A plastic pig looking into your home from a neighbor’s roof might seem comical — unless it’s part of a campaign of terror, as Linda Schwartz says it is.
The pig isn’t violating city code, but a lot of the rest of what Michael Koff has done is, Licenses and Inspections spokeswoman Karen Guss tells me.
Koff and Schwartz live side by side in the 9600 block of Hayden Street in the Bustleton section of the Northeast. They’ve lived there for decades, Schwartz having bought a stone rancher for $139,000 in January 1995, and the Koff family buying the house next door for $96,000 one month later, according to real estate records.
The long-running feud began almost immediately after Koff moved in and he built “an illegal shack in his backyard that was off his property,” says Schwartz, 68, who lives on a modest pension and disability.
A retired SEPTA bus driver, she has made 32 complaints against Koff over the years, “generally centering on trash and junk” on his property, along with a fence allegedly taller than permitted by code, says L&I’s Guss. The department and the city’s blight-busting Community Life Improvement Program “have conducted at least 50 inspections and initiated seven court cases” against Koff, says Guss.
When cited, Koff typically directs “further provocations against Ms. Schwartz” while doing nothing to clean up the mess until his court case is imminent, says Guss. He then comes into compliance and the case gets dismissed.
It sounds like he’s gaming the system. I called and emailed Koff.
“I’ve been minding my business for years now,” he responded in an email, saying he didn’t want to “stir up her crazy again.” He sent along pictures of signs Schwartz has erected on her property attacking Koff, but also the city administration for “corruption,” which he says is a favorite word of hers. She told me several times that she plans to launch her own political party, the Equity Party.
It would be fair to call Schwartz eccentric at least, but she did not invent the eyesore that is Koff’s yard. That has been cataloged by L&I, but the department’s policy is to achieve compliance “as opposed to punitive measures,” says Guss.
Given Koff’s apparent scheming, that is a policy that needs review in this case.
Schwartz says her neighbors have threatened her and she is reluctant to go outside for fear of encountering the Koffs. She feels like a prisoner in her own home.
In his brief email to me, Koff mentioned doing “some work outside my house and my home improvements will be completed after the winter.” L&I’s Guss says Koff currently faces “an open violation for messy property.”
Schwartz says, “Everyone knows I am being abused, even the mayor. I know I can make him resign if I want to,” she adds, again talking about corruption and the independent party she threatens to launch.
She tells me she’s contacted 94 people to help her, everyone from the Mayor’s Office to the inspector general to attorney Peter Vaira to City Councilman Brian O’Neill.
None of them has been able to solve her problems, and I’m afraid my name now goes on that list.