Clarke pulls bill condemning N. Liberties tracts: Philadelphia (PA) Daily News, 6/9/06

By Mark McDonald

With threats of a lawsuit in the air, City Councilman Darrell Clarke yesterday decided to pull back a condemnation bill that included 13 Northern Liberties properties that shouldn't have been included.

Clarke acted after conferring with representatives from Temple University and the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority.

At a stormy Council rules committee hearing last week, Jared Langman and Ierachmiel Daskal said their Second Street properties had been improperly targeted for condemnation by RDA, which in turn wanted to turn them over to developer Bart Blatstein for a residential and retail development.

City Councilman Frank DiCicco, who represents the area, said RDA had not informed him of its intentions before proceeding.

But for unexplained reasons, the properties in DiCicco's district were included in a bill with three other projects requiring condemnations in Clarke's district, including 66 vacant lots Temple wanted for a new academic building.

RDA officials told Council last week that the bill could not be amended to remove the 13 properties. Rather, a new bill would have to work its way through RDA and the City Planning Commission, a process that could take many months.

But attorney Edgar Einhorn said yesterday that if the bill was voted as is, even with an RDA board-approved side letter promising not to condemn the 13 parcels, the Second Street property owners would likely sue, a process that could tie up the properties for four years.

Last week, an outraged Langman said his lots are not blighted and that he's negotiating financing for a five-story condo project, while Daskal uses his property for one of his businesses.

Clarke then met with RDA and Temple officials who said their projects could await a new bill without the 13 properties that will come to City Council in September or early fall.

Philadelphia Daily News: www.philly.com