Morning Headlines: Another House Collapse Challenges Suspension of Disbelief

It’s as if a virus has overtaken the city, or maybe it’s more like when someone tells you they just got a red Fiat and all of a sudden you can’t stop noticing red Fiats everywhere. Unfortunately, a red Fiat is benign (provided you like Italian automotive engineering) and building collapses are not.

Yesterday afternoon a vacant house in Mantua, on the 3600 block of Fairmount, crumbled to pieces the day demolition was scheduled to begin. The residents of the street were evacuated and assisted by the Red Cross; CBS 3 reports they are back in their homes now. Neighbors had feared 3623 Fairmount was a danger to the neighborhood, and as usual, they were right. From Fox 29:

Emergency demolition crews have been out on the 3600 block of Fairmount avenue all night. They’ve brought down the rest of this abandoned house that collapsed late this afternoon. In fact, the remaining wall that crews deemed dangerous came down by itself, almost injuring a worker.

L & I couldn’t tell me why demo work didn’t start on the house immediately. And we’ve learned the homeowner has a list of code violations dating back years.

It’s that last sentence that really rankles, particularly as this collapse comes a mere week after the partial collapse of a home on the 5700 block of Walnut Street. Let me guess: code violations? Taxes owed?

Moving right along…

• Stu Bykofsky reveals one potential reason things don’t get fixed in the city: citizens who are held responsible might be dead–in some cases, since 1996. No one passes the buck like the City of Philadelphia.
• Sandy Smith talks about “landlords who kill their own cash cows” with an example of someone who “opened a pub in a long-vacant storefront in a Philly neighborhood on the mend. The place proved popular and the proprietors were doing very well.” Then came a big rent hike–the kind that’s shutting down Pumpkin Market on South Street West.
PlanPhilly has an announcement about passive housing: “Ridge Flats, a proposed 146-unit apartment complex at 4300 Ridge Avenue in East Falls, was green lighted by the Zoning Board of Adjustment Wednesday afternoon.”

Headlines: Is L&I Mismanaged? Plus, ANOTHER Collapse

As we reported, City Council hearings on the building collapse at 22nd and Market continued yesterday with a raft of testimony from former L&I personnel, including onetime commissioners Fran Burns and Bennett Levin. While Burns was asked questions about the way demolition practices were implemented during her tenure, which lasted through last summer, Levin read an 11-page statement that was excoriating in tone. From the Inquirer:

Levin compared L&I’s duties to those of the Police and Fire Departments, suggesting that it had subordinated its public-safety responsibilities to “political expediency and economic development.” “No right-thinking person would tolerate managing either the Police Department or the Fire Department in the manner in which L&I has been managed,” Levin said…

The mayor rejected Levin’s characterization and list of examples of failed oversight, which included the Pier 34 disaster and another Richard Basciano-owned building that crumbled, ending the life of a judge. Nutter said Levin was out of touch. For more Inquirer coverage, go here.

In other news that doesn’t feel so much like other news, there was a partial building collapse in North Philadelphia overnight due to rain. An abandoned home on North 19th Street–vacant for a decade–fell in on itself, which was totally unsurprising to neighbors. From NBC 10:

Some residents of the North Philadelphia neighborhood, where a home partially collapsed Thursday afternoon, say they’ve filed complaints with the city about the abandoned home for years.

“I knew it was going to happen. It was just a matter of time,” said Shamika King.

For more on that particular instance of municipal negligence, go here.

• And speaking of demolition, intentional or otherwise, crews now turn to Sears building’s facade in Camden, says
• A Berwyn-based real estate company that has focused on New York is going to give some love to the Philly area, writes Natalie Kostelni
• “Screwdriver vs. power tool. That’s what led to Thursday’s roughly 12-hour strike at the Convention Center.” Now the strike is over. Good thing.

Eighth Street Wall Collapse: God to Be Arrested Any Minute?

A dividing wall at 606 S. Eighth collapsed this morning, leaving eight people displaced though none injured or dead, which marks a significant improvement over last week. The heavy rain–not laced with marijuana, to our knowledge–seems to be to blame.

Hidden City co-editor Nathaniel Popkin, who lives nearby, wrote that neighbors were nervous something like this might happen:

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Building Collapse News: Demo Contractors Are Licensed Without Training or Exams

Griffin-Campbell Construction, the contractor for 2140 Market Street, was listed on the demolition permit that was granted to the project’s expeditor, L&I spokesperson Maura Kennedy told us today. That was echoed by L&I Commissioner Carlton Williams, who told the press that the proper permits were pulled and that Griffin-Campbell–hired by STB Investments, aka Richard Basciano, who owned the building–was licensed as a contractor.

Griffin-Campbell is indeed listed on L&I’s website under Licensed Contractors, but what does that mean? Kennedy says it means they’ve gone through the necessary steps for licensure, including obtaining appropriate insurance. But unlike some of the other specialized licenses, contractors don’t need to take an exam or have specialized training–to put it lightly. In fact, pretty much anyone you’re sitting next to, looking at, thinking about or hating on right now could be a demolition contractor.

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