Looking for peace pact in a Haddon Twp. war of words

A truce appears to be emerging in a bitter and long-running landlord-tenant dispute at a Haddon Township senior high-rise.

The likelihood grew Wednesday after Municipal Court Judge Robert A. Gleaner dismissed harassment and simple assault charges stemming from a March 7 encounter between Rohrer Towers 1 manager Patricia Coyne and resident William Kiggins.

The two had declined to testify, citing their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

The township-appointed Housing Authority's effort to evict Kiggins - its third such attempt since 2010 - is still pending. Also unabated is Kiggins' determination to oust the authority's executive director.

But lawyers for the two sides say they are trying to set up a meeting to discuss the matter.

"Hopefully, cooler heads will prevail," says Charles L. Nathanson, the lawyer who represents the authority. "It's a very difficult situation."

I'll say.

Kiggins, who often sports suspenders and a black fedora, has thick binders of emails and other correspondence concerning what he calls "dysfunctional" (or worse) management at Rohrer Towers 1.

Authority officials also have thick folders of material about a 72-year-old tenant whom some describe as impossible to please. Or worse.

The dueling dossiers include a flier by Kiggins that nicknames the building "Iacovino Prison," a reference to Joseph Iacovino, the authority's executive director.

Whom Kiggins derides as "Little Joey." Or worse.

"It's rather well-known they want me out of here," he says, inviting me into his eighth-floor efficiency apartment in Rohrer Towers 1.

The 11-story landmark alongside the PATCO viaduct through downtown Westmont was built in 1969 and has 100 single-bedroom and efficiency apartments.

"I pay $190 a month," says Kiggins, his tiny but tidy quarters dominated by a stack of TVs and computers, as well as a spacious work station.

He hands me a business card identifying him as a computer consultant. But he acknowledges business is limited for a guy with no car, outmoded machines, and a monthly income of $725. "I do get food stamps," he adds.

An old-school computer printout on the wall shows a smiling older lady under the caption "World's Greatest Mom." She died in 1988.

"Whatever I have that's good, came from her," says Kiggins, who nevertheless refuses to give me her name. "The story isn't about my mother on the wall. It isn't about me. The focus should be on the lives of the tenants."

Fellow tenants Teri Corrigan, 68, and Sarah Alvarez, 84, say they, too, are not happy with things at Rohrer Towers.

They describe management as unfriendly, unhelpful, and arbitrary in enforcing the (many) rules governing life in and around the building. Complaints go unacknowledged; the managers are ensconced behind closed doors in the front office, blinds drawn tight (as I noticed this during two recent visits).

"This is not a good space," Corrigan says.

"If I could move," adds Alvarez, "I would."

Iacovino, who's 82, and authority board member Mary Berko, 85, say most Rohrer Towers 1 residents seem happy. Except, that is, for Kiggins.

"I don't have anything against the man," Berko says. "I don't want him to be out on the street. But his whole idea has been to get rid of Joe Iacovino, who has done an outstanding job."

Says Iacovino, "In the last two years we've spent $1.5 million for a new roof, new heat, new hot water, new windows, new doors, new security, and [improved] parking . . . but some people wouldn't be happy even if they were living in heaven."

During my visits, the word heaven certainly didn't come to mind.

But the place did look clean and well-maintained; elevators held notices about social activities and tenant birthdays.

And while Kiggins shows me photographs of what look like dirty sinks in utility rooms, he certainly has set his sights on remaining a resident of Rohrer Towers 1.

Even though "I don't like the people in the [front] office," he says.

Iacovino, too, says he thinks matters can be resolved, even though Kiggins "wants me out. And I'm not going anywhere."

kriordan@phillynews.com

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