Naacp Prez Rips Logan Chief Attacks Slow Relocations

Posted: February 27, 1997

NAACP President Jerome Mondesire waded into the decade-old morass of the sinking Logan homes yesterday and promptly started sinking into a nasty political swamp of his own.

Standing at a press conference he had called on a corner of the 35-acre tract at Roosevelt Boulevard and 9th Street, Mondesire slammed city officials for their ``foot-dragging'' over the relocation of the remaining ``100 families'' in the sinking homes of Logan Triangle.

He pledged to use all political and legal means to get the city moving.

``The residents of Logan have had enough. They've lived under conditions that are deplorable and subhuman long enough,'' Mondesire said, citing gas leaks, roaming vermin and dangerous buildings. Residents, he said, ``have been forced to stand by and watch as City Hall has allocated more than $10 million for a new house for primates at the Philadelphia Zoo, while funds for their relocation have remained stagnant.''

Mondesire also called for the removal of John Thomas, board chairman at the Logan Assistance Corp., the nonprofit entity that gets city funds to relocate families.

The families live in a 17-block area built on an unstable fill of ash and cinder. It is bordered by Marshall and 11th, Roosevelt Boulevard and Loudon Street.

Ruth Harper, another LAC board member, joined Mondesire in seeking Thomas's ouster.

Thomas, a former staffer for Councilwoman Marian Tasco and a Philadelphia Gas Commission employee, counterattacked.

``It's a shame that he's using these poor people in Logan to advance his petty causes,'' Thomas said.

Specifically, Thomas accused Mondesire of trumpeting the Logan issue as payment for the support that Harper, a former state legislator, threw to Mondesire in his recent election to the NAACP presidency. Thomas conceded he has feuded with Harper.

``If they were really concerned, they would work with us to understand the issues and help us get more funding,'' Thomas said.

Told of Thomas's comments, Mondesire said, ``John Thomas's leadership of the LAC is pathetic.''

Mondesire said Thomas wouldn't even have had a job with Tasco ``if it wasn't for me and others who made sure Marian Tasco got elected.''

Tasco could not be reached for comment.

Mondesire said Thomas had lost the respect of Logan residents and that Thomas begged him not to hold the news conference ``because he didn't want to be embarrassed.''

Thomas said Mondesire never met with the LAC board and got many of his facts wrong.

Thomas said 109 homeowners and 15 renters have been certified for relocation. In addition, 62 households eligible for benefits have left.

With an average cost of $55,000 to resettle the average homeowner and $12,000 for the average renter, LAC is looking at almost a $10 million tab at a time when City Council has been appropriating $3 million a year for the job.

Qualifying for benefits is a complicated process, according to Thomas. Aside from the 121 households in the triangle, there are also 172 residents who do not qualify for various reasons.

John Kromer, director of the Office of Housing and Community Development, said LAC has done ``a reasonably good job.'' As of last summer, the agency had moved 351 owners and renters at a taxpayer cost of $18.7 million.

The city has demolished 619 buildings at a cost of $2.3 million and awarded a demolition contract for 39 structures on Tuesday, said an L&I spokesman.

Thomas said he recently instructed the LAC staff to increase its processing of relocations.

But more than a decade after the zone was created, the housing eyesore remains. For Harry Lipschultz, who owns a small pharmacy in the zone, the neighborhood is terminally ill.

``There has been no talk about any sort of rebuilding here and I don't believe there ever will be,'' he said.

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