A man with a plan, and a blog, to combat city blight

Chris Saw­yer hopes to make in­form­a­tion about prop­erty is­sues and va­cant build­ings throughout the city more read­ily avail­able to res­id­ents by way of his blog, Phil­ade­lin­quency.

Chris Saw­yer isn’t a man to rest on his laurels.

The 34-year-old Kens­ing­ton res­id­ent is a com­munity ad­voc­ate – he led a clean up of il­leg­al ban­dit signs last year and worked with sev­er­al com­munity groups to get the city’s De­part­ment of Li­censes and In­spec­tions to ad­dress is­sues at the Buck Ho­siery com­plex long be­fore April’s fatal fire.

But, now Saw­yer is work­ing on a new pro­ject that he hopes will not only serve as a tool for loc­al res­id­ents but will also help cre­ate a “blight en­cyc­lo­pe­dia” of a large area of the Kens­ing­ton neigh­bor­hood.

“My feel­ing is that un­til re­cently, a lot of the river­wards were, polit­ic­ally, very neg­lected,” said Saw­yer in an in­ter­view Sat­urday, June 2. “I want to make sure every liv­ing, breath­ing adult is aware when the city is fall­ing be­hind on its du­ties.”

In or­der to provide sup­port where he saw a need, Saw­yer has re­cently launched Phil­ade­lin­quency – on­line at www.phil­ade­lin­quency.com – where he dis­cusses his con­cerns over prop­erty is­sues throughout the city and provides tools for vis­it­ors that al­low those with prop­erty-re­lated ques­tions to find the in­form­a­tion they seek.

Along with reg­u­lar posts about some of the ini­ti­at­ives he’s spear­head­ing, the site also in­cludes tip-sheets for neigh­bors who want to learn how to deal with prob­lem prop­er­ties on their block and at­tempts to provide an­swers to com­mon res­id­en­tial com­plains.

“If you have an is­sue and you don’t know where to go, you can feel pretty help­less,” he said. “So, I put all the re­sources that I use to look stuff up, right there on the site.”

“This in­form­a­tion has nev­er been private…prop­erty ac­counts have al­ways been a mat­ter of pub­lic re­cord,” said Saw­yer, tout­ing the abil­ity to find prop­erty own­er­ship in­form­a­tion on­line.

But Saw­yer doesn’t plan to stop there.

Later this month, he plans to eval­u­ate build­ings throughout the neigh­bor­hood with an up­com­ing “Act 90 tour” to look for prop­er­ties that could po­ten­tially be ad­dressed un­der this new le­gis­la­tion.

Act 90 is a piece of le­gis­la­tion sponsored by John Taylor (R-177th dist.) that al­lows the city to go after a va­cant or blighted prop­erty own­ers’ per­son­al as­sets. In fact, in­stead of just slap­ping li­ens on homes the prop­erty own­er has ig­nored for years, the city can now put a li­en on the home that prop­erty own­er lives in.

At the end of this month, Say­wer and a team of vo­lun­teers will can­vas the area between York and Le­high streets, Rich­mond Street and Kens­ing­ton Av­en­ue look­ing for prob­lem prop­er­ties, va­cant lots, un­sealed doors and win­dows in aban­doned homes and il­leg­al dump­ing sites.

“We are go­ing to cap­ture a lot of in­form­a­tion when we are done with this,” Saw­yer said.

The in­form­a­tion the team gath­ers, Say­wer said, will be used to cre­ate an in­ter­act­ive on­line map of blight throughout the area – which will be avail­able for view­ing on Phil­ade­lin­quency.

He then plans to share the in­form­a­tion with ORCA and EKNA, as well as oth­er area com­munity groups as well as the Phil­adelphia po­lice de­part­ment and the Dept. of L&I.

Down the line, he said, the map the neigh­bor­hood cre­ates will provide the area with ac­count­ab­il­ity be­cause he plans on con­tact­ing the city’s 3-1-1 ser­vice with every prob­lem the team finds on their neigh­bor­hood tour.

He will get a re­quis­i­tion tick­et for each is­sue and, six months in the fu­ture, he plans to check up to see if and how the is­sues have been ad­dressed.

If suc­cess­ful, Saw­yer hopes to branch out and com­plete sim­il­ar tours of oth­er areas of the city.

Say­wer said he will con­tin­ue this work, be­cause he be­lieves many prob­lems throughout the city can be ad­dressed with care­ful plan­ning and an eye for blight im­prove­ment.

“This [blight] goes back un­til at least 1970 and we can’t con­tin­ue to ig­nore it,” he said. “It was a neg­at­ive down­ward spir­al that cre­ated this blight and I want to re­verse that pro­cess.”

For more in­form­a­tion about Saw­yer’s work or to vo­lun­teer to help sur­vey the neigh­bor­hood on the up­com­ing Act 90 tour, vis­it www.phil­ade­lin­quency.com.

Star Staff Re­port­er Hay­den Mit­man can be con­tac­ted at 215-354-3124 or hmit­man@bsmphilly.com.


You can reach at hmitman@bsmphilly.com.

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