The old Church of the Assumption, formerly owned by the AIDS agency Siloam, received another stay of demolition from a city review board last week.
On Feb. 22, the city’s Board of License and Inspection Review issued an indefinite stay of demolition for the structure. Board members said the courts should have an opportunity to rule on the dispute.
In July, Siloam sold the church to developer John Wei, who wants to demolish it.
The church, at 1133 Spring Garden St., has ties to two local saints, Katharine Drexel and John Neumann.
Siloam received approval for the demolition by a Philadelphia judge in October, but the Callowhill Neighborhood Association is appealing that approval in state Commonwealth Court.
Carl S. Primavera, an attorney for Wei, said the church is very dilapidated.
Primavera wants CNA to post a bond to protect Wei from exposure to liability if the church collapses, he said.
Andrew R. Palewski, a CNA member, disputed the need for a bond. He said the church is structurally sound and doesn’t pose a danger.
“Someone offered Wei $100,000 for the building in December and agreed to carry all liability for the structure until settlement,” Palewski added. “That offer still stands.”
Palewski declined to identify the potential buyer, noting that an agreement between the buyer and Wei hasn’t yet materialized.
Siloam continues to operate in an old rectory adjacent to the church, which the agency also sold to Wei.
Activists urge justice for Morris at PAC meeting
Five transgender activists attended a Police Advisory Commission meeting Feb. 25 and urged PAC members to pursue justice for Nizah Morris to the fullest extent possible.
“Nizah wasn’t a throwaway person,” said Tenika Watson, a close friend of the victim. “Her case is very important to the community. I hope and pray that her death wasn’t in vain.”
Morris was a transgender woman found with a fatal head injury shortly after she received a courtesy ride from Philadelphia police in 2002.
Her murder remains unsolved, and the PAC is planning to release a report about the incident in the coming months.
Trans activist Ben Singer reminded PAC members of the systemic violence that affects the transgender community, particularly trans and gender-nonconforming women of color.
“If genocide is happening in your backyard and you don’t do anything about it, you’re complicit with it,” Singer said. “If you have the opportunity to keep pushing for justice, I urge you to do that.”
The activists also expressed support for a thorough criminal investigation of the homicide.
“It still hurts not knowing what really happened to Nizah,” said Miranda McCoy, who befriended Morris in 1973.
“Not pursuing further investigation will undoubtedly result in further negative outcomes for trans individuals in Philadelphia, specifically trans women of color,” added trans activist Leah Basarab.
PAC members said they would take the comments under consideration prior to issuing a final report.
In other business, PAC members said there are 11 vacancies on the 19-member panel. They said Mayor Nutter should appoint new commissioners as soon as possible.
“The ball is in the mayor’s court,” said PAC secretary Chuck Volz. “Filling these vacancies promptly would be indicative that the mayor takes the PAC seriously.”
PAC member Veronica Castillo-Perez said: “We need to put some fire under [Nutter] to get us some more help.”
Watson and trans activist Sheila Colson expressed a desire to serve on the PAC.
Mark McDonald, a spokesperson for Nutter, had no comment at presstime.
The PAC’s next meeting will be held 6:30 p.m. March 18 at 990 Spring Garden St., seventh floor.
— Timothy Cwiek
Memorial for labor leader
Friends of out union leader and LGBT activist Rita Urwitz are invited to a memorial at 3 p.m. March 3 at the American Friends Center, 1501 Cherry St.
Urwitz was a longtime Philadelphia resident who launched her career as a social worker in the 1980s. She was also involved in the AFSCME District Council 47, in charge of its Political Action Committee.
— Angela Thomas