Contractor: Building Owner Was on Site at Time of Collapse

The owner of the former Hoagie City building at 22nd and Market was on site when it collapsed last year onto an adjacent Salvation Army store and killed six people, a building contractor charged with murder in the incident says.

A lawyer for the contractor, Griffin Campbell, told Philly.com owner Richard Basciano was on site with his wife Lois when the collapse happened, but left immediately after.

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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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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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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.

Go West, Young Building: Generic Rental Slabs Migrate Toward University City

3737 Market Street

3737 Market Street rendering via Philadelphia Real Estate Blog.

In her most recent Changing Skyline column, Inga Saffron noted fully seven apartment towers that are being built or heightened between 20th and 38th streets on Market and Chestnut. (Part of this stretch was what porn theater Forum owner Richard Basciano talked about rehabbing for a new vision of Market Street West–before one of his buildings collapsed and killed people.)

The developers, says Saffron, “now see the typical high-rise resident as a twentysomething with a good-paying job at a hospital or tech start-up.” As a result, all the apartments are rentals, and says Saffron, they look it.

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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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Lawyer Who Battled Basciano: “His Pitch Was That He Was Working to Change Things.”

Steven_WigrizerAttorney Steven Wigrizer and Richard Basciano will probably be crossing paths–again.

Basciano is the owner of the building that collapsed and killed six people in the Salvation Army store at 22nd and Market. In 2000, Wigrizer won a $5.25 million settlement on behalf of Judge Berel Caeser’s family. Caeser was killed in 1997 when he was struck by a sign that fell off a building on Broad Street near Pine. The building was owned by the estate of Philadelphia’s most notorious slumlord, Sam Rappaport. Basciano was the executor of Rappaport’s estate.

Before the case was settled, the two men met face to face when Wigrizer deposed Basciano. Wigrizer recalled Basciano as being “personable, forthcoming, and calm.”

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Building Collapse Legal Q&A: Who Pays Out? Who Gets Sued?

The lawyers are gathering–that much we know. But who is legally responsible for what happened? Or, perhaps better said, who will be targeted as legally responsible in various legal actions? As one local developer said, “Follow the money”–because much of what happens from here on out will be motivated by dollars and cents.

We spoke to Peg Underwood and Henry Donner of Jacoby Donner, a Philadelphia law firm that specializes in construction litigation. We also spoke with a local developer who preferred to remain anonymous. All three shared insights gleaned from past experience, which we put into a Q&A.

Will Griffin T. Campbell, owner of the construction company that performed the demolition, have to pay out?
A licensed contractor in Philadelphia is required to have an insurance policy for which he makes regular payments. He may also elect to have excess policy as well, which is added financial protection. Any successful lawsuit against Campbell would take the limit of the insurance. Beyond that, he’d be liable out of pocket and so would probably declare personal bankruptcy (something he’s done before).

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