Ori Feibush owned a business next to a vacant lot filled with broken glass and weeds. The lot, unfortunately, was owned by the City of Philadelphia, which refused to do anything about it. (In the city's defense, Philadelphia has always been under tremendous budget strain). So Ori Feibush took matters into his own hands. He claims he paid more than $20,000 out of his own pocket to haul away more than 40 tons of debris, plant trees, and put in benches. The neighbors are excited. The city, naturally, is very angry and has demanded he put the garbage and the broken glass back where it was:
In letters and emails, the authority has threatened to take legal action against Feibush. Chrystie said the agency "is actively reviewing its options at this time."
"They said we need to return it to the condition we found it in immediately," Feibush said.
That shocks McGrath, who has lived in the neighborhood for four years.
"They liked it filled with garbage and broken glass?" she asked. "I can't imagine why the city would be upset."
The Redevelopment Authority owns 1,500 lots, most of which are for sale. The one at 20th and Annin has been available "for a significant period of time," Chrystie said. The authority has no record of Feibush expressing an interest in the property, he said.
Feibush, owner of OCF Realty, counters that he has submitted seven written requests for either owning or leasing the parcel, has called the authority 24 times and has visited its office four times.
Given my experience with the Philadelphia city government, it seems perfectly possible that both of these statements are true: Feibush called and visited frequently, and the city has no record of his doing so.
This does raise some interesting legal questions: does he have to put back the exact garbage that was there, or will any 40 tons of garbage do? Must the broken glass go back exactly where it was, or may it be arranged in decorative patterns for the beautificatoin of the neighborhood?
It also harkens back to an old policy problem: excessively rule-bound government frequently does stuff that makes perfect sense within the rules, but is also perfectly idiotic when viewed from any other perspectives. The more we expand liability, and the tighter we wind the red tape, the more foolish outcomes like this we will see.