Ryan Briggs Ryan Briggs is a staff writer and connoisseur of City Hall intrigue, business dealings, neighborhood gossip and local lore. Ryan has studied, worked and resided in Philadelphia since 2004, covering politics and development issues for Hidden City, Next City and Metropolis, amongst other fine publications.
Courtesy of Old City District
The properties after improvements.
The owner of some of Old City's most inexplicably blighted properties, and the inspiration for our April cover story, "The Trouble with Old City", has finally been forced by the Department of Licenses & Inspections (L&I) to perform basic repairs on two highly visible, decaying structures on Second Street. Windows were installed and ground-level improvements were recently made to 9 and 11 S. Second St., owned for decades by Herman and Lillian Snyder, but overseen by their son and a former associate of Samuel Rappaport named Theodore Snyder.
The Old City District (OCD) ties the improvements to the "Doors and WIndows" ordinance that gives L&I the ability to force property owners to, at minimum, install doors and windows on vacant structures that sit on blocks that are more than 80-percent occupied.
"This is great example of the City working assertively with the property owner to get a positive outcome," said Graham Copeland, executive director of the OCD, in an email. "The implementation of L&I's new regulations for window and door replacement motivated the landlord of this chronically blighted property to finally respond and do the right thing."
For decades, the Snyder properties had sat empty, with gaping window frames and mangled security grating, on an otherwise commercially viable street. Previous attempts by the city to take the Snyder's to court were often stymied by dated and sometimes bogus ownership records, which listed Ted Snyder's elderly (and possibly deceased) mother as the official owner, with a string of former lawyers and accountants listed as contacts. Associates of the younger Snyder confirmed that he, in fact, frequented the properties and had vague plans for the structures he hoped to execute with a local contractor and businessman named Gianni Pignetti.
Pignetti publicly took credit for the conversion of two of Snyder's other Old City properties into a beer distributor and convenience store. However, he had a checkered relationship with the local civic association and was evasive about topics related to Snyder or his plans for his remaining buildings.
Although the installation of windows and, ahem, door-like structures on the ground floor of these buildings is a major aesthetic improvement for the neighborhood, whether the buildings will ever actually be developed into viable commercial or residential spaces is still unclear. Pignetti has not yet responded a phone call made this afternoon, and Snyder has a reputation for extreme secrecy.
Nonetheless, the success of L&I's enforcement program at compelling a long-delinquent property owner to perform basic maintenance is a good sign for a city plagued by deadbeat landlords.
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