Home News After test in Port Richmond, L&I looks to expand blight program

After test in Port Richmond, L&I looks to expand blight program

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In a move to help Port Richmond shake off years of concerns over absentee owners, Maura Kennedy, director of strategic initiatives for the city’s Department of Licenses and Inspections, said that for the past three months, Port Richmond has been part of a pilot program to get blighted and abandoned properties back into being functioning elements of the community.

But, it’s a long process, she said.

“The city, unfortunately, doesn’t have great records,” she said of the work it’s taken to track down owners of many properties.

“We (have to) figure out who they are and then take them to court,” said Kennedy.

The program is just now going citywide, and Kennedy said the first court case they have is against John J. Valentino.

Currently, Kennedy said, the city is in court with Valentino over nine local properties.

“He owns so many properties that are blighted,” Kennedy said.

The properties are: 3026 and 3028 Salmon St., 2984, 2986, 2989 and 3001 Richmond St., 2804, 2806 and 2808 E. Indiana Ave.

Valentino could face heavy fines thanks to new regulations.

At press time, calls made to phone numbers listed as contacts for Valentino on these properties were disconnected.

Kennedy said that through Act 90, a piece of state legislation pushed forward by state Rep. John Taylor’s (R-177th dist.) office as well as a “doors and windows” ordinance that City Councilman Frank DiCicco (D-1st dist.) created about three years ago, the department has new tools to tackle problem properties.

Act 90 allows the city to go after the personal assets of absentee owners of blighted properties to recoup taxes and costs city agencies rack up.

Kennedy said the “doors and windows” ordinance lets L&I fine an absentee owner about $300 per day for each non-functioning door or window on a blighted or vacant property.

“One of the structures John Valentino owns has 26 windows,” said Kennedy. “That really starts to add up.”

Studies have shown, said Kennedy, that criminal activity occurs at a higher rate in areas where there are more vacant or blighted properties.

“He has to realize the impact he’s having on the neighborhood,” she said.

Currently, she said, L&I is stepping up enforcement on vacant or blighted properties and they are focusing on about 25,000 properties citywide.

“We are going after the large-scale owners of blight,” said Kennedy. “We need to make sure people take care of their properties.”••

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