Stop the Screaming – An Open Letter to City of Philadelphia
Dear City of Philadelphia Government and Leaders:
It seems there is a rat among us.
What is troubling, is that this rat, all ten feet of him, has been set up at 4th and Arch to scream continuously on a loop for hours at an exceedingly high decibel and frequency. You can hear it from the UPS Store on 3rd Street, Smak Parlor on Market and 2nd, Café Ole on Race and 3rd.
According to the news coverage, this is because the Building Trades Council is upset that the new neighbor, FelCor has rebranded the Holiday Inn a Wyndham and brought in out of town laborers to do the renovation work.
This is especially fascinating to a member of the heavily populated technology community in Old City, to whom unions aren’t part of our business models. We struggle to find qualified people to work the workload and simply use tools like twitter to accomplish the same sorts of goals. But this isn’t a letter about effectiveness of protest methodology, or who is right/wrong in this labor dispute, it is a letter about our expectations of you, city government, in a city we love, Philly.
It is not okay that our city allows anyone, no matter the reason, to systemically disrupt the residents, the businesses, the tourists, the patrons, so explosively like the Screaming Wyndham Rat. I am astonished and incredulous that not only was this approved to occur (apparently more than once around the city I understand from Fishtown residents, Drexel University), but complaints have not resulted in commiserate action to stop this blatant law violation and outright… bullying.
- Bullying of the particular business for the labor practices, okay, well, fine – work it out, Felcor and BTC – we can get some jello and a venue if need be. Perhaps the Convention Center?
- Bullying of the tourists who stay in this hotel. Alarming… tourism pays many local wages here.
- Bullying of the residents who are trying to sleep at 6am. Maddening. We pay A LOT of wage tax to have police officers uphold the law.
- Bullying of the local businesses, even those who aren’t involved in the dispute. Horrifying. Who is next in the district? What if they start throwing bricks through our windows? Just as illegal and maybe no longer enforceable. We should all be very, very frightened at this precedent.
An acceptable alternative proposal would be this demonstration without the sound component.
I request the city take the necessary measures to enforce the violation of the noise ordinance and revoke the permit issued to this demonstration sponsor as a result of violation of noise ordinance. Please see below “Why the Wyndham Rat Needs to Be Quiet” for a listing of these violations and ordinances.
Philly, we’re a better city than this. Old City is a fantastic and lively neighborhood that is respectful of differing views (after all, the founding fathers lived here). We rely on each other and city government to make sure we are operating as agreed so that we may all benefit. I trust the city will do whatever is necessary to enforce the law, maintain the peace and preserve our homes, businesses and critical commerce of tourism.
Why the Wyndham Rat Needs to Be Quiet
According to the City of Philadelphia Noise and Excessive Vibration Ordinance Bill No. 050749 which exists to “provide clearer rules for the citizens of Philadelphia to follow and the City to enforce regarding the maximum volumes of sound people and businesses are permitted to make in various situations”
I assert that the demonstration that is occurring outside the Wyndham Hotel on the west side of 4th and Arch using a sound effect with a ten foot tall inflatable rat is in violation of this ordinance because this conduct is prohibited under a minimum of two sections:
“10-403 Prohibited Conduct (1) Sound Near Protected Facilities. No person shall create or cause, or permit the creation of, sound that exceeds 3 decibels above background level measured at the property boundary of any… house of worship…”
This broadcast exceeds 3dB over background noise almost a block away and is occurring directly opposite the Quaker Friends Meeting House and directly next door to Congregation Mikveh Israel, two legally designated houses of worship.
“(7) Sound Created In The Right-Of-Way. No person shall create or cause, or permit the creation of, sound in the public right-of-way: (a) abutting a residential property by amplification from a radio, tape player or similar device between the hours of 9 p.m. and 8 a.m., unless used in connection with an earplug or ear phones which will prevent significant emanation of sound from such device; or (b) that exceeds the levels permissible for sound emanating from property directly abutting such portion of the right-of-way”
The broadcast from this demonstration occurs outside of these hours regularly, and at least twice in the last week, at approximately 6:30am on Wednesday, August 21st and on Saturday, August 24th at 7:20am.
I understand that the city may provide permission for a demonstration to create sound in the right of way under the Regulation Governing Permits for Demonstrations on City Property policy.
I assert that this demonstration does not comply with four of the grounds necessary for a permit.
Two of the grounds are not met because of the violation of city noise ordinance detailed above.
“20 the Applicant has not complied or cannot comply with applicable licensure requirements, ordinances, or regulations of the City….”
“21 the Demonstration is prohibited by law, including applicable City ordinances and regulations”
Two of the grounds are not met because this demonstration interferes with others. It seems to any reasonable observer that the intent of the sound component of the demonstration at the hours it is broadcast is for the purposes of disrupting the sleep of the guests of the hotel, the target of the demonstration sponsor’s activities. There is no way this can be achieved without also having an adverse impact upon the natural environment of the City Property enjoyed by residents, businesses, patrons, tourists and others.
“6. ….and use of the City Property will pose a threat to the safety of participants or will impose an adverse impact upon the natural environment of the City Property”
I’d also like to believe that the city is not going to permit the audial torture of tourists (and de facto of residents) as permittable within the designated category of expressive activities: As quoted by one tourist to KYW Newsradio: “This woke me up half past six yesterday morning,” said Alex Taylor, visiting Philadelphia from Britain with his wife, “and I was sort of half asleep thinking, ‘Oh my god, there’s a baby in distress somewhere!’ And it took me about five minutes to work out that it was on a loop, and therefore it was somebody playing it.”
“22 the City Property requested is a limited public forum and the expressive activities of the Demonstration do not fall within the designated category of expressive activities for which the limited public forum has been opened;”
I understand enforcement of these policies is the responsibility of the Department of Public Health, The Police Department and The Department of Licenses and Inspections. I cannot find any reference in the regulations, on the website and have not received a reply to my requests on twitter for the proper procedure by which to do that so in the meantime, I will encourage concerned citizens to do the following:
- Ask the City to provide clear instructions on how citizens can help them have all the necessary information to uphold the laws @philadelphiagov @philly311
- Report the violation of the noise ordinance (copy paste from above) to Philadelphia Police Unit 6th – District PSA 2, to Lt. Milillo PPD.06_PSA2@Phila.gov or on http://www.phillypolice.com/forms/submit-a-tip or at @PhillyPolice
- Ask for help in stopping this violation from our City Councilman Kenyatta Johnson firstname.lastname@example.org (215)686-3412 @CouncilmanKJ
- Ask for help in stopping this violation from our Mayor at email@example.com or @michael_nutter
- Ask the union to remove the sound component from their demonstration @myphillylabor in an effort to be good neighbors to the local community. Remind them good neighbors tend to get more support for their causes and Old City has lots of good neighbors.
- Encourage the press to keep reporting on the inaction of city government allowing law violations. @DaraleneJones for @nbcphilly and @PatLoeb covered the story already for @cbsphilly – Thank you!
- “Welcome” FelCor to the neighborhood and suggest they have their legal team pursue the necessary channels with the city to stop this law violation. Stephen Schafer, VP, Investor Relations, (972) 444-4912, firstname.lastname@example.org and Mr. J. Yellen, General Counsel, email@example.com
- Ask for your local businesses, residents and @OldCityDistrict to do any of the above
- Make a suggestion in the comments below.
I understand the Screaming Wyndham Rat went on for months on Drexel’s campus, interfering with supplies delivery, trash removal and general well being of the freshman class affected. Doing nothing may result in this problem going away but doing something always helps keep your city safe, healthy and harmonious.