Organizing a block party used to be relatively easy in Philadelphia — until the city made it more complicated this summer.
As of Aug. 1, residents who wanted permission to close off their blocks had to turn in a preauthorization form at a local police station and win approval by the department before the application went, along with a second form, to the Streets Department.
That procedure lasted about two months. As of Wednesday, applicants no longer have to drop by their local police station. Residents can return to submitting the two forms online after obtaining the required support of other members of their block.
City residents were not happy with the summer change. Jon Geeting, a Fishtown resident and director of engagement for Philadelphia 3.0, worked with neighbors to petition the city so the old process could return.
"It was making people coordinate with two different city departments rather than one, and we thought that step was too much," he said. "Also, depending on the neighborhood, people might have a different relationship with the Police Department. [Police] might be considered a friendlier presence in some places more than others, so to keep one point of contact with the city keeps it easy."
Philadelphia officials said they added the police visits to give the department more of a role in approving the block parties. Each year in the city, 6,000 people submit requests to throw street parties, and authorities seek to balance the rite of summer with public safety. The city has compiled a list of 922 blocks barred from having parties for traffic or safety reasons. Approvals of blocks on that list are granted case by case.
Patrick O'Donnell, manager of the Right-of-Way Unit in the city, said the police district visits made it easier to refund application fees for those denied permits.