 – Raiders of the Lost Ark, Uptown Theater, 7 p.m., tickets are $5, popcorn is on the house.  

Nov. 8 – Blood Drive, Oscar Lasko YMCA, 1 – 6 p.m.

Nov. 12 -13 – Resurgence fall dance concert, Madeleine Wing Adler theater, 7:30 p.m. Tickets $12; $7 kids 

Nov. 12-13 – WCU Opera presents Robin Hood, Emilie K. Asplundh Concert Hall, Philips Memorial Building, 7:30 p.m., Tickets are $7. 

Nov. 13 – New music alert! The Flying Komorowski Brothers, Uptown! Theater, 7:30 p.m. A band with a little something for everyone. Tickets $30; $35 at the door. 

Nov. 13 – Elks Art & Antique Show, Elks Lodge, 401 W. Washington Street, Open to members and nonmembers. Tables available for artisans and merchants. Contact the Elks for details. 

Nov. 14 – 2021 Fall Wedding Showcase, Chester County History Center, 1-4 p.m., Admission $5.

Stay safe. Stay healthy and I’ll see you next week. 

New to the blog? Follow along for the latest from West Chester.

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