Tougher standards for securing vacant buildings in Philadelphia

It looks like owners of vacant properties in Philadelphia will have to do more to keep squatters out. The matter had a rare Friday committee hearing at City Council.

The issue of high risk vacant buildings came to the forefront after a fire at a Kensington warehouse killed two Philadelphia firefighters this month.  Councilwoman Maria Quinones-Sanchez is pushing a bill that calls for sealing doors and windows on empty buildings using 14 gauge rust proof metal instead of plywood.   She says the extra strength is needed to keep vandals, scavengers out of vacant buildings.

“We’re call it our steel seal bill and basically it sets a standard for how and what kind of materials should be used for sealing buildings,” said Quinones-Sanchez.

Jeff Carpineta is President of the East Kensington Neighbors Association.  He says the fatal fire should be a wakeup call to everyone in the city.

“There are other buildings that will burn soon,” said Carpineta.  “I don’t want to be negative and I’m not paranoid but this bill is sort of a gateway that puts the responsibility on the owners in a more clear fashion but also that it paves the way towards action, real action at the street level to do what needs to be done.”

Sandy Salzman of the New Kensington Community Development Corporation says something has to be done before the next fatal fire.

“We’ve had six major fires of old factories in our neighborhood  the last 10 years and the only good thing is we don’t have any more big factories,” said Salzman.

Salzman says drug dealers continue to use empty factories, hurting property values nearby.

The bill was approved by the committee and sent to the full council.

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