Griffin Campbell
Griffin Campbell

I hate writing about contractors.  Out of all the people that issue ridiculous threats to me, it’s mainly from the scum of the earth dirtball contractors and their subs that wanna get closer to “real”.   So, I don’t write about them unless their shit gets way over the top to the point where more than 20 people are pissed off.  I can handle lawsuits, I attract lawsuit threats like a glue trap.  In the world of construction though it’s filled with stupid mooks who didn’t get far in life past their stint in Catholic school.

But that’s not the case here.

Griffin Campbell, the contractor who caused the Market Street building collapse was sentenced today to 15-30 years in prison.

The judge was not kind.  He stacked the sentences for each one of the fatalities and injuries consecutively.  This means tomorrow morning he will be put on a bus and sent to SCI Graterford or another lockup upstate, far away from Philly.

Campbell is of course only one small piece in a tapestry of failures that led to the tragedy on Market Street.  The primary culprit is of course the guy who ordered the cheapskate demolition in the first place, property owner Richard Basciano and his holding entity STB Investments.

Richard Basiano [NY Daily News]
Richard Basiano [NY Daily News]

Basciano is among the worst of blightlord-sleaze in this country.  He acquired his Market Street parcels from the estate of Samuel Rappaport, another notorious (and infamous) Center City blightlord. With cowboy hat and loud beltbuckle, Rappaport wined and dined Philly pols, sent cash in envelopes to city officials and employees while he scooped up real estate from under their noses.  Even after Rappaport died his property management skills still managed to terrorize Philly residents.  One of them was a parking garage off Pine Street with a dodgy facade that partially collapsed and killed Common Pleas judge Berel Cesar. It’s only fitting that Basciano entered the picture to continue the Rappaport property management model.

Immediately after the Market Street collapse Basciano went into hiding in his Symphony House pad.  He had good reason: the survivors of the victims soon discovered that Basciano was at the property site during the collapse, personally overseeing the work.

Basciano is getting a come-uppance that the criminal justice system is unable to provide.   STB Investments and Basciano are currently deluged with the perfect shitstorm of personal injury and liability lawsuits.

One of the new civil cases filed against Basciano comes from Liberty Bar and Grill and its former proprietor, Michael Kenish.  In that complaint, Kenish states that debris from the collapse damaged and forced the closure of his business.  He is seeking restitution to be made whole on lost income from unplanned street closures.

Basciano himself is up there in age.  That photo of him I put on this thread is from at least ten years ago, back when he was lauding over an article about himself for riding the porn wave of New York’s Times Square’s former heyday of sleaze to its current Madison Avenue/Disneyplex commercialdom it is today, and the revaluations of real estate values that came along with it and made him the “porn king”.

While Basciano might feel proud of what he did with his New York portfolio, he will go to his grave as a murderer here in Philly.  He murdered those people, each and every one of them.

I really hope Richard has something planned for his internment—like cremation or a burial deep inside of a tomb.  If it’s just a grave and a headstone I think that’s a perfect place to set up a remote memorial for what he’s done to our city, to the victim’s families, and the scars he will leave behind after he is dead.

Today Griffin Campbell is going to state lockup to cover for Richard’s crimes.   That is wrong.  That isn’t justice.   No one is celebrating this.  It is Basciano who needs to be put away.

For now we will have to settle with the satisfaction that there are well over a dozen law firms who can smell his money for miles away and want every stinking cent of it right now and long after he is dead.  Whoever gets the hot potato of dealing with Basciano’s estate after he finally croaks is going to be getting a tsunami of court notices in the mail.  I wonder who wants to inherit that headache.

Let that be a lesson for you cheap bastards who cut corners and make others pay for it with their lives.

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HOT TIP:  Want to see if a property is late on its property taxes?  Click here.

Department of Licenses and Inspections commissioner Carlton Williams contacted Philadelinquency to let us know a promised computer system meant to block the issuance of licenses, in particular the Housing Inspection License, has resulted in landlords having their rental license permits being thrown in the wastebasket because they owe back property tax.

As you know, this is an issue that PDQ has been pushing hard for years.  In 2013 and 2014, Philadelinquency was sending lists of many landlords throughout Philadelphia to L&I with proven tax arrears, inquiring why L&I had renewed the rental licenses when the Philadelphia Code forbids the license to be issued.  The reason for that is that L&I has limited visibility into the Revenue Department’s systems and it’s not standard procedure to look into their data.  Instead, L&I demands that permit applicants obtain a tax clearance certificate, which isn’t that difficult to forge.

The amount of money that has been collected from deadbeat landlords has skyrocketed since the inception of the new computer checks.  Take a look:

Tax Revenue from Deadbeat Landlords

 

The Revenue Department has recovered nearly a million dollars from deadbeat landlords now that their rental applications have been blocked until they pay off the back taxes.

This isn’t the last of it though.   There are still more unregistered landlords throughout the city who do not obtain rental permits for their buildings.  There is another roadblock for those people:  evictions.    You cannot evict a tenant using Landlord-Tenant Court without showing the court a valid rental license that is in-force.

So any unlicensed landlord that is renting out property is taking a gamble that they will not ever need to use the eviction process.  Should they need to, the only way to get access to the courts is to pay off the real estate taxes before they can get a valid rental license.

UPDATE:  To make this even easier, we found who the owner is (we also checked to make sure he still lives there):

Craig Nordland
3555 Lakeview Circle
Doylestown, PA 18902

One day, a long time ago (over a year ago), this house burned down at 1657 E Berks St, turning it into Fishtown’s newest shell…

1657 E BERKS
1657 E BERKS (yeah, those are two pitbulls on the 2nd floor)

This is an illegal rental that is owned by 2542 Tulip LLC, a shell corporation that’s covering for Craig Nordland, an absentee Bucks County landlord-owner.  As is the case with many private market low-income rentals, the risks of absentee landlord + old property and even older wiring and other factors conspired together to torch this house.

This house unfortunately happens to be inside the district of Council President Darrell Clarke.

Let’s take a look at what the block looks like now:

A new house goes up from the burned out shell
A new house is going up across from the burned out shell

It’s not like Fishtowners haven’t complained about the property through the appropriate City channels or to Darrell Clarke’s office, either:

L&I has written the shit out of this property
L&I has written the shit out of this property

L&I has basically done what can be done.   Why am I calling this the “Darrell Clarke House“?  Because district council members wield a huge amount of control over their councilmanic districts.  It’s called Councilmanic Privilege  and Darrell Clarke is the No. 1 endorser of this idea of feudalism.

HAI. I MIGHT WANT 2 BE UR MAYOR SO YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD STAYS BLIGHTED
HAI. I MIGHT WANT 2 BE UR MAYOR SO YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD STAYS BLIGHTED

But with that power comes responsibility, and Council President Clarke certainly had some abilities his office could have used to get rid of this shell, easily.  Let’s point out the most obvious one:

The house owes more than $2,500 in tax liens
The house owes more than $2,500 in tax liens

The most obvious item is that this illegal rental house owes more than $2,500 in back tax liens which Linebarger is currently collecting.  Given that the owner is an LLC with murky contact information, Linebarger can’t really contact anyone to collect on the debt, but Clarke’s office could contact Linebarger and request a push to Sheriff Sale, which it hasn’t.

The other most glaring item is that the house was destroyed by fire.  The Department of Licenses and Inspections can, at any time, send a crew to demolish the house.  I think anyone will agree that a vacant lot is preferable to a house that is so far gone.  The demolition costs the City pays out would then of course be an additional lien against the property, since this absentee investor is likely to not pay the costs.

But what about 2542 Tulip LLC… is it a completely defunct entity?  No.

It’s still around and has an owner.  Yours truly got 2044 E Fletcher, another property that 2542 Tulip owned, to Sheriff’s Sale.  At the last minute the owner stepped in and paid the bill and then sold the property over to a holding company:

2044 Fletcher deed transfer
2044 Fletcher deed transfer

Later in this deed it is mentioned that 2542 Tulip shares the same premises address as Eastcoast Financial Company, another entity tied to 2542 Tulip.

Also on this deed we see the signature by 2542 Tulip’s owner, Craig Nordland.

2542 Tulip's president
2542 Tulip’s president

Looking in Philadelphia Municipal Court, we found this lawsuit (below) launched by former tenants of Craig Nordland who claimed that he withheld their security deposit.  The case filed reveals at the time where Craig Nordland was living in 2008.  Judge Prezensa found in favor of the tenants by default, as Nordland was a no-show.

SafariScreenSnapz020

For good measure, we went and checked the deed recordings for 236 W. Highland Avenue, where these tenants were living, to see if Craig Nordland’s signature on the deed looks like the one for 2542 Tulip LLC.  They’re a good match, particularly the far-right bit of the signature which is nearly identical in both documents.

Craig Nordland's signature
Craig Nordland’s signature on the Highland Avenue deed

Back when GRB Law (other collection agency the City uses) was pursuing foreclosure against the Fletcher Street property, it had to come up with a list of addresses that would likely hit the owner somewhere, given the design of 2542 Tulip’s registration to evade process service and municipal code enforcers.  We’ll save Clarke’s office some time and post the list straight from the court filing:

SafariScreenSnapz018

But at the end of the day, none of this will really matter; because Darrell Clarke doesn’t give a shit about Fishtown and he’s perfectly happy to let that house otherwise sit and rot while nobody can buy it and redevelop it to get rid of this blight.   All Clarke’s office has to do is tell Linebarger to start a foreclosure proceeding.

Will there be a buyer for this shell?   Look at the photo of the house going up across the street, above.  This shell will sell at a Sheriff Sale auction in seconds.

Darrell Clarke believes in total control of land use, so the only explanation here is that it must be his priority to see that this blight stays there until the End Of Days.

Because that’s how Clarke rolls.

 

p.s.  Just for good measure… we went and double-checked to make sure Craig Nordland still lives at the address in Bucks County his ex-tenants have for him.  He’s still there, with his wife Elizabeth… at the end of an exclusive cul-de-sac:

Craig Nordland Tax Parcel ID

 

Craig Nordland's House
Craig Nordland’s House
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Update:  According to AxisPhilly’s AVI Change map, Furfari’s property tax bill on 2025 Frankford Avenue post-AVI dropped from about $625 a year down to around a paltry-low $393.  2023 Frankford Avenue also dropped by approximately the same amount.

We’ve waited long enough for Furfari’s Soft Pretzels to issue a mea culpa after verbally assaulting a friend of ours outside their store at 2025 Frankford Avenue.

So we went back this weekend and took a look at their Real Estate Tax liens to see if the City’s Revenue Department has made any progress collecting on over $20,000 worth of back taxes spread across sixteen liens on two OPA accounts.

2025 Frankford Avenue Current Balance
Meh.

Nothing substantive so far.

We decided to punch up the Furari court docket in Common Pleas to see if there was anything indicative.   We were shocked, but not surprised, to see this all of this:

Holy fuck it runs in the family
Holy fuck it runs in the family

Picking around some of the more recent cases, we discovered the School District of Philadelphia was so desperate it even went to the courts to complain that it wasn’t paying its tax bill…

Furfari SDP

 

In February of this year there was some unpaid gas and PGW went to Common Pleas to secure a lien…

Furfari Gas Service

 

And another Furfari family member using the pretzel store as a home address has a back criminal court fine still showing unpaid…

Furfari Judgment

 

Oh and we almost forgot… the City is after them for not paying U&O

Furfari U&O

 

Well, at least the most horrible fucking pretzel store in the universe got a new paint job:

Furfari's New Front

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Eww this inspection report

Furfari Mouse Droppings

 

Furfari Fire

Don’t worry though Furfari fans.  When the kitchen went up in flames that pretty much sanitized the place.  The last health inspection violation just says the bathroom door needs to close itself (heh… guess in case people rush in to pee and not care about shutting the door).

But pre-fire pretzels probably will never taste the same…

See also:  Fishtown’s Furfari’s Soft Pretzels calls local resident a “Whore” and a “Retard” because she legally parked in front of it.

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