By Mike Dunn
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Today is the first day that construction and demolition sites in Philadelphia are required to display new signs spelling out details of the work, and what passersby should do if they spot problems.
The new rule comes in the wake of last year’s building collapse on Market Street that killed six people (see related story).
Mayor Nutter stood this morning at a demolition site near 12th and Chestnut Streets in center city to unveil the first example of new signage now required at all building work sites.
“Anyone interested, concerned citizens, neighbors, civic groups, will be able to learn very quickly what’s going on at the site, and monitor its progress, and, most importantly, be able to report dangerous conditions that they might see,” the mayor said.
For construction and demolition sites taller than three stories, the sign must be 4′ by 6′. Smaller signs, supplied by L&I, are required for sites involving buildings of three or fewer stories.
The larger sign must include the names of the owner and construction manager, artist’s renderings of the final design, completion date, and the suggestion to call the city if problems are observed.
“We cannot be everywhere all the time,” said L&I commissioner Carlton Williams at this morning’s announcement. “We need the public’s support. If the public sees a dangerous site or something wrong, or they’re unsure, please report it.”
The signs will also include a QR code so concerned passersby can link, via smartphone, to L&I’s web site to get more information about the project.
The new requirements were included in a package of measures approved by City Council last year in the wake of the Market Street building collapse (additional related stories). Prior to that tragedy, the city had received calls from pedestrians who felt the job site was unsafe, but those callers lacked pertinent information about the project.
Williams would not say if this new signage would have made a difference:
“There’s no way to make that determination,” he said today. “But what we’re trying to do is provide as much information as possible to try to prevent tragedies like that from happening in the future. We can’t say for sure what the impact of a sign would have had on the site, but we can say, going forward, that information that’s readily available and can be easily reported — and the public knows how to report it — is important to our department and the city.”
Councilman Jim Kenney, a member of City Council’s special committee on demolitions formed after the building collapse, said Council pushed hard for the sign requirements and met resistance from the Nutter administration.
“The administration fought everything tooth and nail, all along the way,” Kenney said today. “And we basically had to force our will as a Council on the city (administration) to accept these standards. There were a myriad of excuses of why they couldn’t do it. And I’m just befuddled as to why they’d have a news conference on something they were against.”
The mayor’s spokesman, Mark McDonald, says Kenney’s claims are “simply not true.”
“I’m not sure what planet Mr. Kenney was on when those discussions occurred,” McDonald said this afternoon. “The mayor gave very clear directives to the L&I commissioner to develop appropriate signage.”
At the news conference, Mayor Nutter said the signage regulations grew out of the executive order he issued shortly after the building collapse:
“In the aftermath of the tragedy last summer, a series of executive orders were issued and a process was started with regard to signage requirements.”
McDonald later admitted that the mayor misspoke, that signage was in fact not part of the executive order process. But he said the reforms to signage requirements did initiate within the administration, prior to Council’s legislation.