Tag Archives: The Blight Stuff

Risky Business in Germantown

Nuisance businesses and commercial blight can be a real problem in cities.

Here, we are going to look at one example of a business currently operating unchecked by the City of Philadelphia, with no regard for the rules and regulations put into place to protect the community.

Tires & Service at 4800 Germantown Avenue

At 4800 Germantown Avenue, between W Wyneva Street and W Rockland Street, sits a 18,584 square foot auto service shop and tire reseller called Tires & Service. Residents have become increasingly concerned about the risk and danger of tire storage sites in the largely residential neighborhood of Germantown. The amount of tires stored at the shop grows each day, increasing from a few hundred to well over a thousand in a matter of months. When the business in question turns out to be operating illegally, concerns are only magnified. The tire shop has tire piles just five feet away from the first house on W Rockland Street and ten feet away from the first house on Wyneva Street.

The big fear is that a long-burning tire fire could destroy homes on nearby blocks.


Click to enlarge. View more photos on Flickr

Many Philadelphians still remember the great eight-alarm tire fire of 1996 that compromised the structural integrity of I-95, caused the Health Department to issue air quality advisories, injured two firefighters and slowed commuter traffic for weeks. The fire started in an illegal tire yard underneath the highway and caused over 6 million dollars in damage. (Side note: Larry! Stephanie!)

Secondary issues raised by neighbors include the likelihood of a mosquito infestation in the summer months and the unsightly condition of the property. There are lots of other problems with Tires & Services, of course:

  • According to the Licensing & Inspections website, all business operating licenses for the property are expired (all licenses listed were for previous businesses over the years, not the current shop, Tires & Service)
  • The business does not have an Auto Wrecking Yard / Tire Storage License [detail]
  • The business does not have a Commercial Activities License [detail]
  • Tires vertically stacked over 15 high in heaps are collecting water, within 5 feet of nearby homes
  • The business did not shovel snow all winter along the perimeters of the property on W Rockland Street, Germantown Avenue or Wyneva Street
  • Initially, the business was not open at all hours, but after just a few months, signs were installed advertising 24-hours a day, 7-days a week services; no notice was given to nearby residents

Zoning and ownership

4800 Germantown Avenue is zoned CMX25 Commercial / Commercial Mixed-Use and listed as an Auto Repair Shop.

Tires & Services are renting the property. The owners of 4800 Germantown Avenue were found using Philadelinquency.com’s genius property search feature:

Jacob Gabbay
Judith Gabbay et al
Cobris Properties
1314 Chestnut Street, 10th Floor
Philadelphia PA 19107

4800 Germantown Avenue, which has been occupied by several different businesses over the years, has a long history of Licensing & Inspections violations.

LI_violations_4800 Germantown Avenue

What’s the 311?

philly311_logoMany neighbors have mentioned that they have called the City’s Philly 311 hotline by phone about problems at Tires & Services.

Digging into public Philly311 records, one online complaint was submitted 8 months ago (August 12, 2013: Tires! Mosquitos! Dog Feces! Trash!). The report raised several issues, from mosquito problems to the abundance of tires and dog feces. Licensing & Inspections visited Tires & Service and closed the ticket with the conclusion that the complaint was unfounded.

Here is where we have a problem. Too many 311 complaints get the “Service Request Completed / Unfounded” tag to the bewilderment of the citizen reporter, leaving problems to persist and neighbors unsure of how to follow up.

A new 311 request was submitted for this business on April 16, 2014. The ticket number is 342740.

As it stands, Tires & Service is still a mess. It’s time for Licensing & Inspections to call a supervisor because another unfounded 311 ticket designation isn’t going to cut it.


Google Maps street view of 4800 Germantown Avenue from W Rockland Street. Gibson Auto Repair was operating at the site prior to the opening of Tires & Services in 2013.

Google Maps street view of 4800 Germantown Avenue from W Rockland Street before the tires and the opening of Tires & Services in 2013.


Click to enlarge. View more photos on Flickr

A few good rules and regulations…

For City officials and neighborhood advocates, included below are a list of rules and regulations surrounding this type of operation. No Philadelphia citizen should be required to have to figure this out in order to address a neighborhood problem.

Tire fires in popular culture... The Simpson's long-burning Springfield Tire Fire is always on fire, though it was extinguished a few times.

Tire fires in popular culture… The Simpson’s long-burning Springfield Tire Fire is always on fire, though it was extinguished a few times.

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection

According to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection Bureau of Waste Management Inspection Report on Residual Waste Tire Storage Facilities, there are dozens of requirements that prevent Tires & Service from operating their facility.

Here are a few line items from the DEP inspection checklist Tires & Service do not meet or are violating, which anyone can see in plain sight:

  • Surface area of outdoor tire pile is not greater than 2,500 square feet.
  • Within 300 feet from an occupied dwelling, unless the owner thereof has provided a written waiver consenting to the activities.
  • Within 50 feet of a property line unless the owner has provided a written waiver consenting to the facility being closer than 50 feet.
  • Vertical height of outdoor tire pile is not greater than 15 feet.
  • Corridors or firebreaks on all sides of outdoor tire pile of at least 50 feet.
  • Firebreaks for outdoor tire piles are free of waste, equipment and structures.
  • Outdoor storage of waste tires conducted to control mosquito propagation.
  • Preparedness, Prevention and Contingency (PPC) for outdoor storage plan prepared and maintained at the waste tire storage facility and be updated annually.

Read more


Momentum in Germantown: 30 projects planned for annual Philly Spring Cleanup

In its seventh year, it’s time for the City of Philadelphia and the Streets Department to drop mega-trash stats to show and prove just how much we can all clean up during the Philly Spring Cleanup on Saturday, April 5. Just how big are the numbers? 1,014,540 pounds of trash collected, 4,030 tires removed and 23,341 pounds of recycling was collected during the 2013 clean up.

In Germantown there will be a huge presence felt all over the neighborhood with 30 official projects registered! Can you feel it? It’s momentum. Keep up the sweep up!

The W Rockland Street Project has two projects planned for the big day – Emaleigh will be working with W Rockland Street Neighbors on a block cleanup and Aine will be leading a cleanup with the Southwest Germantown Business District at Freedom Square (5101 Germantown Avenue).

Sign up to volunteer for a Germantown (or any other neighborhood!) project by clicking here!

Momentum \mō-ˈmen-təm, mə-\ 
the strength or force that something has when it is moving.
the strength or force that allows something to continue or to grow stronger or faster as time passes.


Volunteer for one of many project sites in Germantown

Sign up in advance … or just show up to lend a hand!


1. Lingelbach Elementary School
6340 Wayne Avenue
Philadelphia, PA 19144

2. Hood Clean Up
4901 Germantown Ave
Philadelphia, PA 19144

3. SoLo/GCA-WAM Philly Spring Clean Up 2014
Municipal parking lot
4919-25 Wayne Ave
Philadelphia, PA 19144

4. Friends of Happy Hollow Playground and Community Garden
4800 Wayne Ave (upper level Pulaski Ave and W. Logan St.)
Philadelphia, PA 19144

5. Friends of Loudon
4650 Germantown Ave
Philadelphia, PA 19144

6. Neighborhood and Park Cleanup (DIA Clean Up)
Wayne & Johnson Sts.
Philadelphia, PA 19144

7. Germantown Town Hall Cleanup
Germantown City Hall
Germantown and Haines St
Philadelphia PA, PA 19119

8. 6100 Block Germantown Avenue
Cleanup Historic 1770 Germantown Mennonite Meetinghouse
6121 Germantown Avenue
Philadelphia, PA 19144

9. Rockand Street Neighbors
15 W Rockland Street
Philadelphia, PA 19144

6200 W. Chew Avenue
Philadelphia, PA 19138

Read more

Party with W Rockland St at the Philly Spring Cleanup, Saturday, April 13

Philly Spring CleanupSo you think picking up trash can’t possibly be fun? Think again! If you want to make a difference in Philadelphia and have fun doing it, join W Rockland Street Neighbors in Southwest Germantown for another exciting Philly Spring Cleanup project.

This is our fourth consecutive year W Rockland St has participated in the cleanup – in the past, we’ve cleared mounds of trash from vacant lots, built community gardens, painted vacant houses, planted flowers in the sidewalk, and more (take a look at our 2012 and 2011 projects). We call that change you can see, and we couldn’t have done it without the wonderful volunteers that join us each year. Come along and work with W Rockland St Neighbors!

2013 Spring Cleanup Goals:

  1. Help neighbors sweep the sidewalk and street along the entire block;
  2. Lend a hand in basic cleanup and maintenance of two large parcels of vacant land on the block;
  3. Repair and paint the wood fence protecting the vacant lot in the middle of the block;
  4. Help cleanup in front of vacant houses;
  5. Assist elderly neighbors in sprucing up their front yards;
  6. Plant flowers and plants in large pots and garden beds for sidewalk beautification.


W Rockland serves as an example of what one Philadelphia city block can do to change its future through citizen engagement, do-it-yourself spirit, and tactical urbanism. We are located between the 4800 blocks of Germantown Avenue and Greene Street, flanked by the 100 blocks of Logan and Wyneva Streets. Read more about our neighborhood improvement projects right here on our blog.

Got questions? Contact rocklandstreet@gmail.com // 215-805-8091 

Cleaning the alley during the 2010 Philly Spring Cleanup

Cleaning the alley during the 2010 Philly Spring Cleanup

Loading up the Streets Department trash truck during the 2012 Philly Spring Cleanup

Loading up the Streets Department trash truck during the 2012 Philly Spring Cleanup

Watering new pop up sidewalk gardens on W Rockland St

Watering new pop up sidewalk gardens on W Rockland St