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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Morning Headlines: L&I Inspector Who Killed Himself Was Tormented

Inquirer staff writer Julia Terruso filed a superb story this weekend offering an inside look at the state of mind of Ronald Wagenhoffer, the L&I inspector who was involved in monitoring the demolition site at 22nd and Market–the site that ultimately collapsed and killed six people. Terruso spoke at length with Wagenhoffer’s wife, Michele, who knew he was tormented by his role, though the Inquirer–contradicting earlier reports–claims he said on video that the collapse “wasn’t my fault.”

Indeed, the city has supported Wagenhoffer completely, asserting that he did everything right as he always did. He was known as an incredibly dedicated and even safety-obsessed employee. From the Inquirer:

Coworkers said he was …a stickler who would point out building imperfections and code violations on and off the clock. L&I Commissioner Carlton Williams called Wagenhoffer “a professional craftsman, always striving to be better, mentoring other inspectors and earning certifications in multiple fields.”

“He was the safety man,” Whitlock said.

Perhaps that’s why the dead and injured haunted him so–after all those years of extreme care, how could something like this happen on his watch? The videos he left in the car after he shot himself make reference to the fact that he’d stopped sleeping after the six deaths were reported:

 “I’m devastated by the deaths and injuries at 22d and Market. It wasn’t my fault,” he said in the first recording. “I should have been more diligent and looked at those guys working, but I didn’t. When I saw, it was too late. I should have just parked and walked over there, but I didn’t. I’m sorry.”…

A minute after the first, Wagenhoffer recorded a second video for his family. … In the video, Wagenhoffer, dressed in his L&I polo shirt and appearing calm, says: “Tell Luke I went to sleep with God because I couldn’t sleep here.” He ends it by saying, “I love everyone.”

If only he’d gotten some immediate PTSD counseling, he might still be here.

• Inspector’s wife: It was the people who haunted him

Other headlines:
• A pop-up coffee shop is coming to 12th and Mt. Vernon. Once again, Philly gets compared to Portland. Hey! We’ve got plenty of pop-ups too! Try the PHS pop-up across from the Kimmel Center, for one. It’s amazing.
• Could this happen to you? “For want of a few pieces of paper, Cheyenne DiEnno and David Bjornsson may have just lost about $14,000″ in mortgage assistance.
• Where once there were people at the beginning of life, there now will be people at the other end, as Springside Elementary becomes a home for the elderly in Burlington Township.
• Good news for nerds: The N3RD Street Farmers Market will run every Tuesday from 2 to 7 p.m. on Church Street between American and 2nd streets in front of Christ Church.

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 philly.com
• 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.

Philly: “A City With a Rich History of Municipal Incompetence.” But for Once We’re Not Alone.

In Next City, Patrick Kerkstra makes Philly negative exceptionalists feel better by pointing out that while Philadelphia demolition regulations are, indeed, lax, it’s far from alone. His lede is priceless:

“In Philadelphia, a city with a rich history of municipal incompetence, there’s a natural impulse to assume the worst about city government when tragedy strikes…”

But that wouldn’t be fair, he says. In fact, Kerkstra analyzed 12 cities and found that Philadelphia’s inadequate supervision of demolition is typical of many large cities. So much so that this could, Kerkstra points out, happen anywhere.

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Philly: “A City With a Rich History of Municipal Incompetence.” But for Once We’re Not Alone.

In Next City, Patrick Kerkstra makes Philly negative exceptionalists feel better by pointing out that while Philadelphia demolition regulations are, indeed, lax, it’s far from alone. His lede is priceless:

“In Philadelphia, a city with a rich history of municipal incompetence, there’s a natural impulse to assume the worst about city government when tragedy strikes…”

But that wouldn’t be fair, he says. In fact, Kerkstra analyzed 12 cities and found that Philadelphia’s inadequate supervision of demolition is typical of many large cities. So much so that this could, Kerkstra points out, happen anywhere.

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Unions: That Building Wouldn’t Have Collapsed on Our Watch

buildingcollapsesmallSince the building collapse at 22nd and Market, the building trades union, represented by Pat Gillespie, have been saying that if union labor had been on the job there, rather than non-union, the collapse would not have occurred. While this is obviously a terrific PR opportunity for the unions, Philly Mag’s Simon van Zuylen-Wood says the question is, in fact, moot due to the size of the job.

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Seeing Double: Another Hoagie City, This One Intact

One of the most iconic things about the Hoagie City building that collapsed last week–perhaps the only iconic thing about it–was its sign, the one that crashed down in a most dangerous fashion in the demolition video posted here. Something about the lettering and the illustrations struck us as familiar, and that’s because Hoagie City used to be a chain. (It was originally owned by Joe Carangi, father of Gia, the subject of Steve Fried’s Thing of Beauty: The Tragedy of Supermodel Gia.)

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