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City controller report yields little results

City controller said the city needs time to react and make changes accordingly.

Construction projects near campus were the subject of a report by the city controller in October, which highlighted a lack of respect for residents. | CINDY STANSBURY / TTN

Construction projects near campus were the subject of a report by the city controller in October, which highlighted a lack of respect for residents. | CINDY STANSBURY / TTN

Nearly a month after the city controller issued a scathing report on developers’ treatment of the area around Temple due to lack of enforcement by city departments, developers and neighbors report little change in the area.

The report by City Controller Alan Butkovitz divulged a vast amount of issues involving the way construction activity is run in North Philadelphia.

Local developer and vice president of Temple Area Property Association Nick Pizzola said he hasn’t noticed anything change so far.

“I haven’t noticed anything first hand,” Pizzola said. “It got the attention of the city, but, like any large institution, it takes a while for things to happen.”

Butkovitz said he needs to provide the city with an opportunity to improve conditions.

“We’ve got to give the city a good faith chance to get results,” he said. “We will at some point go back and re-inspect construction sites, but that’s months away.”

The report addressed a slew of issues including illegal dumping of construction debris, lack of dust screens and filters at construction sites, missing air vacuum hoses and street lane closures without proper permits.

Most of the issues, Butkovitz said, are due to a lack of communication between the Department of Licenses and Inspections, the Water Department, the Police Department, the Public Health Department and the Streets Department.

Maddie Penney, a junior anthropology major, resides next to a current construction site and said the constant work has made it hard to sleep.

“The spotlight is [on] all night, the construction is a bit earlier than 7 a.m., so it’s kind of hard to sleep,” Penney said. “It’s always been that Temple construction has been worse than other construction.”

Penney added that following the report, nothing about the status of her area had improved.

Pizzola said he believes the reasoning for the lack of progress could be due to an insufficient amount of manpower. He said he remains hopeful for future changes as a result of the report.

Fellow developer and TAPA member Peter Crawford has seen changes in development, but they have been slight.

“Some of the inspectors have told me that there’s been a directive. They check for trash in construction,” Crawford said. “I’m not aware of any substantive changes in the procedures, just that the inspectors are paying more attention to the quality of life issues.”

Crawford added that the inspectors were aware of the quality of life issues before the report and that the report itself called for minimal change.

“It was just that the city departments need to communicate a bit better,” he said.

Crawford said he doesn’t think much will change involving construction in the short-term as a result of the report.

However, Judith Robinson, director of Susquehanna Clean-up Pick-up, intends to use the report to change the way things are done around Temple.

“Every time that there’s a City Council hearing I’m going to introduce that report,” she said.

Robinson’s grievances with the local construction are vast, stemming mostly from the illegal dumping of debris she sees while cleaning the vacant lots.

“For the past several years there has been short dumping that we can identify as construction debris,” Robinson, also a resident of the area, said. “They think that they can bum-rush a poor African-American community with no recourse.”

She added that the lack of concern for the community by those in construction is blatant to the residents and does not go unnoticed.

“They’re just out of control,” Robinson said.

Robinson’s group, in addition to cleaning up vacant lots, will report debris that is dumped. She said that unless debris is blocking the street, it might take 90 days to be removed by the city.

Robinson also said that since the release of the report, she too has seen little improvement.

“I’ve seen some scaffolding come down, [but] I don’t know if that’s Licenses and Inspections,” she said.

Cindy Stansbury can be reached at cindy.stansbury@temple.edu. 

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