In South Philly, neighbors of Gopuff seek help with safety, sanitation and quality of life issues

The warehouse retail industry is struggling.

Since the pandemic has eased, Amazon has stopped or delayed new warehouses. West Chester-based QVC cut 400 jobs this month. Walmart is cutting warehouse workers in Bethlehem and South Jersey. Founded in Philadelphia, Misfits Market is closing its flagship Delanco warehouse and laying off more than 400 employees in a merger.

Philly-based Gopuff saw the delay coming. To cut his losses last year, the “Wawa on wheels”, which supplies food, beer and household items on demand, began laying off staff and withdrawing from smaller markets such as Wichita, Kan. Last week, Gopuff according to Bloomberg, cut another 100 of the 10,000 remaining workers, mostly information and technical personnel.

At the same time, Gopuff, eager to boost its profitability after years of raising large sums from investors, has doubled down on its busiest cities, including Philadelphia, by adding more neighborhood centers where drivers pick up orders for delivery and return for more. Some are in busy commercial areas, such as parts of Callowhill Street and Delaware Avenue.

But near downtown South Philly, neighbors say they’ve had trouble dealing with a car company in the increasingly residential neighborhood where Gopuff opened on a former grocery lot at 13th Street and Washington. avenue end of 2021.

“Gopuff’s high-efficiency model has led them to consider our neighborhood their playground,” without regard to “safety, sanitation and quality of life,” he said. Suzanne M. Tavani, president of the Passyunk Square Civic Association, who lives three blocks away.

Members of the association started to worry about traffic, parking and waste in 2022. They asked Gopuff to crack down on cars blocking the sidewalk on 13th Street, drivers speeding down residential streets to make their deliveries, as well as drivers and other visitors who “smoke weed and [urinating] on the walls,” recalls, among other things, an outer wall of the neighboring Buddhist temple Leah Reisman, who lives nearby.

In June, Reisman said, her car was hit by a Gopuff driver who “took an illegal left turn” onto the company’s property from Washington Avenue westbound. She said some drivers spoke rudely to residents who complained, and that some were “stretching around at any time of the day and night” as they waited for work.

Initially, their concerns were referred to a Philly-based company representative, who “seemed sympathetic” but was replaced by a representative in Washington, D.C., Reisman added. “We had text contact with the company. But nothing has really changed over the course of many months.”

Frustrated, “we went to councilor [Mark] Squilla,” said Adriana Akintobe, a civic association member and Democratic committee member who lives across the street. “He came to our second meeting himself [in August, via Zoom] with the company and said that this needs to be fixed or it is not a suitable site. The councilman, one of several city officials who have hailed Gopuff as a success story and growing employer in the hometown, also responded to voters in past clashes between Gopuff and neighbors, including disputes over Gopuff’s early warehouse and stores on North 12th Street, between Noble and Hamilton. . Streets, in another industrial-turned-residential area. Initially, the company even lacked a parking space at that location. Gopuff shut down that site two years ago.

The group was particularly concerned about careless driving – illegal turns, speeding, trucks blocking streets, more accidents – which they blamed on an apparent lack of coordination by the company.

A Gopuff official, who spoke on the condition that they are not identified, said the company is committed to South Philly and took unusual steps early in the winter to address concerns of neighbors on Washington Avenue, citing several improvements confirmed by Squilla and local residents:

To prevent litter from spreading, the company built a tall chain-link fence for its dumpsters and agreed to empty it daily. To alleviate the driving problems, it built a short speed bump at the 13th Street exit, under a prominent no-entry sign. And the company agreed to add staff to better manage traffic.

But neighbors say incidents of careless driving continue, and they’re concerned about an increased risk of auto versus pedestrian accidents if a 1,400-plus apartment complex springs up across Washington Avenue, alongside other residential development in the area. While visiting the site, an Inquirer reporter saw a driver swerve through an empty parking lot to avoid the bump and onto 13th Street, past a steeply slanted bollard that looked like it had been hit hard by a truck.

“I regularly see illegal bends in that building. I’m glad they’re so busy and so successful, but I’m not convinced they can fit everything they do on that site,” said Tavani, the president of the civic association.

Squilla, who met with the company again without the community group members on Wednesday, says Gopuff has agreed to more improvements. “They put a parking barrier on the curbs, so you can’t just go over the 13th Street curb,” he said. “They are repairing that pole next to the Cambodian temple.” He said he also wants to see the speed bump extended.

“We are making progress,” emphasizes Squilla. “The company seems to understand that Washington Avenue, which used to be an industrial corridor, is changing. We need to make sure it’s pedestrian and bike friendly.”

He said previous improvements took too long. “I’m giving them until the end of April to put these sidewalk parking blocks on the 13th Street side, fix the bollard,” and extend the speed bump, and be ready to fix future problems as they arise, not months after. “If instead they get run over and people move back up Washington Avenue so it’s dangerous for pedestrians, we need to look at other options — to reduce the work they’re doing there, or move it to a bigger location somewhere else.” move.”

The city could do more, Squilla concluded: “We need traffic enforcement on Washington Avenue. The city put those red light cameras on Roosevelt Boulevard. They seem to make all the difference.”

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