Michael, Yechiel and Nahman Lichtenstein, are New York brothers who habitually collect and neglect real-estate properties in Philadelphia, including the enormous Thomas W. Buck Hosiery building, destroyed in a blaze Monday that took the lives of two firefighters.
Brooklyn brothers who own Phila. building where fatal fire started are deadbeats
DAVID GAMBACORTA, PHILLIP LUCAS & WILLIAM BENDER & JULIANA REYES • Philidelphia Daily News
How else can you describe Michael, Yechiel and Nahman Lichtenstein, the New Yorkers who habitually collect and neglect real-estate properties in Philadelphia, including the enormous Thomas W. Buck Hosiery building, destroyed in a blaze Monday that took the lives of two firefighters.
City officials said Tuesday that the Lichtensteins owe a stunning $385,665 in unpaid real-estate taxes from 24 of the 31 properties that they own either directly or through various companies.
Their ability to avoid accountability came to an end when the Buck building, at Jasper and York streets, erupted in flames, and the surrounding East Kensington community exploded with anger after worrying for months that something awful would happen inside the vacant, unsealed factory.
The city moved quickly in light of the fire to explain the steps it had taken recently to address the Lichtensteins' neglect of the Buck building.
But it's unclear if any attempts were made to hold the real-estate moguls responsible for other properties that they let rot since going on a real-estate shopping spree in 2005 and 2006.
Take, for example, 5736 Belmar Terrace, a Kingsessing rowhouse the Lichtensteins own through their company YML Realty Inc. Neighbors told the Daily News that the property - which has a relatively small $887 in unpaid real estate taxes - has been abandoned for years, and has served as a de facto headquarters for local thugs.
"The drug dealers set up shop in there," said Shareese Dixon, who has lived on the block for 23 years, as she glanced at the home's white door with the words "Da War" scrawled across it in blue.
Legions of flies were once drawn to the house because of a terrible stench, she said. A broken basement window recently was boarded up, but Dixon said she was certain the owners weren't the ones who did it.
"I haven't seen them around here," she said. "They can just buy them and leave them."
At 60 N. Salford St. in West Philly - another property owned by YML Realty, for which the company has never paid property taxes - the first-floor windows and door are boarded up, and a chipped wooden support beam beneath the porch roof slants precariously inward.
Neighbors said the property has been abandoned for two decades, but someone recently took control of the property and added new windows on the second floor.
There are no records that indicate the house, which has $8,531 in unpaid taxes, has been sold.