GOV. RENDELL and Mayor Street are pushing a proposal to relocate the city's Youth Study Center, temporarily, to the vacant Eastern Pennsylvania Psychiatric Institute on Henry Avenue adjacent to shuttered MCP Hospital.
The move could solve two problems that have dogged the Street administration for a couple of years: getting the Barnes Foundation and its enormous art collection onto the Ben Franklin Parkway, while moving the Youth Study Center off that site and into a new building.
For several years, City Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell has blocked the permanent site for the youth-detention center in her West Philadelphia district.
So now, as the deadline for action on the Barnes Foundation nears, the city is looking at a temporary location for the youth center. In June, Council approved a Barnes lease, awaiting Street's signature.
But the youth center's proposed move to the hulking, long-dormant psychiatric institute across from the Housing Authority's Abbotsford Homes is beginning to draw heavy fire from community activists, though not from Councilwoman Carol Ann Campbell, who represents the district.
"I don't see where it's detrimental to the community," Campbell said. However, she criticized the Rendell administration for what she called a poor job in discussing the proposal with the community.
"There should have been more outreach to the community," Campbell said. "But sometimes you need to see something as inevitable. . . . People will have to accept it."
But Ralph Wynder, Democratic leader of the 38th Ward, said the psychiatric institute site, roughly 16 acres, is "not a done deal."
Wynder said city and state officials have been "inconsiderate and disrespectful" by not including community representatives in the planning. And he noted that work is already under way to relocate a 200-bed drug-treatment facility operated by Gaudenzia House to the state-owned psychiatric building without any community input.
Gregory Brinkley, a state corrections officer who has lived in Abbotsford for almost 35 years, said state and city officials "have shown a consistent pattern of disrespect for us," from closing MCP Hospital to the failed proposal to put a casino on the nearby Budd site.
"First of all, we don't believe this will be a temporary relocation for the Youth Study Center," said Brinkley. "And just because we don't own homes doesn't mean you can just disregard us."
Neither state nor city officials would comment on the proposed move, though one senior city official confirmed that the psychiatric institute site is the current plan.
Adam Carangi, president of the East Falls Community Association, said he and other neighbors met with state and city officials Aug. 7 after a month of requesting a meeting to discuss work already under way for Gaudenzia House's move.
At that meeting they learned of the Youth Study Center proposal.
"They presented it to us as something for the Barnes Foundation," Carangi said. "They needed a place for the Youth Study Center, and it was like we were being asked to take one for the team, that the center would be there only temporarily."
He said city officials said the facility, a former "locked psychiatric facility," can be easily made into a secure youth-detention center.
What the neighborhood really needs, Carangi said, is commercial development, perhaps a supermarket and other stores, on the site. Nearby, developers plan a mixed-use redevelopment of the old MCP Hospital.
"I don't really want accused juveniles and drug addicts near us," he said, "but our position is that the city should consider economic development and services and jobs for the area." *