22nd and Market building collapse [news roundup]

We’re still following the news of Wednesday’s fatal building collapse at 22nd and Market Street. It’s still very early in terms of investigaiton, but here’s a roundup of what’s known this morning:

THE RESCUE:

Late Wednesday night six people were confirmed dead, and a 14th survivor was rescued from the rubble after more than 13 hours trapped. The 61-year old, Myra Plekam, was pulled from the wreckage around midnight. The people who died were all in the Salvation Army thrift store, which was crushed by the collapse of a party wall between it and the building next door being demolished. [philly.com]

“By 3 a.m., Battalion Chief Charles Lepre said that the basement had been searched with a telescope-like instrument and with a cadaver dog, but that no one was found there. And emergency workers used pokers to go through the first-floor rubble. He indicated that everyone who’d been reported to emergency officials had been found.” [Inquirer]

Rescue efforts appear to have paused this morning. [NewsWorks]

THE DEMOLITION:

The demolition contractor was Griffin Campbell Construction, owned by Griffin T. Campbell. So what do we know about Griffin Campbell?: Different news outlets are reporting that Campbell had a criminal record, and the City notes he was a licensed contractor who obtained the necessary permits for the job. [Inquirer]

Campbell was issued a contractor’s license by the city in January, in February he used architect Plato Marinakos as an expediter to obtain demolition permits for the job at 2136-38 Market Street, and in March he filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy “listing $100,000 to $500,000 in business-related debts.” [Daily News]

Court records show Campbell’s bankruptcy filing included “$10,000 in unpaid city business taxes and delinquent state and federal taxes, as well as numerous bank liens on properties he owns in North Philadelphia.” [Inquirer]

A video, filmed on Sunday June 2, captured the demolition underway and offers a sense of how Campbell’s crew was dismembering the building with seemingly little protection of the public right of way. [YouTube, via PhillyMag

THE VICTIMS:

We don’t know much about four of the victims yet, but details on two have emerged. The first confirmed fatality was a 35-year old woman who was to be future daughter-in-law of Common Pleas Judge Robert P. Coleman.[Daily News] Another was a 68-year old Liberian immigrant, named Borbor Davis of Upper Darby who worked in the store. [Inquirer]

Albeit a far less human victim, the Salvation Army thrift store itself was a neighborhood institution. “A place where Rittenhouse swells checked jacket labels alongside college coeds, where out-of-work men quietly shopped for used boots alongside thrifty moms pushing strollers and elderly women checking for cracks in ceramic teacups.” [Ronnie Polaneczky, Daily News

THE OWNER:

Richard Basciano, the one-time “undisputed king of Times Square porn,” owns several properties that kept the 2100 and 2200 blocks of Market Street seedy: The Forum theater, Les Gals, and an “erotic emporium.” Those three were already razed, and crews had moved on to the building at 2136-38 Market, which collapsed. Basciano was making moves, looking to cash in on these properties once the sites were cleared. [Inquirer]

Basciano was, like his friend/business partner/slumlord Sam Rappaport, adept enough at playing real estate roulette: scooping up “derelict diamonds in the right spot,” investing little, and waiting until the price was right. For Basciano [Inga Saffron, Inquirer]

For decades, however, the city ignored Basciano’s blighted buildings. [Inga Saffron, Inquirer]

SAFETY:

Like many bystanders, workers on other projects in the area questioned the demolition’s safety, witnessing men working without hard hats and using improper means and methods. “It was just a total disregard for safety. We [predicted] this last week. I can’t believe they allowed the thrift store to be open,” said Steve Cramer a member of Carpenter’s Local Union 122. So why didn’t anyone say anything? [Helen Ubiñas, Daily News]

There is one known complaint made to 311, from early May. The complainant misidentified the property’s address, but expresses safety concerns about the demolition underway. [Philadelinquency]

BE ADVISED:

The area surrounding the collapse site is still largely blocked off. SEPTA buses (Routes 7, 9, 31, 44, 48, 78, 124, 125) are being detoured. For more information check System Status. Trolleys (Routes 10, 11, 13, 34, 36) are bypassing 22nd Street Station until further notice.

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