CITY CONTROLLER Alan Butkovitz blasted the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority for threatening a real-estate developer with legal action after he made unauthorized improvements to a city-owned property in Point Breeze.
Butkovitz's letter to the authority was in response to an article in Friday's Daily News, in which Ori Feibush said that he was ignored when he made numerous calls to the city expressing interest in buying or leasing the decrepit vacant lot next to his coffee shop, at 20th and Federal streets.
Butkovitz called the authority's response unreasonable and said that city agencies should help citizens make improvements to city-owned eyesores.
"This will enable the city to protect its interest while enabling local citizens to participate in beautifying and improving the quality of life in their communities," Butkovitz said in a letter to Ed Covington, executive director of the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority.
The city disputes Feibush's claims that he tried to buy the lot and maintains that Feibush was told not to intervene there.
Mayoral spokesman Mark McDonald said a letter that Feibush sent Tuesday to the authority was his first official declaration of interest in buying the property.
"Today he took - finally - the first step toward throwing his hat in the ring for that property," McDonald said, adding that three other parties had asked about buying the property before Feibush made improvements there.
McDonald said that Feibush has purchased other city-owned properties, knows the correct procedures regarding making improvements to them and chose to ignore the process this time around. More than 20 residents have agreements with the city allowing them to use publicly owned space, officials said.
"They are completely and utterly out of touch with what's going on in their respective departments," Feibush said when reached late Tuesday, adding that he's expressed interest in the property at least seven times since 2006.
"This lot represents everything that's screwed up about land banking in Philadelphia," he said. "It doesn't work; it doesn't make sense."