West end holds 'city hall for a day'
Jaceita Chilton-Walker has lived in York City's west end her whole life. Her grandmother still lives there, and her grandkids live there, too.
She said it's tiring to constantly have at the back of her mind the fact that violence is an issue in the area and that she must worry about her children and their kids.
"You've got to kind of be alert," she said.
York City officials held a "city hall for a day" event at 594 W. Princess St., where they were on hand to answer any questions locals had about the city government and to help in any way they could.
York City Mayor Kim Bracey announced she planned to hold several of these events around the city in her annual State of the City address in April.
Representatives from the mayor's office were joined by city officials including public works director Jim Gross, acting economic and community development director Shilvosky Buffaloe, Fire Chief David Michaels and the top three ranking York City police officers: Chief Wes Kahley and Capts. Tim Utley and Steve Butler.
The west side in the area of Salem Square has had more than its share of violence. The city and local groups have applied to the state for what's called an Elm Street designation for the Salem Square area; the label would unlock funding and other resources for that part of town.
The Rev. Danny Evans, who works in the police department's community services division with local youth, preaches at a church a couple of blocks away. The area's had more violence than usual of late, he said, but he believes the neighborhood is trending upward.
"I think it's come a long way," Evans said.
The building that held the event used to be Gus' Bar, which shut down after being what police said was a hub of crime for years. It's in the middle of renovations, on its way to being a community policing substation.
City resident Tynisha Wilkes, who showed up to the event, lives a block north. She's organizing an anti-violence sit-in on Friday night. It'll start at 9 p.m. in the 100 block of South West Street; those in attendance will walk around the block before settling down in the area until about midnight.
"I just like to make our presence known," she said.
As the event wrapped up, Buffaloe, the city's acting director of economic and community development, sat on the steps. After making a joke about how the whole city's his neighborhood, he said yes, this part of town is literally his neighborhood — he lives just down the street.
"It has a very strong and enduring group of people," Buffaloe said.
Buffaloe said he's lived in the west end for years, and, while it certainly has some issues, he thinks it's a good place to be.
"There is a genuineness and warmth on this side of town," he said.
The next "city hall for a day" event will be from 4 to 6 p.m. Monday, July 18, in Albemarle Park in the city's east end. Sometime after that, similar events will be held in the Avenues and Fireside neighborhoods.