Philebrity Reporting that Olde Good Things (Salvaging at La Ronda) is Front for Cult? Figures.

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carla's picture
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Philebrity is an awesome blog. Today I discovered a new piece about La Ronda. According to them and Philadelphia Magazine the salvage company Kania hired, Olde Good Things, is the front for a cult,the Church of Bible Understanding, which Philadelphia Magazine exposed in "I’ll Be Damned,” June 1999???!!

Oh ok, with the rest of it, why am I not surprised?

This Whole La Ronda Thing Is So Much Weirder Than You Could Ever Know

Well, said anonymous assh**e has finally been outed as Joseph Kestenbaum, President and Chief Executive Officer and co-founder of Marsh Hawk Capital Management. And what does one do when one finds oneself in a situation where you’re suddenly outed as a villain to the community bearing the mark of the Oppressor (white male, rich, mid-50s)? Why, of course you hire a Republican PR flack, and according to our sources, Kestenbaum just hired Jeff Jubelirer to, uh, get the job done. But that’s only the half of it.

According to local rumor, in the tangled web of La Ronda, the mansion’s previous owner, Arthur Kania, has claimed salvaging rights to much of the building’s contents that were there previous to the sale — things like mantlepieces, hand-carved doors, stained glass windows and so on. However, Kestenbaum had already hired a salvaging company to tear the place apart prior to demolition, and they’ve been working there since July. But on Tuesday, a second company arrived – hired by Kania – to ALSO rip the place apart. As it happens, the salvage company Kania hired is Olde Good Things, who were revealed in this PhillyMag piece (and a previous story in 1999) to be, in fact, a commercial front for a vaguely-scary-but-really-just-super-strange South Philly religious cult called the Church of Bible and Understanding. So what you got now is, like, a Mexican standoff involving GOP flacks, warring super-rich people on the Main Line, some salvage dudes, and then some other salvage dudes who also happen to be cult members.

And that is why America is the greatest country on Earth

Power: A Cult Hit
How members of a religious cult — hired by Penn — could make thousands selling off Convention Hall
By Sabrina Rubin Erdely

To some people, preserving the Art Deco treasures of West Philadelphia’s Convention Hall was a near-religious calling. So perhaps it’s fitting that during the building’s recent demolition, one of the “architectural salvage” crews — one that ended up with possibly hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of goodies — was part of a religious cult. Olde Good Things, the company that won the right to dismantle the building’s exterior and keep salvageable materials, is actually a moneymaking arm of the Church of Bible Understanding, a religious cult Philly Mag exposed in an award-winning investigation (“I’ll Be Damned,” June 1999).

The group, whose compound occupies a square block of Southwest Philly, began in the ’70s and was parodied on Seinfeld as the “carpet cleaning cult.” But in the past decade, it discovered there’s far more money to be made in the current lust for home improvement. Nearly overnight, Olde Good Things has become a $4 million architectural salvage firm — owing, former members say, to its employees’ willingness to work long hours for little pay.

The University of Pennsylvania, which owns the Convention Hall site, claims it had no clue that Olde Good Things was affiliated with a cult.

Ok, so I have a video to try to load later that was the FANTASTIC piece done on La Ronda this morning on the 10! Show. Lori from Lower Merion Conservancy and Kathleen from Save La Ronda knocked it out of the park and Bill Henley was just terrific!

So there is also an Inquirer article and they switched the story off again to Derrick Nunnally. Yo Derrick? La Ronda isn't dead yet. But the Inquirer missed the whole salavage company as front for cult thing, which is kind of surprising.

And another thing, Kania's publicist? Jay Devine? I was reading an old article in the Inquirer on the Inquirer and realized he must be the same Jay Devine who speaks for the paper as an entire entity sometimes? Wow, I am dizzy trying to keep up with La Ronda.

Posted on Thu, Sep. 17, 2009
Does emptying LaRonda mansion mean the end is near?
By Derrick Nunnally
Inquirer Staff Writer

Is this the beginning of the end of La Ronda?
In a historic-preservation debate so intense that both the mansion's owner and the man who sold it months ago hired public-relations experts, one of the dispute's key players signaled yesterday that he believed the historic house was doomed.

After holding off for weeks, former La Ronda owner Arthur J. Kania sent in an architectural-salvage crew yesterday morning to haul away the remaining pieces of the 80-year-old house that are worth auctioning off or donating.

"We've done everything we could," said Kania's spokesman, Jay Devine.

Under a contract with the immense Bryn Mawr villa's owner, Joseph Kestenbaum, Kania could have been carrying away pieces of La Ronda since Sept. 1, which was 30 days before a demolition permit becomes usable.

But after the arrival of a Florida man who wanted to buy, move and preserve the Addison Mizner-designed home, Kania left its remaining unique fixtures in place. He offered them to would-be buyer Benjamin Wohl if a deal could be struck for Wohl to move the immense home off Kestenbaum's land.

After Kestenbaum on Tuesday, through his own spokesman, announced that Wohl "chose not to pursue the purchase," Kania decided that the deal was dead and that the house should be stripped of some remaining radiators, chandeliers, doors, plumbing, and other fixtures.

"We're not going to be able to preserve them if we don't start getting them out," Devine said, "and it looks like the sale process for the physical fixture of the house has ended, according to Mr. Kestenbaum's statement."

Wohl, by phone from Florida, expressed disappointment on hearing Kania had begun salvage work at La Ronda while he still had hope a deal to move the house could happen.

"If stuff is taken out and if it's being dismantled," Wohl said, "then at some point I'm not the guy to deal with it anymore. It's a wrecking job, and it's for a demolition guy."...Kestenbaum's statement says he required Wohl to "negotiate away the salvage rights" by tomorrow as part of a deal for the house to be moved.

"They gave away Kania's stuff, allegedly, and they want me to get them a release for that," Wohl fumed. "Where I come from, that's called chutzpah."

Kania has been willing, but the New Jersey salvage company has not, Wohl said. The company did not return a call yesterday.

Kestenbaum's spokesman, Jeff Jubelirer, said Wohl had agreed to the requirements and was attempting a "publicity stunt" by offering further negotiations.

"He hasn't proven or shown that he can execute," Jubelirer said. "You can come up here and do your charade and get lots of press and make us look like the evil guy, but you've had time."

Is it impolite to refer to Kestenbaum as a classless douche bag?

And this Jubelirer is the publicist retained by the Merion Community Coalition? If he still is under contract, I say to them, find someone else, he has blood on his hands, the blood of La Ronda, right?

Now apparently Recycling the Past in Barnegat, NJ which has what Kestenbaum decided to remove before Kania got there isn't returning anyone's calls. So here is how to contact them - ask them to cede THEIR rights to Benjamin Wohl:

www.recyclingthepast.com
Business Hours: Tues. through Sun., 10 am - 5 pm EST and by appointment.
Mailing Address: 381 North Main Street, Barnegat, NJ. 08005
Phone Number: (609) 660-9790
Email:

And I am still scratching my head at WHY Bruce Reed would ask Sandra Shultz Newman to mediate over La Ronda? She was involved during the Edwin Daly Years, remember?

Today, I have gone from sad and gray over La Ronda to just plain pissed off. It's all ridiculous, and here we have this nice man who wants to help and has the money to named Benjamin Wohl who would be an asset to our community, and he is the human ping pong ball between Kania and Kestenbaum? Unfrigginbelievable. (Sorry, not feeling eloquent, just pissed off)

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Is anyone aware of any information that can support Kestenbaum's publicist's claim that Benjamin Wohl "can't execute" on Wohl's offer to buy and move La Ronda?

"He hasn't proven or shown that he can execute," Jubelirer said. "You can come up here and do your charade and get lots of press and make us look like the evil guy, but you've had time."

(Quote from Derrick Nunnally's Inquirer article, posted Sep. 17, 2009, "Does emptying LaRonda mansion mean the end is near?")

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I don't know, that article did not sit with me the right way. Not at all. It had a "tone".
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L'homme est né libre, et partout il est dans les fers/Man is born free, yet he is everywhere in chains.–Jean Jacques Rosseau. The Social Contract, 1762

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I don't know, that article did not sit with me the right way. Not at all. It had a "tone".

A "tone"? Don't know what that means.

Maybe an article that seems to be overly influenced by an intent to "spin" rather than to accurately convey known-to-be-true information? An article affected by an intentional leak of a spin-view intended to offset other information?

Lori Salganicoff's statements on the NBC 10 video (aired on 9-16-09, http://www.saveardmorecoalition.org/node/3620,"La Ronda in The News: Are You Watching Kestenbaum?"), are inconsistent with the conclusion that Benjamin Wohl's offer was not viable.

Her position with the Lower Merion Conservancy and evident involvement in the La Ronda matter from the beginning are consistent with the conclusion that Wohl's offer was reasonable and feasible.

(NOTE: No intent to suggest or cast aspersions on Derrick Nunnally. Rather, the Inquirer has published at least one piece within the past year on issues in Lower Merion so slanted that it was most accurately--and kindly--labelled a piece of spin. Not referring to articles by Nunnally.)

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