Controller blasts city for dispute over Point Breeze lot

Posted: September 18, 2012

City controller Alan Butkovitz blasted the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority for threatening a real-estate developer with legal action for making unauthorized improvements to a city-owned property in Point Breeze.

Butkovitz's letter to the authority was in response to an article in Friday's Daily News, in which Ori Feibush said he was ignored when he made numerous calls to the city expressing interest in buying or leasing the decrepit vacant lot next to his coffee shop at 20th and Federal streets.

Butkovitz called the authority's response unreasonable, and said city agencies should help citizens make improvements to city-owned eyesores.

"This will enable the city to protect its interest while enabling local citizens to participate in beautifying and improving the quality of life in their communities," Butkovitz said in a letter to Ed Covington, executive director of the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority.

The city disputes Feibush's claims that tried to buy the lot and maintains that Feibush was told not to intervene there. Mayoral spokesman Mark McDonald said that a letter Feibush sent Tuesday to the authority was his first official declaration of interest in purchasing the property.

"Today he took - finally - the first step toward throwing his hat in the ring for that property," said mayoral spokesman Mark McDonald, adding that three other parties had already asked about buying the property before Feibush made improvements there.

McDonald says Feibush has purchased other city-owned properties in the past, knows the correct procedures regarding making improvements to them and chose to ignore the process this time around.

Officials said more than 20 residents have agreements with the city allowing them to use publicly owned space.

Contact Phillip Lucas at lucasp@phillynews.com or 215-854-5914. Follow him on Twitter @UnPhiltered. Read his blog at PhillyConfidential.com.

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