Philly tears down building highlighted as hazardous in WHYY/NewsWorks report

On Thursday, one day after WHYY/NewsWorks reported on a dangerous, vacant West Philadelphia building, a contractor for the city government started tearing it down. A city official said the two events are unrelated.

The demolition of the crumbling eyesore at 267 S. 52nd St. is a welcome development for neighbors. Resident Sheila Thompson said she worried for a long time that it would collapse.

“This was getting ready to fall down. Somebody was going to get hurt,” she said. “People park their cars on the block. You never know when it’s going to come down.”

Thompson said she had contacted Philadelphia’s 311 line for non-emergency complaints about the hazardous building, and was frustrated that the city didn’t take action earlier. Now, she’s relieved.

“They started tearing it down, finally,” she said.

Rebecca Swanson, a spokeswoman for the Department of Licenses and Inspections, said the city hired a private firm to take down the building. She said the demolition is unrelated to WHYY’s investigation.

“The property was bid out for demolition yesterday and demolished today, as part of [L&I’s] ongoing enforcement at the property and independent from any outside inquiries,” she said.

Swanson said L&I first deemed the property “unsafe” in 2008. This April, the city declared it “imminently dangerous” and ordered for it to be demolished, she said.

The building had numerous code violations, and has been tax delinquent since 1985. The city said it could not find a buyer when it tried to sell the property at a sheriff’s auction in 2008.

On Thursday, the hum of construction equipment filled the air while workers dismantled the building.

Norman Woodson, 71, grew up in the area, and said many people are trying to help revitalize it. He now works at a shop down the street from the property being demolished.

Woodson said getting rid of that eyesore is one step toward bringing back the neighborhood.

“It’s about time the city did something about this because I think it was dangerous,” he said. “There’s kids running back and forth, and you never know when some debris going come falling down on someone. So, God is good that the city is taking care of this.”

An 8-year-old riding a bike past the property Thursday identified himself as “Butter.” He stopped eating his water ice for a minute, and said he’s happy the building is being torn down because a lot of people said it was unsafe.

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