Northeast Times

Two blighted homes, one hardworking office

State Rep. John Taylor's of­fice is pur­su­ing leg­al rem­ed­ies to get two aban­doned and un­san­it­ary homes in Port Rich­mond cleaned and sealed, with some res­ults. 

A warn­ing pos­ted by the SPCA on the door of 3118 Miller St. The blighted prop­erty was be­ing oc­cu­pied by squat­ters who had an­im­als. State Rep. John Taylor’s of­fice helped to get the people and an­im­als out. The home now awaits clean­ing and seal­ing, and even­tu­al sale. SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO

Ed. note: This story is part of Star’s on­go­ing “The Blight Fight” series. 

In the heart of Port Rich­mond ex­ists a prop­erty that is said to ex­em­pli­fy the Murphy’s Law of Phil­adelphia blight — 3118 Miller St. 

“It is the epi­tome of everything that could pos­sibly be wrong or go wrong in a va­cant prop­erty,” said Marc Collazzo, man­ager of State Rep. John Taylor’s (R-177th dist.) Brides­burg Dis­trict Of­fice, 4725 Rich­mond St. 

And while Taylor’s of­fice has made great strides to get squat­ters, in­clud­ing chil­dren, as well as an­im­als out of the prop­erty, the house is yet to be cleaned and sealed. Un­til then, it’s noth­ing but an eye — and nose — sore, open to more un­scru­pu­lous activ­ity.

This is no middle-of-nowhere shack, either. Neigh­bors live on either side of 3118 Miller St, a small block not far from Camp­bell Square. Those neigh­bors, in fact, brought the prop­erty to the at­ten­tion of Taylor’s of­fice, which has been work­ing hard in re­cent years to tackle blight like this.

“[The prop­erty] is privately owned, it was va­cant, but squat­ters were liv­ing there,” Collazzo said earli­er this month. “It had roaches bey­ond roaches, fecal mat­ter throughout, an odor that was just in­des­crib­able. No one wants to live next to that.”

To deal with such a mess, there are sev­er­al hurdles to jump. 

Every prop­erty own­er, good bad or in­dif­fer­ent, has due pro­cess rights — there just isn’t much the city’s of­fice of Li­censes & In­spec­tion can do be­sides writ­ing a vi­ol­a­tion if they don’t have ac­cess to the home. Only the prop­erty own­er can press charges on il­leg­al oc­cu­pants. 

Collazzo and Taylor’s of­fice couldn’t track down the own­er of the prop­erty — it turned out that Bank of Amer­ica had pur­chased it, though the deed hadn’t yet been changed. 

All the while, neigh­bors had made calls about hear­ing an­im­al cries from with­in the house. 

Then, it turned out the squat­ters were a fam­ily with small chil­dren. 

“Once I knew that there was a fam­ily there with chil­dren, I no­ti­fied the DHS [De­part­ment of Hu­man Ser­vices] Com­mis­sion­er [Anne Mar­ie] Am­brose, who promptly re­spon­ded,” Collazzo said. “When DHS came and an­nounced its pres­ence, the fam­ily left.”

Next, Taylor’s of­fice had to deal with the an­im­als — even­tu­ally, SPCA of­ficers re­moved two dogs and a cat from the premises. 

Cur­rently, while the home is empty of people and an­im­als, Collazzo said Bank of Amer­ica has to go through an emer­gency hear­ing to ob­tain an or­der to do the clean­ing and seal­ing.

“It’s been very frus­trat­ing,” Collazzo said. “The 24th Dis­trict of­ficers have to wear spe­cial gear if they go in there, that’s how bad it is.”

As of press time, the house had still not been cleaned and sealed. 

Collazzo said that while that’s dis­ap­point­ing, he’s glad the of­fice was able to work as hard as it did to get to this point. There’s much to be done in terms of deal­ing with such blight, though. 

“The one thing that I would like to see, with all our le­gis­la­tion that we pass, is that there has to be bet­ter pro­ced­ures in place for ex­ped­i­tious res­ol­u­tion to night­mares like these,” he said. 

Once it’s cleaned and sealed, the 3118 Miller St. prop­erty will be sold.

An­oth­er Port Rich­mond prop­erty, 3003 Ara­mingo Ave., was cre­at­ing sim­il­ar prob­lems. That prop­erty is owned by Wells Fargo bank.

Pat Healey, chair­man of the 24th Po­lice Dis­trict Ad­vis­ory Coun­cil, called Taylor’s of­fice on be­half of a neigh­bor liv­ing near that prop­erty.

Squat­ters with minor chil­dren and in­fants were resid­ing there. 

“Someone from DHS came out with­in a day,” Collazzo said. “The chil­dren are now stay­ing around the corner with an aunt.”

Since only Wells Fargo can pro­sec­ute squat­ters, a man was still liv­ing there un­til Sept. 27. Now, it must be cleaned, sealed and sold as well.

In both in­stances, Collazzo said, he was glad to see that the prop­er­ties were taken care of. With prop­er­ties like these, de­velopers can dir­ectly buy them, if the price is right. That leads to re­vamped prop­er­ties on the mar­ket, which only be­ne­fits the neigh­bor­hood. 

“On our webpage, there’s a va­cant prop­erty list. It’s sixty-some pages,” Collazzo said. “I think our of­fice has done a won­der­ful job in us­ing all the tools we have.”

“It’s still a prob­lem. With every one that we solve, we have three more. But we feel like we’re really mak­ing a dent. When you hear people thank you, you really know you’re im­prov­ing their qual­ity of life.”

Get­ting the va­cant prop­er­ties cleaned up and sold only be­ne­fits the city, he said.

“If we get these sold, back taxes are paid, li­ens are paid, there’s a new rev­en­ue source, people will be pay­ing taxes and util­it­ies — every­body wins.” **

To con­tact Taylor’s of­fice about a blighted or nuis­ance prop­erty in your neigh­bor­hood, vis­it www.reptaylor.com or call 215-425-0901.

You can reach at mjamison@bsmphilly.com.

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