Thursday, February 11, 2016

Leaving no Philadelphian behind

The Daily News presses for justice for the Market Street building collapse victims

Leaving no Philadelphian behind

Richard Basciano seems to have done the #PhillyShrug on last year´s collapse of a building he owned that killed six and injured 13 more. Maybe it´s time we started asking #WheresBasciano? (Helen Ubinas/Staff)
Richard Basciano seems to have done the #PhillyShrug on last year's collapse of a building he owned that killed six and injured 13 more. Maybe it's time we started asking #WheresBasciano? (Helen Ubinas/Staff)

I think I may have mentioned this once or twice before, but the Daily News -- and by that I mean the people who work here at the People Paper -- is amazing. Consider the tragic events that happened one year ago today, when a botched (and that's quite an understatement) demolition on Market Street collapsed on top of a Salvation Army store and killed six people who were working and shopping there.

The Daily News leaped into action that morning, June 5, 2013. No surprise there -- that's what we do, and the paper would eventually win the state's top journalism prize, the Keystone Award, for its breaking news coverage. Most newsrooms would have pretty much left at it that. Not this one.

This is Philadelphia, after all, where -- as today's front page notes -- "justice is elusive." And so on today's one-year anniversary, a remarkable team of journalists -- Ronnie Polaneczky, Stephanie Farr, Dana DiFilippo, David Gambacorta, Morgan Zalot, William Bender and Helen Ubinas -- presses for answers, from the city officials who still have more work to do on making sure such a collapse never happens again and from the prosecutors who predictably have charged the lower-level workers but not the "big fish" behind the demolition project. Even more memorably, they tell again the stories of the six we lost that day, and the struggles of their loved ones to deal with their loss.

This is the City of Brotherly Love -- we don't forget our own.

But I want to call special attention to Ubinas' column, because she asks the one question that's been on my mind for the last year.


Specifically, where the hell is Richard Basciano, "the Times Square porn king" who owned the building and should be ultimately responsible. Why hasn't he answered questions about what happened, and why hasn't he apologized to the families of the dead?

A city mourned and waited for answers, and yet the man who owned the building said nothing. Not a word. Not an apology. Nothing. How is that possible? How is that acceptable? How does a man with that much blood on his hands get to remain silent?

Of course, we all know why, but the power and connections and money that shield a person like Basciano don't make it any less disgusting.

Employees at Basciano's Broad Street high-rise more than earned their paychecks by keeping away a pesky commoner when I popped in unexpectedly last year. So this week I tried a different approach: a handwritten letter I told the building concierge I simply wanted to drop off.

In the letter, I reminded the former Times Square porn king that it's been a year since the deadly collapse. Why? Because wealth and privilege affords the elite an enviable distance from ugliness - even their own. That's a distance that isn't afforded to the people whose lives were shattered that day.

She's right -- the injustice is gross. If you spend any time on social media today -- and you will -- be sure to ask the question: #WheresBasciano? Let's never leave justice for the Market Street six behind.

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About this blog
Will Bunch, a senior writer at the Philadelphia Daily News, blogs about his obsessions, including national and local politics and world affairs, the media, pop music, the Philadelphia Phillies, soccer and other sports, not necessarily in that order.


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