Skip to content
Link copied to clipboard

Stop hiding, Mr. Basciano

Everyone from the contractor to the city to OSHA is answering for their roles. What about Basciano?

Aside from a short statement, property owner Richard Basciano has been silent.
Aside from a short statement, property owner Richard Basciano has been silent.Read more

I STOPPED by the super swank Symphony House residences yesterday to have a chat with Richard Basciano about his killer building.

"Is he expecting you?" the cranky concierge asked.

Well, I didn't know if the owner of the crumbling building that flattened a neighboring Salvation Army thrift store was expecting me. But he should've been expecting someone - like officials from the city seeking answers about his choice of a discount demolition crew, for starters.

Basciano's company paid some insta-demolition crew $10,000 for a job demo experts said should have cost closer to $250,000.

They say you get what you pay for. But actually, it's the six people who died under the rubble that paid for what Basciano wouldn't.

Did I think the serial slumlord would invite me up, offer me a cup of tea - it was raining, after all - and own the blood on his hands?

No. But since everyone from the contractor to the city to OSHA has been rightly put on the hot seat for his role in the deadly collapse, it's time for the guy who decided to raze the building, who owned the property, to be entangled in this sorrowful chain of events.

Other than a one-paragraph statement released by his company, and almost certainly not written by him, Basciano hasn't had much to say:

"Our heartfelt thoughts and prayers go out to the people affected by this tragic event. Please know that we are committed to working with the City of Philadelphia and other authorities to determine what happened . . . "

What happened? You know what happened. Your project was a disaster. Your decisions have had tragic consequences. So don't just hunker down atop Center City in your high-rise. Talk to a city and a region full of questions, full of grief. Tell us what you think happened, what you think went wrong.

You owe us answers.

You owe the grieving families of the people who died Wednesday answers. You should at least know their names:

Childhood best friends Mary Lea Simpson and Anne Bryan, who were on a morning shopping trip.

Kimberly Finnegan, a cashier at the Salvation Army store, who was recently engaged. It was her first day on the job.

Juanita Harmin, a grandmother and retired secretary whose family said she lived a simple life in West Philly.

Roseline Conteh, a mother of nine from Sierra Leone who loved a bargain.

And Borbor Davis, a dedicated Salvation Army employee whose family said he did whatever was needed of him. The Liberian immigrant's grieving wife told reporters: "He did the right thing; he went to work."

The right thing.

But then, you wouldn't know much about doing the right thing, would you, Richard? What you, the onetime Times Square porn king, do seem to know plenty about is how to inflict deadly negligence on a city that allows itself to be plundered by the likes of you.

But then you learned from the best - your pal and mentor, Samuel Rappaport, that other porn/slumlord who got away with murder. In 1997, an 18-foot-tall sign from a building owned by Rappaport's estate crashed onto the sidewalk, hitting Common Pleas Court Judge Berel Caesar. He died a few days later.

When I asked the concierge at Basciano's apartment building if he could call upstairs to tell him he had a visitor, the concierge said Basciano was in a meeting and called his manager for backup. I wasn't so much ejected but huffed out of the building and into the rain.

It bothered me to see people who probably don't make in a week what Basciano drops on lunch protecting a guy who uses working stiffs as disposable armor.

They're just cogs in the wheel, one of many cogs in the wheels of capitalism employed by a rich slumlord who is smart and rich enough to insulate himself from the real world - the one where six families are now making funeral arrangements.

Phone: 215-854-5943

On Twitter: @NotesFromHel