South Jersey dials up pressure on Philly 'boom car' parties

WILLINGBORO — Letters from aggrieved South Jersey officials are stacking up on the desk of Philadelphia Mayor Cherelle Parker on a familiar topic — “boom car” parties occurring in the City of Brotherly Love and how to stop them.

At isolated spots on the city's Delaware River waterfront, mini-vans, SUVs, and pickup trucks stuffed with commercial grade stereos and amplifiers assemble at night and send waves of noise not just into waterfront communities in New Jersey but well inland.

The parties have disrupted life for residents of Burlington, Gloucester, and Camden counties for most of the last decade. With wind as a factor, noise and vibration are heard and felt from Burlington City south to Paulsboro.

State Sen. Troy Singleton’s office on Tuesday said lawmakers from the region and Burlington County officials signed off on a letter just sent to Parker. She has been running the city only since January.

“It is our hope, given your record, tenacity, commitment to public safety, and tackling quality of life issues, that your administration will give this matter the warranted attention it deserves,” the letter reads in part.

“As you may know, for years, the noise pollution emanating from the boom car parties in Philadelphia has kept families awake all night long, on both sides of the river,” it continues. “Unfortunately, these gatherings have increased in frequency, no longer just a nuisance in the summer months, but all year long, and not just on the weekend, but often during the week as well.”

The mayor's office in Philadelphia did not respond to requests for comment.

There are other similar letters to Parker, like two written in the last two weeks by Palmyra Mayor Gina Ragomo Tait.

Tait has received no response so far.

“So, I’m waiting on dates that we can meet and figure out something that can go on," said Tait. "Because, I mean, I understand there are a lot of crimes going on in the city. Different crimes that have to put their energy to.”

Tait said that, from her community's waterfront, you sometimes can see a boom car party location. Regardless of visibility, she said, the noise swamps the community.

“Some residents down in our riverfront, I mean, one man’s a pilot,” Tait said. “He’s got to go and get a hotel room when he’s ready to fly, because he can’t get a full night’s sleep. Then, he won’t be able to work.”

Riverton is another waterfront community where the party sites might be visible sometime but in any case can be heard regularly. Police get tips on where a site might be from staff on the Tacony-Palmyra Bridge, Chief Andrew Beuschel Jr. said.

“This has been an ongoing issue for the last couple of years that a couple of chiefs have tried to tackle, with kind of ‘no end in sight,’” Beuschel said. “It seems to be gaining some traction, a little bit more, lately. I think the police over there in Philly … are getting a little more support from their elected officials, so they’re cracking down on these things.”

Beuschel said the same behavior takes place _ though to a significantly smaller extent _ on the New Jersey side of the river. Laws have been updated with harsher penalties, there are fewer wide-open properties to access, and police have time to devote to enforcement.

Beuschel said Philadelphia police have far more serious crimes, and a lot of them, than is typical across the river.

“So, we police the lower-level things, right?” Beuschel said. “The quality-of-life issues. So, I think that’s really the real component here about why they go there versus why they don’t do it in New Jersey.”

Beuschel said redevelopment may bring some relief to one area, a yacht club property in the Tacony section of Philadelphia that attracts boom cars.

“I believe the property has been sold,” he said. “That potentially could limit, up this way, some of those parties.”

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