When Kevin Boyle campaigned last year in the 172nd Legislative District, his top issues included negligent, out-of-town property owners.
Boyle, a Democrat, won that race, and his office has been in communication on the subject with the city Department of Licenses and Inspections and managing director’s office since January.
Boyle last week welcomed officials from both offices, along with the 15th Police District, for a walk-through of some properties in Tacony that have been cited by the city’s Community Life Improvement Program.
Eight houses on the 6300, 6400 and 6500 blocks of Marsden streets — which are actually located in the district of state Rep. Mike McGeehan (D-173rd dist.) — have been written up by CLIP for overgrowth, trash and fence issues since May 10.
Such unkempt properties have harmed neighborhoods such as Wissinoming, Tacony, Frankford, Lawndale, Crescentville and part of Mayfair, Boyle said, but enforcement by city agencies can be effective in keeping the problem from festering and spreading.
“We have a real crisis in Northeast Philadelphia,” he said. “We’ve seen a lot of good people move out of the Northeast.”
In addition to chasing good people out of the Northeast, nuisance properties can lead to criminal activity, Boyle believes.
“That’s what we’re fighting against,” he said.
Capt. Frank Bachmayer, commander of the 15th district, said loud music, partying, disorderly crowds, drugs and prostitution often are tied to unsightly properties.
“It’s a concern I have to deal with every day,” said Bachmayer, who was joined at the June 9 event by community relations officer Sharon Krause.
There were some positive signs along the route. Many Marsden Street residents keep their exterior properties nice, and some nearby streets — such as the 4500 block of Magee Ave. and the 6600 block of Ditman St. — are generally free of visible problems.
While Center City is growing, Boyle believes more focus is needed on other neighborhoods, and he expects Bobby Henon to push such an agenda. Boyle backs Henon, a Democrat who faces Republican Sandra Stewart in the 6th Councilmanic District race.
The owner/rental mix in parts of the Northeast is not healthy, in Boyle’s opinion. An estimated 60 percent of the homes on the 6400 block of Marsden St. are rentals.
“That was not the case five, ten, fifteen years ago. It was a stable neighborhood,” he said.
Maura Kennedy, L&I’s director of strategic initiatives, said her department’s inspectors know there is a problem with some absentee landlords.
“We’re trying to hold owners accountable,” she said.
Specifically, Kennedy said L&I’s first job is to identify and locate owners. It’s an aggressive approach, using the same data base utilized by the IRS.
The courts have dedicated certain days to handle infractions. L&I believes legal tools can be successful. For instance, the owners of properties can be fined up to $300 per day for each door and window that does not close properly.
“That can add up tremendously,” said Kennedy, who was accompanied for a very brief time by Fran Burns, the L&I commissioner.
As for the problem of abandoned properties, Deputy Managing Director Bridget Collins-Greenwald said Mayor Michael Nutter has empowered the managing director’s office and the Department of Finance to develop an approach that includes a central agency for inventory, L&I enforcement, the conversion of public land to private ownership and targeted acquisitions.
“I think you will see some exciting things happen in the next few months,” he said. ••
Reporter Tom Waring can be reached at 215-354-3034 or firstname.lastname@example.org