Should the Building Collapse Site Become a Memorial Park?

Before and after? Photograph by Claudia Gavin

A conceptual rendering of the park demonstrates how it might look. Photograph by Claudia Gavin

Let me come right out and say it: I think the memorial park planned for the site of last year’s building collapse at 22nd and Market is misguided. This isn’t a position that will endear me to anyone related to the seven people who lost their lives as a result of the disaster, or to the 13 injured or their families. But I think it’s important to evaluate the decision from a dispassionate point of view. As Ed Bacon might have said, “There’s no crying in planning.”

The truth is, today’s Philadelphians are temporary custodians of a city defined by its longevity. We take care to maintain the city as a historical record — not only of itself, but of the nation since its founding. And when we create something new, we act as the city’s interpreters. Future generations of tourists will flock to sites we deem significant, so we must be judicious.

My primary objection to the memorial park is within this long-lensed context. I can’t help but feel that from a historical point of view — whether in terms of lives lost, destruction of property, or larger sociopolitical implications — the park is a disproportionate response to last year’s devastating event.

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Morning Headlines: Butkovitz at Odds with L&I Over Demolition Safety

Photo by Bradley Maule from  June 5, 2013 collapse at 22nd and Market.

Photo by Bradley Maule from June 5, 2013 collapse at 22nd and Market.

City Controller Alan Butkovitz released an audit of L&I’s demolition procedures, and the results weren’t pretty. Neither was Commissioner Carlton Williams’ response to the report, which he characterized as being one big misinterpretation and full of false conclusions. We’re nearing on the one-year anniversary of the collapse at 22nd and Market that killed six people, and no one is happy.

The Daily News‘ William Bender lays it out this morning:

Yesterday, Butkovitz released a blistering audit that alleged a “culture of informality” within L&I, which he said kept shoddy records and waived demolition-inspection requirements without explanation. He also questioned whether L&I actually visited all the sites it claimed its staffers had inspected following the Market Street collapse.

Yikes. According to the audit, Butkovitz could find no supporting documentation for 210 of the department’s 442 demo sites.

Williams blamed a complicated system.

“I think that the system is so complicated and antiquated that it’s hard to decipher the information presented,” he said. “Ultimately, it led to some misconceptions.”

Williams said that the 442 demolition sites were, in fact, inspected and that the inspectors did not skip any steps, as the audit alleged. But he acknowledged that the department needs a better data system.

Bender says L&I’s new Project eCLIPSE system is slated to be working by the end of 2015, bringing with it better reporting and accounting.

Is Philly safer? Butkovitz sys no; L&I says he’s confused [Daily News]

More morning headlines this way… Read more »

L&I Says Rowhome Collapse That Caused Injuries “Is Not a Big Deal”

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A Google Street View image shows 3026 and the surrounding homes in 2011.

Around 10:40 this morning, a large chunk of an imminently dangerous building on West Diamond Street fell on top of two workers for Gama Wrecking. A witness to the events at 3026 Diamond told Action News “it was a freak accident, wrong place at the wrong time.”

It’s an unfortunate reality that demolishing imminently dangerous buildings — L&I’s current bailiwick — is itself a dangerous task, even when, as in this case, workers adhere to every safety regulation and procedure and wear all required gear.

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Was Shirt Corner’s Collapse Planned?

Shirt Corner via Google Street View

Shirt Corner via Google Street View

The building known as Shirt Corner at Third and Market is gone, having collapsed entirely today. Its dissolution isn’t a surprise as L&I ordered it to be demolished in January and work to that end was under way. It was scheduled to be finished in a week. But was this collapse part of the demolition plan? Or was it a little hiccup in the process?

The Philadelphia Business Journal’s Jared Shelly spoke with Constructure Management’s Mark Christof, who said it was a “controlled demolition.” The Journal also got an email from Alterra’s Leo Addimando, saying the “collapse” was “all planned and blessed by L&I and the fire department. We would have liked to keep the debris off the street but sometimes these things happen and we had taken necessary precautions in advance. No cause for alarm.”

Yet alarm was caused, as police and fire vehicles came to the scene, unaware of the plan. (Alarm was also raised on social media, surprisingly.)

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Partial Building Collapse at Ninth and Wharton

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Perhaps due to snow and ice, the roof has fallen in on 848 Wharton Street, which, according to public record, is owned by Maria Olivieri of the Pat’s Steaks family. Looking at a Google image of the building before the roof collapse, it seems as though that part of it had some structural issues before the snow came. In the current photo, an orange sign suggests that the building had attracted some notice from L&I. A permit was granted and recently renewed for demolition of the interior, though without any structural changes.

Last March someone posted a complaint about the building on SeeClickFix titled “Dangerous Vacant Building”:

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Morning Headlines: Group Advocating Building Collapse Memorial Pushes Forward

Philadelphia Building Collapse

Last summer’s building collapse at 22nd and Market killed six people.

Less than five months from now will mark the one-year anniversary of the 22nd and Market streets building collapse, and one group has not forgotten. Their idea for an on-site memorial park may take some time to materialize, but for now they’re pushing for an interim memorial prior to the anniversary of the June 5th disaster.

An online petition for a memorial park has garnered 6,000 signatures since September. The petition’s creator, city treasurer Nancy Winkler, is one among a 15-member panel pressing for the memorial. The group consists of family members of the victims, as well as local leaders. Winkler is the mother of Anne Bryan, one of the six victims who perished in the disaster. Mayor Nutter has voiced his support and provided a liaison for the group.
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Morning Headlines: Looking Even Worse for the Salvation Army

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The Inquirer has an examination of what people knew and when they knew it before the Hoagie City building collapsed onto the Salvation Army thrift store. This goes to the heart of the matter in terms of culpability, both criminal (civil lawsuits) and moral. It also reemphasizes what we already knew and which Victor Fiorillo wrote about in September: The Salvation Army is not looking good in this whole thing. Some fundamental questions:

- Did the store manager at the Salvation Army know the employees were at risk?
- Did the Salvation Army supervisor of nine stores know the employees were at risk?
- Did the Salvation Army organization know that the demolition was risky enough to merit closing the location while the work continued?

The Salvation Army’s lawyer, Eric A. Weiss, told the Inquirer that the organization had no idea what stage the demo had reached.

At decision-making levels, Weiss said, the charity thought it was still negotiating with its Market Street neighbor over what steps would be taken to shield the shop during demolition when the collapse occurred.

He said the Salvation Army had designated a Harrisburg lawyer to negotiate with the owner of the building being torn down, STB Investments Corp., a company controlled by real estate investor Richard Basciano.

But the Inquirer reported previously that STB warned the organization of the hazards in a series of emails. As it stands now, aside from the criminal charges filed against the demolition contractor and the excavator operator, it seems as though the Salvation Army will bear the brunt of the blame for the loss of life and the injuries suffered. Good thing they’ve got deep pockets.

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Photos: This South Philly House Looks Like It’s About To Collapse



While driving through South Philadelphia on Monday — the same day that contractor Griffin Campbell was charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter in the tragic 22nd and Market building collapse — I passed this house at 1402 Ellsworth Street. About 15 minutes later, I turned around and drove back to take these photos, because this seems downright dangerous. Read more »

Morning Headlines: Woman Who Lost Legs in Building Collapse Recounts Awful Details

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The Daily News reports today on the deposition of Mariya Plekan, the woman who was trapped under the rubble of the Salvation Army thrift store for 13 hours. By the time she was rescued, her injuries were too severe to save her legs, which had to be amputated. The details she gave are haunting and hard to hear:

Plekan, who said she was conscious for the entire ordeal, recounted how she found a small hole through which she could see light and hear parts of the rescue operation above her.

“They started to move things around, then I had a hope, I had a hope that they will save me shortly. But it didn’t happen,” she said. “I was screaming, ‘Help, help.’ But nobody heard me.”

“I was praying, praying, ‘God, help me,’ so I could be found,” she said.

A search dog tracked her down.

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Grand Jury Charges Building Collapse Contractor with Murder

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Following an investigation, a grand jury is charging Griffin Campbell, the contractor in charge of the fatal June 5th demolition project on 22nd and Market, with six counts of third-degree murder, six-counts of involuntarily manslaughter, and 13 counts of recklessly endangering another person. Campbell, District Attorney Seth Williams said today, ignored proper demolition standards out of “greed,” in order to rake in higher profits.

This is the second indictment named in the case since June. The D.A.’s office already charged demolition subcontractor Sean Benschop with six counts of involuntary manslaughter last summer.

 

 

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