If you're planning to host a block party in Philadelphia, you now must first ask the police if it's OK before applying for a permit.
The Streets Department announced the new approval process Thursday, the day after it went into effect. Residents need to get clearance from their local police district before submitting a Street Event application to the department.
Before, a resident submitted an application to the Streets Department, which either approved or denied permission to close the street and party. Then, the department passed along the list of approved parties to the local police districts, which could either sign off or deny a permit.
"Nothing has changed in our process," said Patrick Iffrig, a supervisor in the Streets Department's Right of Way Unit. "You just have the police up front now."
The change will streamline the block-party approval process for residents and alleviate some of the burden on police, who often had a "short window" to decide, Iffrig said. Streets allows residents to submit an application up to five days before the event.
Iffrig added that several times residents paid the permit fee, received a stamp of approval from the Streets Department, and began planning their party — buying food and securing entertainment — only to discover at the last minute the police had pulled the plug.
Fees can range from $25, if you submit an application at least 21 days before the party, to $60 if you submit it less than 21 days before. Residents also have to get signatures from at least one adult in 75 percent of the households on the block.
Philadelphia 3.0, a political reform organization, is petitioning Mayor Kenney to reverse the policy change, saying it creates "unnecessary red tape … [and will] weaken this important part of Philadelphia's culture." The petition had more than 300 signatures as of Friday.
"First, the City doesn't want to stop block parties – block parties are part of the fabric of Philadelphia and they're something our Administration has and will continue to support," a statement from Kenney reads. "It's important police weigh in on block party applications because they are familiar with what's happening in the neighborhood and understand the potential for violence."
"The shift was an effort to be more transparent on who is looking at applications and when and how they might be rejected," it says.
Iffrig said the change will not add much more red tape for residents, as the police were already involved in the process, and he said block party denials may decrease in return.
"[Denials] might go down because it allows the community to interact with police up front," Iffrig said. "It creates that relationship between the police and constituent."
Leigh Goldenberg, a 36-year-old Democratic committee person, lives in Passyunk Square and hosts a block party for her daughter's birthday every year. She thinks the change is unnecessary.
"Block parties are a great way for people to get together in our city and activate our streets," she said. "Adding this extra step that involves interacting with the police may make people more hesitant to block parties."
Philadelphia Police declined to comment on the policy change.