City leaders looks to fight urban blight

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The Mayor of Harrisburg says he’s taking a harder line in dealing with the war on blight.  It follows the collapse of a building on Friday that forced the evacuation of people living nearby.

Bricks of the abandoned church fell down onto Migdalia Velez’s home.  Her husband, kids and another family had to evacuate.  The collapse happened Friday night next door at 12th and Magnolia Streets.  They’ve returned to their home to document the damage.

Police arrested property owner Bishop A.E. Sullivan at the scene.  Since 2009, the city had put him on notice about the building’s deteriorating condition.

Mayor Papenfuse says, “People could have lost their lives with this building and bringing a misdemeanor charge based on the record is extremely appropriate.”

Before the abandoned property came crumbling down, neighbors say they complained to the city about the matter.  Now, they’re hoping the city will place stricter regulations on homeowners so this doesn’t happen again.

Papenfuse says, “The re-establishment of a housing corporation, the bringing of misdemeanor charges, the serving of outstanding warrants, making sure we have the ability to go after and try our best to collect from individuals that are ignoring warrant after warrant.”

The Mayor says there are at least 10 offending property owners that are part of the blight problem.  Meanwhile, the demolition of Bishop Sullivan’s abandoned church could cost more than $200,000.  There’s no timetable set for when that will happen.