by Michael Smith (Veshengro)
Ori Feibush says he visited the local offices of the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority four times, sent in seven written requests and made 24 phone calls to the agency asking them to take care of a major eyesore: an empty lot next to his coffee shop was home to more than 40 tons of debris.
But Feibush went ahead with his plans anyway, reportedly spending more than $20,000 of his own money not only to remove the trash but also to level the soil; add cherry trees, fencing and park benches; and repave the sidewalk.
"This was a lot of garbage," local resident Elaine McGrath told the paper. "Now it's gorgeous. I'm excited."
However, the city agency was less excited, demanding that Feibush return the vacant lot to its previous condition and saying it is considering legal action against him.
"Like any property owner, the authority does not permit unauthorized access to or alteration of its property," Paul D. Chrystie, director of communications at the Office of Housing and Community Development told the paper. "This is both on principle (no property owner knowingly allows trespassing) and to limit taxpayer liability."
And the situation is not without irony. Feibush says he received a citation in August 2011 from the city for litter on the same lot that the city now points out is not his property.
Nonetheless, the city's request puts Feibush in an unusual position. In theory, he committed a good deed, investing his own time and money to improve the condition of his neighborhood when city authorities refused to step up to the plate. But he also knowingly did so after the city refused his request to intervene.
The situation is almost like a reverse case of eminent domain, in which a private owner is attempting to revitalize a piece of public property.
For his part, though, Feibush thinks the city agency is jealous, and this is the way it would appear, I am sure, to most onlookers.
"For a private developer to create a garden, it's a question of who gets credit. To do it without their blessing, you're basically insulting them," he said. "I'm not looking for a thank-you, but I'm not looking for a big F.U."
One could probably say here “only in America” for I have yet to hear of this from any other country. Although I am not sure I am almost convinced that local authorities in the UK would react different and in other European countries too. A medal might be the result and not a telling off and the demand for compensation.