After test in Port Richmond, L&I looks to expand blight program

In a move to help Port Rich­mond shake off years of con­cerns over ab­sent­ee own­ers, Maura Kennedy, dir­ect­or of stra­tegic ini­ti­at­ives for the city’s De­part­ment of Li­censes and In­spec­tions, said that for the past three months, Port Rich­mond has been part of a pi­lot pro­gram to get blighted and aban­doned prop­er­ties back in­to be­ing func­tion­ing ele­ments of the com­munity.

But, it’s a long pro­cess, she said.

“The city, un­for­tu­nately, doesn’t have great re­cords,” she said of the work it’s taken to track down own­ers of many prop­er­ties.

“We (have to) fig­ure out who they are and then take them to court,” said Kennedy.

The pro­gram is just now go­ing city­wide, and Kennedy said the first court case they have is against John J. Valentino.

Cur­rently, Kennedy said, the city is in court with Valentino over nine loc­al prop­er­ties.

“He owns so many prop­er­ties that are blighted,” Kennedy said.

The prop­er­ties are: 3026 and 3028 Sal­mon St., 2984, 2986, 2989 and 3001 Rich­mond St., 2804, 2806 and 2808 E. In­di­ana Ave.

Valentino could face heavy fines thanks to new reg­u­la­tions.

At press time, calls made to phone num­bers lis­ted as con­tacts for Valentino on these prop­er­ties were dis­con­nec­ted.

Kennedy said that through Act 90, a piece of state le­gis­la­tion pushed for­ward by state Rep. John Taylor’s (R-177th dist.) of­fice as well as a “doors and win­dows” or­din­ance that City Coun­cil­man Frank Di­Cicco (D-1st dist.) cre­ated about three years ago, the de­part­ment has new tools to tackle prob­lem prop­er­ties.

Act 90 al­lows the city to go after the per­son­al as­sets of ab­sent­ee own­ers of blighted prop­er­ties to re­coup taxes and costs city agen­cies rack up.

Kennedy said the “doors and win­dows” or­din­ance lets L&I fine an ab­sent­ee own­er about $300 per day for each non-func­tion­ing door or win­dow on a blighted or va­cant prop­erty.

“One of the struc­tures John Valentino owns has 26 win­dows,” said Kennedy. “That really starts to add up.”

Stud­ies have shown, said Kennedy, that crim­in­al activ­ity oc­curs at a high­er rate in areas where there are more va­cant or blighted prop­er­ties.

“He has to real­ize the im­pact he’s hav­ing on the neigh­bor­hood,” she said.

Cur­rently, she said, L&I is step­ping up en­force­ment on va­cant or blighted prop­er­ties and they are fo­cus­ing on about 25,000 prop­er­ties city­wide.

“We are go­ing after the large-scale own­ers of blight,” said Kennedy. “We need to make sure people take care of their prop­er­ties.”••

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