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Philadelphia Lawmakers Plan Tougher Controls On Vacant, Fire-Prone Properties

(Councilwoman Maria Quinones Sanchez, center, and other city councilmembers at a hearing on a measure to toughen controls on vacant buildings in the city of Philadelphia.  Photo from City of Phila. TV)

(Councilwoman Maria Quinones Sanchez, center, and other city councilmembers at a hearing on a measure to toughen controls on vacant buildings in the city of Philadelphia. Photo from City of Phila. TV)

Mike Dunn Mike Dunn
Mike Dunn is City Hall bureau chief for KYW Newsradio 1060. He covers...
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By Mike Dunn

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The Kensington warehouse blaze earlier this month that claimed the lives of two Philadelphia firefighters (see related story) is still having a ripple effect through city government.

A City Council committee today approved new standards on dealing with vacant properties — a change that Kensington residents say is sorely needed.

“Philadelphia has a factory fire problem that it doesn’t talk about,” Jeff Carpineta of the East Kensington Neighbors Association said bluntly in his testimony to City Council.  He says more vacant warehouses and abandoned factories will burn unless owners and the city do more.

keyframe491 Philadelphia Lawmakers Plan Tougher Controls On Vacant, Fire Prone Properties

(Firefighters Daniel Sweeney and Robert Neary were killed in the April 9th blaze. Credit: CBS 3)

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“Part of today has to do with a move to getting away from the penny wise and pound foolish approach of the past, of a wish-think that things will probably be OK.  Things will not be OK.  These buildings are burning.  The ones that are vacant will burn,” Carpineta added.

His views were echoed by Sandy Salzman of the New Kensington Community Development Corporation:

“This could have been so much worse.  And we need help from you all to make sure that this never happens again.”

The committee approved and sent on to the full Council a measure that would require owners of such structures to use steel doors and sealing materials tougher than plywood to board up such properties.

“We want to set a standard,” said Councilwoman Maria Quinones Sanchez (center of photo), sponsor of the bill.  “It’s not just to tell someone to seal the property, but what is an acceptable compliance seal to ensure public safety so people do not break in to those properties.”

The measure also changes the standards under which the city’s Department of Licenses and Inspections would act if the owners don’t comply.

A vote by the full Council is likely next month.

When asked for the Nutter administration’s stance, a spokesperson for L&I said the bill is under review.

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