Owners still waiting on fire-damaged Somerton condo building

Restoration project drags on at Carousel Station Condominiums, frustrating residents who have been waiting more than two years.

A photograph taken in November shows the fire-damaged building at Carousel Station Condominiums. TIMES FILE PHOTO

Victoria Borodyansky considers it a “moving target.”

She and other residents of a fire-damaged building at Carousel Station Condominiums in Somerton were told in March 2019 they would be able to move back into their units in June. 

Later, attorneys for the Carousel Station Condominium Association, which took over the building following the blaze, said the reconstruction project would be completed by the end of December. 

Most recently, on Jan. 10, Dan Devlin, a lawyer who represents CSCA, told the Northeast Times that he expected the work would be done by the end of January.

Still, the six-unit building remains closed, surrounded by a construction fence. The fire that tore through the structure occurred Oct. 30, 2017.

Some units, like the one belonging to Borodyansky, received only smoke and water damage.

“At this point, the situation is just desperate because we’re in limbo,” Borodyansky said. “I’m paying for a property that I basically don’t have. I don’t even know if I am getting it back and when.”

As previously reported by the Times, Borodyansky and another displaced owner, Lidia Shan, blame the condo association for the lengthy delay in restoring the building.

Devlin, in an interview, did not provide an anticipated move-in date, but he said crews had finished “rough-in” work and were preparing to move on to later stages of the project, like applying paint and drywall. 

“This is an extensive construction project, so it’s not something that can be rushed,” Devlin said.

“Everyone is working as hard as they possibly can to get this done as soon as they possibly can,” he added. “We are really nearing the end here.”

It will be the end of a long and tortuous journey for Borodyansky, Shan and Gerald Formwald, Shan’s husband, who have all grown increasingly distraught over the process. 

Shan and Formwald have been staying in Spain since December, when they decided to leave a Bucks County hotel where they had been living.

“I cannot even come to Philadelphia. I have no place to go,” said Shan, who purchased her unit at Carousel Station, 301 Byberry Road, about 30 years ago. “I can come only when the keys to my house will be in my mailbox and, before then, not a day earlier I am going to come.”

She said the condo association owes her and Formwald $13,800 in reimbursement for living and storage expenses since her insurance expired in October. 

Devlin said Shan has been compensated for storage and was offered money for living expenses.

“They’re not paying a penny for storage,” Shan said in response.

Borodyansky was not using her Carousel Station unit as a primary residence, but she said bills are racking up. She is paying a mortgage on a condo she has not been able to access for more than two years.

Devlin previously told the Times problems with contractors, work permits and code changes have caused delays since 2017. His firm, van der Veen, O’Neill, Hartshorn and Levin, has taken legal action against at least one of the construction companies previously involved in the rebuild. 

Borodyansky and Shan each received cease-and-desist letters from Devlin’s firm ordering them not to contact Carousel Station’s property management company and to stay away from the construction site. The letters claim the two have been interfering with the project, which they deny.

“They’re trying to shut us up, which is not going to happen,” Shan said. “They are giving us a very difficult time.”

Devlin said the letters speak for themselves.

Shan and Borodyansky said they have visited the offices of local elected officials, with little success.

Last month, they wrote a letter to the state House and Senate Urban Affairs committees and Gov. Tom Wolf, pleading with them to strengthen laws protecting condo owners in the event of an emergency like a fire.

“No one wants to look into this,” Borodyansky said. “It’s just ridiculous. The whole situation is ridiculous.” ••

Jack Tomczuk can be reached at jtomczuk@newspapermediagroup.com.