Steps away from the bustle of Manayunk sits a nearly mile-long stretch of wooded housing butting up against the Schuylkill River.
Although many residents consider the area, which some call Shawmont Valley, to be a forgotten community, it has recently come to into the unwanted spotlight due to City Hall’s continuing quest to install municipal sewer lines under the narrow street — at a significant cost to both the city and residents.
“Considering the fact that we, as in the whole community, don’t ask the city for much, this is messed up,” said resident Cody Nelson-Petrucci, whose household received a letter about a month ago that construction would soon begin. “We have to put in pipes underground from our house to the street and it will cost us $5,000. We weren’t ever asked if we wanted this.”
“The city doesn’t even come down when the river floods or the roads are blocked by snow — the neighbors are out here helping each other with hoses or shovels,” he said. “We’re not a pain in the city’s neck, so why bother us?”
On River Road, track houses and trailers share space with historical mansions, and boats and jet skis outnumber cars nearly two to one. Many here worry that the sewer lines, technically a legal requirement, would encourage commercial development in the only area of the city where Schuylkill waterfront property can still be bought.
The houses existed without sewer connections despite a law to the contrary, but the illegality makes new construction extremely difficult. “I think that’s why the city wants sewers, so developers can build,” said John Osada.
$4 million sewer expense
A Water Department official estimated that the 30 or so properties along River Road comprise a portion of the estimated 1,800 homes of 470,000 total properties in Philadelphia not connected to city sewer systems.
In a recent City Council meeting, Councilman Curtis Jones Jr. put the cost of sewer installation for the neighborhood in the $4 million range and attempted to explain the resistance of his constituents.
“These unique people have a different lifestyle,” he said. “They are at one with the river and they have adapted their lifestyle to it.”
But, for many River Road residents, City Hall is worlds away. “I didn’t know who [Jones] was until you brought him up,” said Nelson-Petrucci.