Boom boom boom. The soundtrack of summer in our neighborhood

Boom boom boom. Boom boom boom. This is the soundtrack of our neighborhood in summer, each summer for the past few years. At times, this boom on repeat is punctuated with the high-pitched revving of engines from illegal motorbikes and ATVs. Some people call this a quality-of-life issue. But the loss of sleep, the suffering of pets and kids from all the noise and the feeling that you and your neighbors are forgotten affect more than just the quality of your life, they affect how you Live.

It is that feeling of being forgotten, of not being seen or heard, that is the most painful. At times we feel too poor for people to see us, or too well off for the government to spend resources on us. Welcome to the middle neighborhoods. The middle is fine if you are middle class or Malcolm, but middle neighborhoods are places that are too often overlooked.

The Riverwards, and especially Port Richmond and Bridesburg, are being overlooked now. Our police are – correctly – addressing gun violence in other parts of the city. These communities are alone in the battle against the boom boom boom.

I am working to change that.  Over the past year, I have met regularly with the police, city agencies, and neighborhood stakeholders to address what has grown from a nuisance to a public health issue affecting entire neighborhoods who feel hostage to the noise. We worked on plans in a few different areas. One place we had success was at Frankford Boat Launch, where Department of Rec, Philadelphia Police, state Fish and Boat, and local residents got together to work out a plan to keep the boom parties out of the launch.  But that solution has created its own problems, with limited access for legitimate boaters and because the boomers just took their nuisance and noise to Lewis Street and Tioga Street.

We are still working on permanent solutions and recently met with mayors, legislators and police from New Jersey. We exchanged ideas about laws that would facilitate impounding illegal or nuisance vehicles, to create economic incentives to stop the noise.

In the end, our City administration has to step up and join as an equal partner with the police and elected officials like me and Councilmember Mark Squilla. We need coordination across the City. It is not working to just squeeze it from one neighborhood to the next. A number of folks have asked: “What can we do?”  My answer, ironically, is to make your own noise – file police complaints, call 911 (even if it takes forever to get through), call your elected officials (including me) and demand an accountable, sustainable solution.