PHILADELPHIA (MyFoxPhilly.com ) - Fox 29 speaks with District Attorney Seth Williams about the possibility of charges after two firefighters died at a blaze at an abandoned factory that was facing citations.
Many neighbors told us on Tuesday they're frustrated the city doesn't do more to deal with abandoned buildings before danger strikes.
Lt. Robert Neary, 60, and Firefighter Daniel Sweeney, 25, both of the department's Ladder 10 station, died on Monday.
But the big question is whether the Brooklyn-based owners of the East York Street warehouse will face criminal charges?
So far, the answer remains unclear.
District Attorney Seth Williams promises an investigation, but he's won't say if the deaths of two fire fighters and the building owners apparently ignoring at least three city citations and failing to pay taxes will prompt him to charge..
Our Jeff Cole asked District Attorney Williams if he would be "swinging" after the owners.
"It is one thing just to talk and bark, my job is to be fair so we have to gather information and evidence and move forward judiciously," Williams said. "We have to conduct an investigation."
Williams says first, the fire marshal's office has to get into the building and find out what ignited the flames.
Mayor Michael Nutter took a swing at the owners on Tuesday, but said criminal charges are up to Williams.
"It appears to me there is some level of neglect here," Nutter said.
Williams says in the past chasing bad buildings owners has been the work of the city's Department Of Licenses and Inspections.
But it appears community and political pressure may now draw Williams in.
Cole asked Williams if his office wanted a major role in the case at this early point.
"Our role is to review what is brought to us we have not been that involved. (in the past)," Williams said.
"We are doing all we can to deal with people shooting each other," he added.
We later spoke with Williams, who said he would look at how cities like New York have handled similar cases.
Nutter says he believes the owners of the warehouse risked a catastrophe by ignoring the city's citations slapped on the building from November 2011 through January 2012.
But he wouldn't say if the whole process should have been quicker.
Nutter says Philadelphia will take a look at the approximately 34 other properties owned by developers Michael and Yechiel Lichtenstein.
According to its records at the Department Of Revenue, the Brooklyn developers owe at least $358,000 in back taxes on 16 of those properties, including $60,000 for the burned out warehouse in Kensington.
The properties have been tagged with 42 liens.
According to city records, $279,000 in taxes is owed on an apartment building just a few blocks from City Hall.
Mayor Nutter says he knows of the big tax bill and says the city is coming for them.
"We will be taking action against them," he told us.
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