Butkovitz calls 911 to spur demolition

Posted: October 09, 2013

City Controller Alan Butkovitz called in authorities to deal with a hazardous building in North Philadelphia on Saturday after neighbors complained that they had not been able to get action on their own.

After Butkovitz's intercession - he called 911 and gave dispatchers his city title, he said - the Fire and Police Departments responded and called in the Department of Licenses and Inspections to knock down what remained of the vacant two-story brick rowhouse at 24th and Thompson Streets.

The remaining walls were torn down Sunday morning by a city-approved demolition contractor, L&I spokeswoman Rebecca Swanson said. She said she could not estimate the cost, but did say it would be billed to the property owner, whom she identified as Muhammad Mahdi Shabazz. Efforts to reach Shabazz for comment were unsuccessful.

Butkovitz, who has sparred with L&I over his efforts to audit the city's handling of demolitions, said he was alarmed that he had to get involved.

"The city got a big wakeup call with the June 5 building collapse," he said, referring to the episode that killed six. "We were assured that all the responsible officials were now on alert to these problems. But when we responded this weekend, the neighbors said they had been calling for weeks about this problem."

Swanson said L&I cited the building as unsafe in December because of problems with the roof and a wall. In March, she said, Shabazz received a permit to make alterations to fix the problems but was cited in July for debris and heavy equipment on the site, and an August inspection showed no improvement.

"Our emergency duty guy was called to the site on Saturday and determined it was a public safety hazard," she said.

Without knowing of Butkovitz's role, she added: "We commend whoever it was who called 911."


warnerb@phillynews.com

215-854-5885

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