Mayor Nutter on Building Collapse: Oh, All Right, I’ll Appoint a Commission Already

The mayor finally got the message: The citizens of Philadelphia — and a member of his own administration who lost his daughter in the Salvation Army building collapse — were tired of waiting for a promised-but-not-yet-delivered creation of an independent review commission to investigate the incident.

Last week the Daily News’ Ronnie Polaneczky wrote a column in which she noted that the day after the tragedy, he said he’d convene the commission, yet he still hadn’t as of her writing. It was appalling. We said, “Take some time out from your schedule…and GET IT DONE.” Today at 3 p.m. Nutter will officially announce the creation of an independent advisory commission not just to review the accident, but to evaluate the Department of Licenses & Inspections overall. Now that’s getting it done.

Morning Opinion: Nutter Is Dragging His Feet on the Building Collapse

Philadelphia Building Collapse

We’re calling it opinion, but perhaps it’s more like fact. As Daily News columnist Ronnie Polaneczky points out today, after the building collapse at 2140 Market Street, Mayor Nutter promised to convene an independent, blue-ribbon commission to assess the accident. He has not done so. On Monday, Nutter’s spokesman, Mark McDonald, told Polaneczky it would happen “very soon.”

“He said the same thing 37 days ago,” she writes.

Though Polaneczky keeps an even tone, bringing in Nancy Winkler and Jay Bryan, whose 24-year-old daughter Anne was killed in the collapse, to make the point, it’s actually something of an outrage that Nutter is putting this off. Winkler tells Polaneczky:

“[This] was a horrific, avoidable crime that was the result of a widespread, systemic failure to put public safety first.”

Now, Winkler and Ryan “want the city to use this moment to undergo an honest examination of the systems, people and processes that affect building, demo and development in Philly.”

Winkler, who is city treasurer, sure is optimistic for an insider.

Mayor Nutter, what are you afraid of? Or, to put it more generously, take some time out from your schedule — which today includes officiating at a first-grade safety officer’s swearing-in ceremony — and GET IT DONE.

Seeing the big picture of the Market Street collapse

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Building Collapses in West Philly

West Philly Building Collapse

A home in the Cedar Park section of West Philadelphia collapsed Monday night. A neighbor, who said he’d  called 911 about the property, explained that the home had been in the process of a controlled demolition that was being conducted by the Department of Licenses and Inspections.

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Building Collapse Architect Plato Marinakos Refusing to Produce Subpoenaed Documents

Philadelphia Building Collapse

It has been four months since the tragic building collapse at 22nd and Market streets, where six people died and 13 more were injured. Several personal injury and wrongful death suits have been initiated in civil court, and demolition equipment operator Sean Benschop is facing a variety of charges, including involuntary manslaughter. And now architect Plato Marinakos finds himself in Philadelphia’s federal court after refusing to provide subpoenaed documents to authorities.

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Showdown: Alan Butkovitz Vs. L&I

Alan Butkovitz

Alan Butkovitz. Photo: Cbrblessing

Last Saturday, city controller Alan Butkovitz continued something of a public siege against the beleaguered Department of Licenses and Inspections when he called 911 to complain about a hazardous building on 24th and Thompson Streets. The next day, L&I demolished the building, and by Tuesday, the incident had been reported in the Inquirer.

“The neighbors said they had been calling for weeks about this problem,” he told the paper. Maybe they had, and maybe they hadn’t. Maybe the vacant rowhome was in such a derelict condition that it would have continued a long spate of building collapses. And maybe it wasn’t.

What’s certain is that, correctly or not, L&I came out of the incident looking indolent and unresponsive, an image it has been trying to fight since the 2140 Market Street disaster on June 5. Read more »

Today’s Headlines: Are Rats Bad News for Rittenhouse Realtors?

rittenhouse rat

Photo by Bradley Maule

We’ve all known they’re there, but seeing a video is something else. Under the headline “Rats living large in Rittenhouse Square,” philly.com’s Emily Babay posted a video taken on Sept. 23 that will horrify all but the staunchest rodent fans. In the film, large rats run back and forth across the grass — and when we say “large,” we mean “gigantic.” And so many of them!

This is the second time the Rats of Rittenhouse are getting bad press; Philly Mag’s Victor Fiorillo did a piece on them in May.

This can’t be good news for brokers who market the Square as an upscale locale, which, of course, it is and always will be. And never fear: Many years ago, when rats were a problem in the park, poison was employed and they all died (as did the squirrels, which was really a shame). The city will find a way to get rid of them.

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Morning Headlines: City Has Higher Standards for Its Own Demolition Projects

Philadelphia City Council’s special committee to investigate the building collapse at 22nd and Market has released its findings this morning — and it ain’t pretty. The Special Investigating Committee on Demolition Practices’ report can be read cynically or pragmatically, but reading it in the former fashion might lead one to believe the city cares less about its citizens than covering its collective governmental behind. From CBS Philly:

The 70-page report from City Council’s makes clear that the city imposes higher standards on its own demolitions than those carried out by contractors on privately owned buildings.  For example, contractors demolishing public buildings must submit a criminal background check and provide evidence of competency and experience.

We’ve written before about the lax requirements for becoming a demolition contractor for private jobs, but to seem them in contrast with city requirements is offensive and discouraging.

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Building Collapse New: Another Lawsuit Filed

Roseline Conteh, mother of eight, was one of the people who died when the “Hoagie City” building collapsed onto the Salvation Army at 22nd and Market. Now Conteh’s family is filing the second wrongful death suit related to the tragedy, and the defendants are the same, according to philly.com:

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Survivor of 22nd and Market Collapse to Give Deposition

Mariya Plekan, buried under the rubble of the 22nd and Market collapse this past June, lost both her legs and nearly her life. Now, thanks to a decision from common pleas Judge Mark Bernstein, lawyers will be able to get her side of the story in a court-sanctioned deposition.

Judge Bernstein’s latest decision partially reverses his earlier ruling that criminal proceedings be allowed to progress while civil cases were put on the back burner. Plekan is the only witness to the collapse excused from Bernstein’s decision.

Bernstein’s judgement came after Plekan’s legal team presented him a video of her doctors at University of Pennsylvania hospital explaining that her condition is extremely serious. Her attorney, Andrew Stern, though, says Plekan is capable of communicating effectively:

“She is at risk for sudden death. She’s not out of the woods yet,” Stern said. “It’ll be several months before that happens.”

Although Plekan is severely disabled, Stern said, “her brain is normal and her understanding of things is good.”

Bernstein ruled that Plekan may be deposed starting immediately. [Philly.com]

Did Stalemate Between STB and Salvation Army Exacerbate the Building Collapse?

The first wrongful death suit in the case of the building collapse at 22nd and Market makes some strong allegations against the Salvation Army, claiming the Christian organization knew the thrift store was unsafe but chose to keep it open for business anyway.

In June the Inquirer reported on a string of communication between building owner STB and the Salvation Army that showed the two groups at legal loggerheads to such a degree that nothing could be accomplished. At the time, STB warned the city that if the Salvation Army continued to delay, something bad could happen. The Salvation Army, however, maintains they were trying to obtain a promise from STB regarding safe demolition practices before things moved forward.

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