Buck Hosiery Mill Burns, Two Firefighters Killed

 

Buck Hosiery fire, York and Jasper Sts. | Photo: Peter Woodall

A massive fire early this morning in Kensington has claimed the lives of two fire fighters and destroyed the former Thomas W. Buck Hosiery Co. building on the corner of York and Jasper Streets. The five-alarm blaze spread to an adjacent furniture store, part of which collapsed, killing the two firefighters and injuring two others.

The 19th century mill building had been vacant for several years, while its absentee owners racked up more than $60,000 in unpaid property taxes, liens and building code violations, as detailed last week by Ryan Briggs in the Hidden City Daily. The property had deteriorated significantly since Yechiel and Michael Lichtenstein of Brooklyn-based YML Realty Holdings purchased the building in 2009, and suffered chronic break-ins. Lichtenstein told the Daily that he “didn’t know” who was responsible for managing and maintaining the building, but was sure “the building is being kept up.”

The East Kensington Neighborhood Association asked YML Realty Holdings in a letter to maintain the building and clean up the trash accumulating around the property. They never received a response. EKNA president Jeff Carpineta told the Daily that he was worried that if the building wasn’t better sealed it might go up in flames, like several other vacant mill buildings in the neighborhood that have burned down in recent years.

The Lichtenstein’s own a number of properties in Philadelphia, and have made a habit of dunning the City. According to court records, they have accumulated Business Privilege Tax, water and sewage rents, property tax, and building code violations. In virtually every instance they failed to appear in court. Last month the City filed to bring the property to Sheriff’s Sale for unpaid taxes, but the process takes at least six months to complete, and can be cancelled if the owner pays the taxes in the interim.

Peter Woodall is the co-editor of Hidden City Daily. He is a graduate of the UC Berkeley School of Journalism, and a former newspaper reporter with the Biloxi Sun Herald and the Sacramento Bee. He worked as a producer for Radio Times with Marty Moss-Coane and wrote a column about neighborhood bars for PhiladelphiaWeekly.com.



18 Comments


  1. This is so heartbreaking because these old buildings are what make Kensington Kensington. I happened to speak to Henry Pyatt, the Commercial Corridor Manager at the New Kensington CDC just a week ago about the urgency of salvaging the old mill buildings such as the Hosiery building because they say so much about the history of our neighborhood. I live at 2059 E. York street, two blocks from the fire and was very sad to wake up to this horrible news this morning.

  2. Tragic. Just tragic.

  3. Hope the owners get strung up for criminally negligent homicide!

  4. You have to be kidding me. We just talked about this building, and how it was being left to rot by a speculative developer, and now this happens? This should be criminal. I can’t believe two firefighters dies because this guy let the place rot.

    This building was in the 7th District, represented by Maria Quiñones-Sánchez. Her email address is Maria.Q.Sanchez@phila.gov, if you’d like to voice your concern about what these developers let happen in her district.

  5. I had just read Hidden City’s post about this building last Friday! Whoa, hope it wasn’t arson.

  6. This entire city is filled with vacant properties and our city’s leaders do nothing. They could be demolished and made into community-building, tax-paying properties rather than potential killers of our city’s firefighters. I heard that this building was vacant over twenty years… Our city loses tax dollars, the communities have blight, fire fighters die, and politicians do not do anything.

    • That’s the thing though, this building had owners that had some semblance of a plan for it, then the economy fell through and they let it sit there and deteriorate. What the city could do though is figure out how to get more involved so that this doesn’t happen, even when a place does have owners.

      Boston has a program called “Clean It or Lein It”, where the city does maintenance to keep the buildings from becoming a hazard, then puts a lein on it so the owners eventually have to pay for the maintenance.

      Of course, the city would then have to figure out how to get better at collecting taxes its owned, which it’s not so great at either…

      http://www.csmonitor.com/1996/0820/082096.feat.habitat.1.html

    • They should rehab the buildings instead of tearing them down! If they are structurally sound its often cheaper!

  7. If the City is both unwilling and unable to take care of shit like this then it’s our duty to Re-Occupy these blighted buildings and turn them into something productive, instead of letting them remain havens for illegal scrappers/ junkies/prostitutes. I guarantee you that if people *had* peacefully entered the building and tried to do this, they would have been met with police violence in “defense” of this scumbag Brooklyn slumlord’s “property”.

    If that complete assclown Michael Nutter had put as much effort into dealing with this perpetually reported building as is putting forth on his jihad against the charitable feeding of the poor and homeless – people in the neighborhood wouldn’t be helplessly watching their falling property values crater even farther.

  8. I agree with almost every comment above (except that Mayor Nutter is an asshole).
    I am 60 yrs. old and the City has been deteriorating for many years, just as many other American urban cities. However, for the people who own the bldg. to have ignored the City’s efforts is unconscionable. I cannot tell you how angry I am with these thoughtless, non-citizen-like, non-law-abiding pieces of ****. Prosecute to the fullest extent of the law!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • American urban cities are actually improving. Its called gentrification. I find it unfortunate that you weren’t aware of that.

  9. Could this not be the fate of the Divine Lorraine?!

  10. This is a tragic example of the bureaucratic failings of our fair city. Mayor Nutter cannot be held personally responsible for a complete failure of city programs that are supposed to keep check on building standards and tax collecting. This is systemic. Perhaps there can be some positive change that could come about from actual dialogue about solving these problems. Enabling individual city institutions to be more directly responsible and in control of these matters and connecting citizens and neighbors of problem buildings directly to the forces that can solve the problem. This is all we can hope to get out of this otherwise terrible tragedy.

  11. Check out pics of the factory from a sight seeing tour, 36 hours before the fire.

    http://jamesmcgahey.blogspot.com/2012/04/thomas-buck-hosiery-mill-fire-and.html

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