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The Abington Citizens Network
where Abington, PA residents can share ideas and join forces to build a better community
 


THE COLONADE APARTMENTS
 in  JENKINTOWN, PA

   

 OVERVIEW - For a nutshell overview, please see below.

WHISTLE BLOWER UPDATE

 

  ( NOTE : BCO = Building Code Official . She made sure documents and permits were in order and inspected the premises.  )  

 

 

  

  NUTSHELL OVERVIEW  

           The Colonade  is a 535 unit apartment complex consisting of 2 main buildings and at one time there were thriving commercial establishments and a leasing office, too.  The commercial establishments were gone.  The leasing office  met its demise in a fire very shortly before it's intended transformation was to begin. (?)  The buildings were fraught  for years with fire calls, reports of faulty fire equipment, other faulty emergency equipment, faulty electric, faulty doors, bursting pipes, rats, mice and you name it . Those  were just some   of the problems  that plagued the complex. The  once grand showplace (formerly called the Benson East)  was allowed to slip into complete gross disrepair under the  joint oversight of  the Township and the Landlord  ( through his various stacked  and "protected" companies), taking longtime tenants on that ride as it went.  
    
         The tenants sought help from nearly every official imaginable,  yet the conditions persisted.  Endless violations were  documented by officials, multiple times --- close to 200 violations at one point,  long after the multiple violation lists should have had officials breathing down their necks to make it impossible to continue in that fashion. Yet, there were  virtually  no fines or penalties ever levied on  the Landlord, despite the hundreds of thousands of dollars absorbed by taxpayers in legal fees, inspections, document management and production, certifications, fire calls, reports , meetings and on and on and on -- and despite the conditions  that left tenants frequently without  heat, or with too much heat, without A/C ,  with broken elevators (despite people in wheelchairs on upper floors), with burst pipes or  brown water from the tap or leaks in their homes and in common areas, or lack of water altogether, or mold, and more .....
So many suffered.  In 2016 the entire Township was the recipient of a tax increase due to a 1.1 million dollar shortfall.  But this complex might explain nearly all of it  - and other situations like this  also existed . They explain where the money is going and why increases are needed.  A travesty.
      
        One Commissioner himself -Steven N. Kline, came to profit  directly  from this ---  while offering virtually no aid to the tenants that were living in the conditions he saw ( and that he exacerbated).  The Landlord that one would want fined by the very people who work at the pleasure of the Commissioner,  became the Commissioner's boss. So while the Commissioner oversees the Township operations that would be deciding when and how much to fine  the  errant property owner, the  Commissioner simultaneously had a leading role in shepherding through the renovations and had a "loyalty" to his boss.  This  got ugly as the Township and the Landlord's sides disagreed as to what the law required.  One of the main concerns was:  "to sprinkler or not to sprinkler"  .  This question when posed about  a complex that in one 5 year period had a fire call  on an average of  once every 8 days  should have been a no brainer. And every current law  points to sprinkling for safety.  But you probably know the headaches all that extra safety poses for a landlord who might have the sprinklers actually go OFF when there was a fire -- or even sometimes by accident.  The Commissioner,  with responsibilities on both sides of this argument  had what, in my mind, is a severe conflict of interest. And chose poorly.

      To back-track just a bit, how I got involved was that a tenant found me. Frustrated with the Township's failure to stop the decline or to protect the residents, she got a laptop and went to our lovely library - where helpers taught her how to get on-line and look me up. She invited me and gave me a tour of what she had to live with. My jaw dropped. I came the next day with a camera  and she toured me through showing  as we gathered permanent evidence of the state of the property ...blinking lights, code violations everywhere in plain sight, outstanding dangers  that  showed obvious years of neglect......  THIS was what our Fire Chief Ken Clark ( now retired) and Assistant John Rohrer  ( elevated  to Fire Chief despite all this) and Code Director Larry Matteo (now retired)  were in charge of ..... and knew about ...... and were themselves neglecting. Just as Commissioner Ben Sanchez ( who in 2019 became  State Rep) and Board President Wayne Luker  ( retired in 2020) were  ignoring........ I was stunned.   I immediately engaged all the major parties  but found the level of cooperation --- even with lives at risk - to be ZERO. It was  nailing jello to a tree to try to get a single reasonable response. 
 And I made sure everyone knew about this....Madeleine Dean, Josh Shapiro, all the Commissioners, Labor and Industry and on and on ....... . They all actually knew already, yet still there was no partner in changing it.  There was no one to enforce the codes and laws designed to keep us safe. 

        Steve Kline  in fact was MY Commissioner, so, needless to say, I had no one to complain about that to. But as I said I did ensure that the entire Board and Board President  were  made aware of the dire situation there and of the  conflicts of interest and their consequences. Yet it all that fell on deaf ears - and I myself was maligned publicly ( as were others ) for trying to bring it up. So it persisted.

    I have read thousands of records  but none that showed any serious concern  by  Commissioner  Kline working for the Landlord or by the tenants' own Commissioner or by the Board President for the issues that the tenants brought forward on their health safety and welfare. I and many of the residents had begged to have the issues properly addressed.  Others who came to the podium asking about OSHA issues etc and concern for those inside, were rudely maligned. Despite tools available to the Township, such as  a $1,000 per day fine for each violation, these tools were not employed -- just threatened.  Never used. A lot of saber rattling, while the transgressions continued. Empty huffing & puffing .

      Many tenants fled the conditions, many others were evicted or not renewed. Many, when they tried to withhold their rent, found themselves taken to court. The same judge heard the same stories again and again --- yet still this Landlord did not get his due.  All of the measures came at great cost to tenants, for things that were not at all in their control. Court  representation costs were a  great deterrent  for them to exert any of their rights and it was more than scary to face  a wealthy landlord without representation, given this landlord's apparent ability to break all the rules  yet suffer no consequences.   The landlord also  threatened  eviction, which again was fraught with great cost.  Moving costs . A new damage deposit  as an out of pocket expense with no assurance of getting the old one back....

     A  group of residents tried to get legislators and others to come to their aid.  Retaliation legislation was penned by a local politician, but it did them no good and was never fully enacted. It was another useless gesture while the steps that could and should have been taken were ignored.    There seemed to be no one to enforce the many laws that could have been applied.  Individual tenants  were left to take on a wealthy, fearless, landlord with a well paid legal team on a one to one basis --an  entirely untenable situation.  Without local officials to take a stand for the residents they are supposed to represent, exactly these kinds of injustices can occur freely, as they did here.   

            A class action suit was  filed on behalf of the tenants  in November 2015 .  That was mishandled and ultimately failed .   But the citizens of Abington -- all its citizens ----- will also be paying through the nose for all of the actions that were required at this property  and those that as of September 2020 are STILL underway.   The actions included among the many legal actions, even a 5 million dollar lawsuit  and many smaller ones.  Filed in some cases, against the Township supposedly in a struggle to maintain that sprinklers would not be needed --- but frankly my personal opinion was that many were filed as a diversion to side step questions and investigation into these practices. 

           The entire process and the story told in the documents of the renovations, is one that everyone should read for themselves,  There is little more that can be said except that I, in my own humble opinion, having read a majority of the documents in the massive volume that exists in this case, have on going concerns for what the future of this property may be and for what the future of the Township may be - given that the Solicitor and Commissioners and so many of the bad actors are still in their roles ---- or have been elevated to higher positions in government service.  Steve Kline is head of the Planning Commission at Montgomery County and is fine letting Township Planners who should be holding developers to the laws, instead help the developers write ordinances that violate laws as at the Willow Grove Mall in 2021 -- and the Assistant Fire Marshall was elevated to Fire Marshal where, again in 2021 , he just OK'ed the Baederwood 244 units that did not meet code and were designed, somehow, astoundingly, with an entire side that is unreachable by emergency6 vehicles  so that the developer could squeeze in a few more units.  So because there were no consequences, there is more of the same thing going on  in Abington.

     It is up to the citizens to care .  And to DO something, not just shake their heads. I invite you to contact me if you'd like to be part of "the solution"  to this kind of government.   ( lel@abingtoncitizens.com )

       

    If you believe any part of this, with the exception of my own opinions on the subject,  is incorrect, I urge you to share that information,  so any errors may be corrected .

   To be connected in to the information loop on this topic   AND  with other tenants both current and former,   if you are an Abington residents, please  send me an email

 _______________________________________________________

  if you are in another apartment complex, either by the same owner or elsewhere and would like to get connected in to a loop with other residents,  please  send me an email

  Abington residents who would like to receive news and information on Abington topics should  send me an email


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