To afford Philadelphia’s first new Quaker meetinghouse in 80 years, the Chestnut Hill Friends felt their only option was to employ a nonunion contractor.
And now they are paying the price.
Four days before Christmas, the Friends’ world was rocked by the sort of violence they have devoted their lives to stamping out.
Vandals with an acetylene torch crept onto the project’s muddy construction site in the middle of the night. Working out of view in the meetinghouse’s freshly cemented basement, they sliced off dozens of bolts securing the bare steel columns and set fire to the building crane, causing $500,000 in damage.
Police detectives deemed the attack arson because of a series of confrontational visits from union officials days before the incident. They say the torch could only have been operated by a trained professional, and believe it was almost certainly the work of disgruntled union members. The city has assigned extra investigators to the case and is working with federal forensic experts to track down the vandals, said Michael Resnick, the city’s public safety commissioner.