Councilman: Phila neighbors 'afraid of change'

Philadelphia City Councilman Bobby Henon, D-6th, who wants more factories and blue-collar jobs for Philadelphia, told constituents last night he'll stop pushing a residential-to-industrial rezoning plant for the 68-acre Philadelphia Coke Co. ("Cokie") site on the Delaware, for now.

Henon revised his effort after getting an earful at a constituent meeting at the American Legion post at Orthodox and Salmon Sts. Neighbor and rezoning opponent Dan Adair passed along Henon's message, the guts of which are posted below:

 Tonight I had a meeting with members of the Bridesburg community about the proposed rezoning of the site popularly referred to as the “Cokie Site.”

 My proposal is to split the site into three different zoning designations: ICMX, I-2 and I-3. I am going to upload maps of the proposal on my website: so you can get a better understanding of what the parcel might look like.

 My intention is to encourage people to pay attention to the site; to try to draw attention to it and to find someone who might be interested in investing in our community.

 I know that some individuals in the community would like to see a residential development (like the one proposed 7 years ago), but I don’t believe that there is a market demand for condos or town houses or even single family homes in that neighborhood. Maybe I am wrong. If there is a developer out there who thinks they can make residential work, I would love to talk with them about their proposal.

 I believe we need to be thinking bigger and longer term. Why can’t we have a mixed-use development? Why can’t we have a park that our schools can use? Why can’t we bring a responsible high-tech manufacturer to the neighborhood to create jobs? Why can we create a more livable, walk-able community? We have SO many great opportunities.

 What I heard tonight was a community that is afraid of change. It’s normal to be afraid of what we don’t know. But inaction is not an option. Fear can’t be our motivator. Letting the site sit indefinitely isn’t going to make Bridesburg better.

 That said, I am and have always been a neighborhood guy. I want to include people in the process.

 Here is the plan of action:

  1) I am going to hold the bill in committee; and
  2) I am going to form a working group to develop and build consensus around a plan for how we might move the community forward.

 I want to make two things clear. First, something is going to occur on the site – we just don’t know what or when. But waiting 30 years isn’t an option.

 Second, I will not allow an irresponsible development of the site. I am not going to allow a business that will pollute or destroy the quality of our neighborhood to locate there. Those days are over.

 I encourage and invite you to be part of the process. If you would like to join the working group, you can sign up through the Bridesburg Civic organization. I will have specific details about how to sign up and what the process will be within the next day.

 If you don’t want to be part of the working group but wish to share your thoughts about how the Cokie site might best be developed, please send my office an email at I will share all emails and ideas with the members of the working group.