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 firstname.lastname@example.org.