Residents Of Logan Fear City Wholesale Demolition Is Planned, They Say

Posted: April 08, 1988

Residents of Philadelphia's Logan section, launching an assault against one of Mayor Goode's key initiatives, appealed to a state Senate committee yesterday to prevent the city from leveling nearly 1,000 homes in their neighborhood.

The residents found an immediate ally in the Senate Urban Affairs and Housing Committee, which also accused the city of planning a wholesale demolition and said Goode was mismanaging the Logan crisis.

With criticism of Goode mounting, the committee is considering introducing legislation that would sharply limit the city's authority in the demolition and relocation program designed to assist residents whose homes are sinking into an ash and cinder fill.

"We realize that some homes have to be torn down, but it would be insane to have anyone believe that 957 homes should be torn down," David Hamilton, a spokesman for Concerned Citizens of Logan, told the committee during the first of three public hearings scheduled in Philadelphia on the problem.

Concerned Citizens, which commissioned an independent engineering study, maintained during the hearing at the federal courthouse here that the city was pursuing a plan that would needlessly destroy nearly 500 homes that may not be jeopardized by the unstable ground.

Goode, the group contends, is pursuing the plan without consulting the group and without evidence that the nearly 500 homes are endangered.

The Senate committee, led by Philadelphia Republicans Frank A. Salvatore and M. Joseph Rocks, charged that Goode administration officials were being vague about the status of those homes because they have a "hidden agenda" for the area once it is razed.

"We want a plan that will save Logan rather than destroy it," said Salvatore, the committee chairman, during a break in the hearing. "The mayor's plan is to destroy Logan."

Neither Goode nor his top aides who have been involved in the Logan issue since its inception attended the hearing yesterday. Salvatore and Rocks said they would subpoena Goode and other city officials if necessary to testify at the panel's next meeting.

Edward A. Schwartz, director of the city's Department of Housing and Community Development, did testify, but he failed to convince the committee that the city had a firm grip on the Logan problem.

Schwartz has been named to oversee the city's relocation plan, acting as a liaison to the Logan Assistance Corp., a nonprofit agency created by the city to disburse state and federal relocation funds. Last week, the agency hired a new director and began planning to distribute the initial $1 million in state money for dislocated Logan residents.

Questioned by the committee, Schwartz said the city has determined that about 205 homes in the Logan area to be in "imminently dangerous" condition. The city, Schwartz added, has concluded that about 250 more homes will be endangered soon after the first group of homes are demolished.

Schwartz was less certain about the status of the remaining 450 or so homes in the affected area, homes that the residents maintain can be saved. He said that although no one can say for sure whether those homes should be demolished, the administration is proceeding under the assumption that they will be.

"I don't think anybody in the city government has a plan etched in bronze about what will happen to those 450 homes," Schwartz said. "I do not believe right now that there is an absolute determination that (all) 950 homes are going to be knocked down."

But, he added, "If I were gambling, I would bet that based on what I've seen, that would happen." He said administration officials have "predicted" that the remaining 450 or so homes will be plagued by the same problems jeopardizing the rest of Logan.

Schwartz urged the committee to table the proposed legislation, saying it would cause further setbacks in the city's already long-delayed plan to distribute relocation money to Logan residents who have been displaced.

Conceding that the city has been beset by administrative problems in getting the program under way, Schwartz said the Logan Assistance Corp. has a new, qualified director and is now ready to begin distributing the first $1 million in relocation money.

Rocks said later that he respected Schwartz but remained convinced that the Goode administration was mishandling the Logan problem. He said the committee planned to seek the proposed legislation.

In appealing to the committee, Concerned Citizens of Logan unveiled a proposal by Philadelphia architect Gray Smith to save the Logan homes not immediately endangered by the deteriorating soil conditions. Smith's plan, based on a belief that the soil can be stabilized and the homes maintained, includes a blueprint for rebuilding - at less density - the part of the neighborhood that will be demolished.

Former state Sen. Milton Street also backed the Logan residents, accusing Goode of ignoring their wishes and embarking on an ill-conceived policy of

destroying rather than saving the neighborhood.

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