By Ben Simmoneau
ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (CBS) – From fire to flood.
The CBS 3 I-Team has learned at least one of the owners of a Kensington warehouse that burned last month, leaving two firemen dead, is connected to a problem property in Atlantic City that neighbors and city officials say is partly to blame for flooding homes.
Officials say that property, at the corner of Massachusetts and Barrett Avenues, has a disintegrating seawall that is contributing to frequent floods in the city’s Bungalow Park neighborhood. Residents say the flooding is occurring more often.
Mortgage records obtained by the CBS 3 I-Team show that property was purchased in 2005 by a pair of Limited Liability Companies including “Massachusetts on the Water LLC.” Signing the mortgage for “Massachusetts on the Water LLC” as “manager” was Yechiel Lichtenstein, one of the owners of the old Thomas Buck Hosiery warehouse which burned on April 9 in the Kensington neighborhood of Philadelphia, killing firefighters Robert Neary and Dan Sweeney.
Atlantic County tax records list “Mass on Water” as one of the owners of the property as of 2012.
“Massachusetts on the Water LLC” lists as its address the same home in Brooklyn from which the Lichtenstein Family manages dozens of Philadelphia properties, some in deteriorating condition and behind in hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxes.
Neighbors say it floods so much along North Massachusetts Avenue, which parallels the seawall, that they’ve put “No Wake” warnings in the street. In fact, while the I-Team was there Thursday evening for a meeting between residents and city officials, we watched the water rise fast, spilling into the street in just minutes.
“The water comes up two feet high, and also emergency vehicles cannot pass. So, if someone has a heart attack at the end of the block, they’re going to be carried out,” said Dr. Louis Perri who lives across the street from the seawall. “I cannot get to [my] house, and I cannot leave [my] house” when it floods.
City officials who attended Thursday’s meeting, including Atlantic City Mayor Lorenzo Langford, admitted there is a problem there.
This is the lowest point in the city, but the deteriorating seawall does not help.
“It’s privately owned, and from what I understand from the engineer, the major part of the problem does come from private property,” said Mayor Langford (D, Atlantic City). “I’m going to call them for lack of a better word, I mean no disrespect, but these derelict property owners.”
Atlantic City engineer Bill England says the city also plans work on two fronts on public property to help address the problem.
That will include a $5.5 million system of new pumps in the neighborhood and possibly raising the street further. As for Yechiel Lichtenstein, CBS 3 reached out to his Philadelphia attorney Thursday evening for comment but did not hear back by broadcast time.