Due to yet another Philadelphia slumlord abandoning a development project, Point Breeze resident Denise Ferguson had unsuccessfully spent years contacting the city about a gaping hole in the ground next to her home. Five years of frustrating 3-1-1 calls that largely fell on deaf ears were erased in five days by DN columnist Ronnie Polaneczky and one single email sent to Licenses & Inspections.
The party responsible for the hole in question, property owner Kenneth Castagna (owner of KSM Investments), demolished the two-story home that was adjoined to Ferguson's house in 2007 and subsequently abandoned the project, leaving a dangerous crater on South Lambert Street. Years of frustration with the city's lack of a serious response led Ferguson to enlist the media in the hopes of finding a solution that would rid the neighborhood of the hazard that had piled up with garbage and stagnant water.
Enter Polaneczky, who went out to see the hole for herself and decided to shoot a quick email to L&I about the property, which sent out a private contractor to remove the refuse and backfill the hole in mere days to the delight of area residents.
KSM Investments will be billed for the work, but here's the bad news: the company has already been fined three times for "unsafe lot" conditions. None of these fines were paid. Even less surprising is the fact that KSM Investments owns approximately 20 properties in Point Breeze, collectively owing more than $55,000 in tax delinquencies.
Kudos to L&I for finally taking action on Ferguson's request, but the fact that it took five years is extremely unredeeming to say the least, especially on the heels of the fatal collapse in Center City. And who knows if KSM Investments will ever appear from beneath its cloak of irresponsibility. The outlook isn't so good.
So for now, take Polaneczky up on her offer to help and give her a call if your neighborhood has a dangerous hazard. It wouldn't hurt.
· If Newspapers Are Dead, Why Does Ronnie Get Results? [Philly.com]