Local/State

Urban blight affects Germantown residents

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Residents in the Philadelphia's Germantown section are trying to weather the storm of urban blight in their neighborhoods. A number of abandoned properties in Germantown have become unsafe eyesores.

L & I Commissioner Fran Burns got an eyeful and an earful.

"It's disturbing," said Frank Coaxum. "I look at it and shake my head every day. Why can't we get some help?"

The Commissioner walked the streets with community activists and residents who say their complaints have fallen on deaf ears over the years.

The city has 40,000 abandoned properties and can only tear down about 500 a year. The wrecks have a huge impact on neighborhoods.

As the group walked the neighborhood, it became clear that a lot of the homes are neat and tidy, but interspersed among them are complete wrecks.

"It's a mess. It really is, it's a mess," says Thelma Gorham.

Thelma Gorham has seen this neighborhood sink into dangerous decay over the past 40 years. She was glad to see L & I on the scene, but doesn't expect much action.

"You know, it's a poor neighborhood, and they don't really care. It's like we don't count. That's how I feel," said Gorham.

Many of the houses haven't even been boarded up. Some of them are wide open; anyone can come and go day or night. The neighbors say it has become a haven for drug users.

The city says it responds quickly to complaints to stabilize dangerous properties and board them up. But, they often don't get follow up calls when the sealed properties are broken into.

Commissioner Burns says the real problem is the owners.

"I think that one of the things that we are going to see over the next few months in improvement on our end is to try and find these private property owners," said L&I Commissioner, Fran Burns.

Burns says they're hoping for legislation that will allow the city to go after the assets of property owners living outside the city, forcing them to either fix up or tear down the wrecks.

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Tags:
pennsylvania, philadelphia, germantown, david henry, local/state
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