Northeast Times

Down time

The city de­mol­ishes the charred re­mains of what had once been a show­place home in the Far North­east. 

  • The home at 2815 Normandy Drive was finally leveled by crews on Monday morning. MARIA POUCHNIKOVA / TIMES PHOTOS

  • 2815 Normandy Drive was demolished on Monday morning.

  • 2815 Normandy Drive was demolished on Monday morning.

  • 2815 Normandy Drive was demolished on Monday morning.

  • 2815 Normandy Drive was demolished on Monday morning.

Monday was a beau­ti­ful day to erase an eye­sore. 

At 7 a.m., the skies were blue; the tem­per­at­ures still were mild, and neigh­bors were glad to see the va­cant house at 2815 Nor­mandy Drive torn to the ground. 

There wasn’t much left of it any­way. The prop­erty, once a neigh­bor­hood show­place, had been gut­ted by fire on Jan. 24 and deemed “im­min­ently dan­ger­ous” by the city’s De­part­ment of Li­censes and In­spec­tions.

Five months later — to the day — the charred struc­ture came tum­bling down. 

“I know the com­munity is happy,” said Robert Craig of Nest­ling Road as he watched the de­moli­tion.  “Hope­fully, the lot will be put up for sale and some­body will build a nice house there.”

Two work­ers from Gep­pert Bros. of Col­mar, Mont­gomery County — one op­er­at­ing an ex­cav­at­or fit­ted with a grap­pler — began tear­ing down the re­mains of the house shortly after 7 a.m. In about an hour, while neigh­bors came out to watch, the struc­ture was torn apart and poun­ded in­to rubble. 

All that was left to do was to re­move the debris and fill in the swim­ming pool.

“I saw it go up, and now I see it go down,” said Frank Faranca, a long­time Nor­mandy res­id­ent who lives across the street. 

Dur­ing the last few years, the house on a corner lot with an in-ground pool had be­come a neigh­bor­hood nuis­ance, the sub­ject of nu­mer­ous com­plaints to L&I, pub­lic of­fi­cials and po­lice. Neigh­bors had wor­ried about safety haz­ards, van­dal­ism and dam­age to their own prop­erty val­ues.

“There were a lot of is­sues be­fore the fire,” said City Coun­cil­man Bri­an O’Neill (R-10th dist.), who watched the de­moli­tion along with an aide, Bill Ra­pone. 

The coun­cil­man said it was the first time in more than three dec­ades in of­fice that he has seen a home in his dis­trict torn down. “A couple apart­ment houses, but nev­er a home be­fore,” he said.

It took some prod­ding to get the city to raze the build­ing, O’Neill said in an earli­er in­ter­view. The house had a long his­tory as a neigh­bor­hood show­place, and a re­l­at­ively short one as a neigh­bor­hood an­noy­ance.

“It’s a shame about this,” neigh­bor Pat Soda said  as she and grand­son Timmy Thom­son, 2, watched the house come down. “It should nev­er have got­ten to this. It used to be beau­ti­ful.”

The house had been va­cant for three to five years, neigh­bors said. And al­though there are oth­er va­cant homes in Nor­mandy, a small, well-kept neigh­bor­hood of less than 500 house­holds just east of the Boulevard between Comly and Wood­haven roads, 2815 Nor­mandy has been more ob­vi­ous than oth­ers. It’s a large corner prop­erty on the neigh­bor­hood’s main street. School buses stop nearby, and there’s a pub­lic mail­box out front.  

The Jan. 24 fire was in­tense, neigh­bors said. In a video of the fire pos­ted on You­Tube, the flames en­gulf the house.

“The fire shot right out the front door,” neigh­bor Sean Murphy said on June 21 in an in­ter­view out­side his home.

“The lawn was on fire,” John Wis­niewski, pres­id­ent of the Nor­mandy Civic As­so­ci­ation, said earli­er.

It was after the fire that the city de­clared the prop­erty “im­min­ently dan­ger­ous.”

“It’s burned bey­ond re­pair,” L&I spokes­wo­man Maura Kennedy said in March 25 in­ter­view.

Long be­fore the flames, civic as­so­ci­ation mem­bers re­peatedly had com­plained to po­lice and loc­al of­fi­cials about the prop­erty.

Act­ing on neigh­bors’ gripes and the ur­gings of O’Neill, the prop­erty re­peatedly has been cleaned up and fi­nally boarded up. 

“There have been many prob­lems,” Nor­mandy res­id­ent Michele Bor­bidge said. “It’s been an eye­sore.”

She brought her cam­era to re­cord the de­moli­tion.

“I’m happy it’s com­ing down,” she said. “Maybe, we’ll get some nice new neigh­bors.”

Nu­mer­ous vi­ol­a­tions for high weeds, stag­nant wa­ter, aban­doned cars, rub­bish and un­se­cured win­dows are cited on L&I’s Web site. The Com­munity Life Im­prove­ment Pro­gram took care of those prob­lems, and there is an out­stand­ing bill for more than $13,000 for CLIP’s work that’s been sent to a col­lec­tion agency, Deputy Man­aging Dir­ect­or Thomas Con­way said in March.

Neigh­bor Al Barth on Monday said that, if he had wanted to sell his nearby house, the state of 2815 Nor­mandy would have made the sale im­possible.

O’Neill on March 25 said he asked L&I to put a fence around the in-ground pool and then around the whole prop­erty to re­duce its ac­cess­ib­il­ity. The fence went up the next day, neigh­bors said.

There nev­er seemed to be a doubt the house would be torn down, but who would ar­range the work — the city, the own­er or the mort­gage com­pany —and when the de­moli­tion would ac­tu­ally take place re­mained un­answered ques­tions.

On June 20, O’Neill said L&I would pay for the de­moli­tion out of its budget. He also said he ar­ranged for PECO to shut off power so the work could pro­ceed. On June 21, work­ers drained the pool in pre­par­a­tion for Monday’s wreck­ing crew.

Kennedy has said the city would put a li­en on the prop­erty to col­lect the de­moli­tion costs.

Ac­cord­ing to the city’s on­line prop­erty re­cords, 2815 Nor­mandy Drive was pur­chased in 2006 by Jorge Oy­ola Jr. for $285,000. The 2013 tax­able as­sess­ment on the prop­erty was $27,264 and the taxes, which were paid, were $2,663.97. 

The city’s 2014 as­sess­ment on the prop­erty is $97,000.

Also ac­cord­ing to city re­cords, there cur­rently are no li­ens on the prop­erty. 

Oy­ola has no lis­ted num­ber in Phil­adelphia and could not be reached for com­ment. Murphy, who knew Oy­ola, said Oy­ola told him a few years ago that he was mov­ing to Flor­ida be­cause win­ters in Phil­adelphia bothered in­jur­ies he had sus­tained in an auto ac­ci­dent. ••

You can reach at jloftus@bsmphilly.com.

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