Entries in Philadelphia (6)


Philadelphia Officials Disapprove of Man Who Spent $20,000 to Clean City Lot YORK) -- A man who spent $20,000 to clean up a rubbish-strewn and weed-filled lot next to his Philadelphia coffee shop is now in trouble with the city for supposedly putting public safety at risk.

Ori Feibush, owner of OCF Realty and OCF Coffee House, said he spent his own money to clean up the neighborhood eyesore next to his business last month. After trying to purchase the 1,600-square-foot lot for years, he said he reached the end of his rope about a week before his coffee shop's grand opening on Aug. 16.

"I didn't wake up one morning and spend tens of thousands of dollars to remove blight that was a danger to residents and customers," he said.

Feibush, 28, had visited the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority on Aug. 8 to complain about the lot and outline his plan for it. He was told the agency would clean the lot and that he was not permitted to enter it.

"They promised they would get around to it," Feibush said. "I did not believe I could open up a coffee shop when people couldn't traverse the sidewalk."

He said he finally cleaned up the lot out of "frustration," poured a new sidewalk, and placed a bench and picnic table. He said parents, children and dog-walkers are visiting the property now. Previously, the homeless would sleep behind the nine-foot weeds.

Soon enough, city officials came out to the lot and called him a "trespasser."

Feibush told the Philadelphia Daily News that once the city got wind that Feibush had cleaned up the lot, he received an email on Aug. 13 that read, "You are requested to immediately stop all work and return the j-barriers to the original location."

Paul Chrystie, director of communications for Philadelphia's Office of Housing and Community Development, said the city had put barriers on its property for the safety of the public and to prevent dumping.

While the property was not in the best condition, it had not been ignored, said Chrystie.

A crew had visited the lot at least eight times within the year before Aug. 8. Two days later, a crew cleaned debris from the property.

"There are hundreds of agreements in Philadelphia allowing private citizens to use public lots," he said in a statement. "Mr. Feibush chose not to pursue one, which is not fair to the taxpayers who are foregoing revenue and accepting liability, nor to the three potential buyers who have followed the rules that Mr. Feibush is ignoring."

Feibush said he disputes that crews had actually cleaned up the property.

"I've been past that corner every day for the past seven years and have never seen it looking better than the day before," Feibush said.

Feibush, a developer in Philadelphia for seven years, said this is not the first time he encountered red tape in the city.

"What I don't understand is why they didn't consider that previous site to be a liability for them," he said.

He said around the time he purchased the property for the coffee shop in 2008, he had tried to buy the vacant lot next door, but he said he was passed from one city office to another. More than once, he was told by officials that the city did not own the lot.

On four occasions, because some paperwork showed there were "Jersey" barriers surrounding the lot, he was absurdly told he had to contact authorities in New Jersey.

He said it took him years to get approved to purchase the lot across the street from the coffee shop, where he intends to build single-family homes.

Feibush said if the city allowed it, he would purchase the adjacent lot "at fair market value tomorrow."

He estimates that it is worth around $70,000 to $80,000, based on his purchase across the street.

He plans to continue to "maintain the garden and pick up trash and so it looks the way a lot should look in the city of Philadelphia and not a piece of squalor."

After the city "ignored" this lot for decades, Feibush said he is surprised it has taken such an interest, even visiting the site hourly when his work crew cleaned up the property to tell them to stop.

"What I'm hoping the next step of the city is to take other lots and try to clean them up instead of focusing on this one lot," he said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Philly Transit Workers Split $172 Million Lotto Win

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(PHILADELPHIA) -- Trains and subways might zip along a little faster in Philadelphia this week after a group of 48 transit workers hit a $172 million Powerball lottery jackpot.

The workers, who will get about $3 million apiece, are choosing to remain anonymous, but range in rank from senior managers in the purchasing department to "a favorite janitor," according to Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) spokesman Richard Maloney.

"They have all asked to be anonymous on this. When you get a windfall, it's easy to be joyous for a second, and then, you know, you don't want everybody in the world to know," Maloney said.

The workers range in experience with the company, from just under a year to close to 40 years service, and all work in the headquarters in Philadelphia. The "floating pool" the workers took part in has been going on for years, with certain members joining in or sitting a week out depending on personal choice, Maloney said.

This week, for the $172 million Powerball, workers each put in $5 to buy 120 tickets.

The winning ticket was sold three blocks down from SEPTA headquarters at the News Stand at the Gallery, 9th and Market streets in Center City.

"We're excited to have sold this jackpot-winning Powerball ticket in Pennsylvania, and this will be the second Powerball jackpot we get to award in just five months," Pennsylvania Lottery Executive Director Todd Rucci said. "Today also marks the 23rd anniversary of the April 26, 1989, Super 7 drawing that awarded $115.5 million to 14 winning tickets and still holds the record as the largest jackpot awarded by the Lottery."

Maloney said that despite winning it big this week, no employees had tendered their resignation or booked trips to Hawaii yet.

"Not so far. While it's a lot of money for anybody, for a young person who still has a career, to continue working, it's a nice cushion. If they're nearing retirement, it's a nice nest egg," Maloney said.

Many of the winners worked on the 11th floor, in purchasing, he noted, and are well-versed in managing finances.

Colleagues of the workers told ABC News affiliate WPVI that their peers were excited.

"You go up there, you feel the vibe. It's just so great just to walk up on the floor, just to hear somebody that close to you won," SEPTA employee Cynthia Griffin said.

The Pennsylvania Lottery said that no winners had officially come forward yet.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Insider Trading Case Involves Secrets Shared Among AA Members

Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images(PHILADELPHIA) -- In what a government attorney calls the first case of its kind, the Philadelphia office of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has charged five people with making more than $1.8 million illegally through insider trading of stocks.

The SEC is claiming that the violation of trust and confidentiality required to prove insider trading occurred between members of Alcoholics Anonymous (A.A.).

The SEC says Timothy McGee and Michael Zirinsky, both registered representatives of Ameriprise Financial Services, bought and sold stock in Philadelphia Consolidated Holding Corp. (PHLY), based on non-public information about an impending merger between PHLY and Tokio Marine Holdings.

McGee, the SEC claims, got that insider information from a PHLY executive who confided in him, based on the fact they both were members of A.A.

"What we're saying, here, is that the two shared a relationship of confidence and trust, beginning at the time they both started to attend A.A. in 2009," says Elaine Greenberg, associate director of the SEC's Philadelphia Regional office.

The two men's relationship extended beyond A.A.  For example, they occasionally trained together for triathlons, according to the SEC, and routinely shared confidences about their personal and professional lives.  But, says Greenberg, their relationship of trust was heightened by A.A.

That contention matters, because the government, to establish insider trading, must show that a relationship of trust and confidentiality existed above and beyond that of ordinary friendship.  The government has to prove, says Greenberg, that the person communicating the information and the one receiving it "have a history of sharing confidences, such that the recipient knows the giver expects him to maintain confidentiality."

Never before has the SEC tried to use as proof a shared membership in A.A.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Philadelphia Man Moves to Foreclose on Wells Fargo Over Mortgage

Photo Courtesy - Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(PHILADELPHIA) -- When a Philadelphia man became fed up with his bank for failing to respond to his mortgage questions, he took them to court and won.  Now, he has moved to foreclose on Wells Fargo's local office.

The saga began in 2009, when Patrick Rodgers first wrote to Wells Fargo, requesting itemized information about the mortgage on his home in Philadelphia.  The bank was forcing him to take out a $1 million homeowners policy on his home, which he maintains is worth far less than that.

Over the next year he sent at least four letters to Wells Fargo from June to September and got exactly no replies.

The bank, he said, insisted on what's known as forced-place home insurance, which cost $2,400 a year.

But Rodgers said the market value of the home is not $1 million because his neighborhood is "not too far from the wrong side of the tracks" in West Philadelphia.  He bought his three-story Victorian home for $180,000 in 2002.

Rodgers did some research and learned that the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act, or RESPA, passed in 1974, requires that a mortgage company acknowledge written requests within 20 business days, or face damages or penalties.

So he went to court, citing the law, and received a $1,173 judgment against Wells Fargo.  The bank did not respond to his action and he won a default judgment.  Then Rodgers placed a sheriff's levy against Wells Fargo's local mortgage office for the judgment, plus interest.

He said he was surprised that Wells Fargo had not responded despite media attention about his story, as first reported in the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Wells Fargo finally responded with two checks -- $1,078 on Jan. 14 and $95 on Jan. 26 -- but he said he still had not received a response to his letters.  So he turned to the Philadelphia sheriff's office to initiate a sale of the Wells Fargo Home Mortgage office in Philadelphia.

On Tuesday, the court placed a temporary stay on the sale, and ordered a hearing on Feb. 23 to determine the final status.

Rodgers said he is now awaiting $50 from Wells Fargo for the cost of initiating that sale.  He said the sheriff's sale can continue until then, barring an unfavorable judgment from the hearing, which he does not expect.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Public Pensions in America's Biggest Cities Face Underfunding Crisis

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(EVANSTON, Ill.) -- Two professors of finance are giving a sharp rap on the knuckles to Philadelphia, Boston, Chicago and other major cities.  Their warning: better fix your pension problems fast.

An analysis by Robert Novy-Marx of the University of Rochester and Joshua Rauh of the Kellogg School of Management finds that public pension plans for America's 50 biggest cities and counties are underfunded by $382 billion -- or $14,000 for every household in those same cities.  Some of the biggest plans may run out of money to pay promised benefits in as little as five to eight years.

Michael Zuccht, general manager of the San Diego Municipal Employees Association, says the problem has been building for decades.  Year after year, municipalities have put off fully funding their pension obligations, just kicking the can down the road.  Now, though, with the Baby Boom retiring, that road is running out.

"For 30 years elected officials have failed to meet these 'boring' obligations," says Zuccht, referring to his city's and others' pension plans.  "They preferred to spend their money on 'exciting' things like parks and libraries and recreation.  Guess what?  It's come due now.  It's hit the fan."

Cities claim their liability is less -- only $190 billion, or $7,000 per household.  But Rauh and Novy-Marx say this lower figure is the result of government accounting that assumes too rosy a return on assets and underestimates the cost of pension promises.  The professors use private sector accounting standards, then calculate how long the assets in each fund (as of June 2009) could keep paying out the benefits promised, as of that same date.

Philly, by their reckoning, has just five years until it can't pay.  Boston, Chicago and New York, have eight.

Of the 50 cities in the study, 20 won't be able to pay their promised benefits after 2025.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Fox, Cablevision End Holdout; Signal Returns to 3 Million Homes

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- FOX restored its signal to more than 3 million New York-area homes Saturday night, as News Corporation and Cablevision finally agreed on a new distribution deal.

Subscribers on Oct. 16. lost access to local FOX stations, as well as My 9 in New York, FOX Business Network, Nat Geo WILD and FOX Deportes.

Terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio