The Death of Gentrification Guilt

On the bleeding edge of Center City, young, privileged, and plugged-in New Philadelphians have grown tired of apologizing for their presence.

Le Bok Fin

Opening night patrons at Le Bok Fin. | Photo credit: Michelle Gustafson

A few months ago, developer Lindsey Scannapieco paid $1.75 million for a 340,000-square-foot property in South Philadelphia right around the corner from my apartment. For 75 years, the building had been the Edward W. Bok Technical High School, until officials closed it and 23 other public schools in 2013 amid major financial cutbacks. Scannapieco and her team immediately got to work transforming the rooftop of the eight-story building into a pop-up French restaurant. They installed a kitchen and two open-air bars. They drew up a menu: $6 “Paris” hot dogs, $8 baguettes, $12 charcuterie plates. Where the school’s flag once flew, they raised their own. And exactly one month later, Le Bok Fin was open.

Overnight, Le Bok Fin became the destination of summer for a certain slice of New Philadelphia. On weekends, hundreds of young, taut, mostly white patrons happily waited in line for a rickety old elevator that took them to the rooftop of the old vo-tech school. I was one of them (although my taut days are behind me). The drinks were good, and the view of the city’s skyline was stunning. But I was troubled a bit by an unsettling feeling that my fellow New Philadelphians and I were fiddling while Rome burned. No one else seemed concerned. They were having too much fun. A night at Le Bok Fin was a voyeuristic adventure with unrivaled selfie settings: the dusty lockers, the old gymnasium, the “Do Not Drink From Sinks” signs in the bathrooms. At least one couple staged a back-to-school-themed wedding shoot at the building. Le Bok Fin had gone Philly-viral. Soon, so would the debate over its ephemeral, five-week existence.

It started when local teacher Kayla Conklin wrote a blog post: “Why ‘Le Bok Fin’ Is Misguided and Wrong for the Neighborhood.” She called the project “tone-deaf” and accused Scannapieco of trying to gentrify the working-class, immigrant neighborhood around the former school. Conklin was far from a public figure; in fact, her commentary was the first entry on her personal blog. Bok’s redevelopment, she wrote, “is giving me a lot of feelings.” You get the idea.

But the post struck a nerve, and it, too, went viral. Only not because anti-gentrification zealots were taking to Facebook and Twitter. Instead, it was an incensed band of young, privileged urbanites, including many of my friends and neighbors, that broadcast far and wide the musings of this newly minted amateur blogger. The post sought to shame them, and when it comes to remaking the city in their own image, New Philadelphians will not be shamed.

“There’s absolutely nothing wrong with a development that primarily aims to bring new people into the neighborhood, including people who don’t have the same profile as the people who already live there,” wrote one journalist. Couldn’t the restaurant’s cheerleaders see how it was a little sad that in a place where mostly black students had once learned about carpentry and the culinary arts, mostly white people were now drinking rosé? “Ya, they should have turned Bok into an authentic bodega/taqueria that I could have Columbused,” an IT consultant quipped. But didn’t people deserve a little space in which to mourn the death of a once-great school? “I don’t understand what people are grieving over,” an architect commented. “That happened two years ago.” But what about, um, showing some compassion? “Guys we all just lack empathy,” a marketing pro joked at the suggestion. “Volunteer a little more would ya?”

PRIVILEGED, LEFTY URBANISTS ridiculing gentrification handwringers — instead of doing the hand-wringing themselves — is a relatively new phenomenon. But that’s who Le Bok Fin’s biggest boosters are: young professionals who read CityLab, drink craft beer and ride their bikes to work. They voted for Jim Kenney and Tom Wolf and Barack Obama.

In the past, after reading Conklin’s essay, people like this probably would have retreated to their renovated rowhomes and quietly pondered the unintended side effects of redevelopment. That’s what I did. But instead of feeling bad, or at least conflicted, about the profound impact their presence is having on the landscape and culture of Philadelphia, my peers stand tall. “I don’t feel guilty,” says Jon Geeting, an editor at PlanPhilly and a leading member of this tribe of New Philadelphians. “Cities change. They always change.”

Well, most cities change. Philadelphia famously has not — until very recently. But between 2007 and 2013, the U.S. Census Bureau estimates, the city’s population of adults aged 20 to 34 grew by 106,000. No other big city in the country grew its millennial population by a larger percentage over that time. If anything, that number — which accounts for young people who’ve left — downplays the churn: Each year, 46,000 people between the ages of 18 and 34 move to Philadelphia, the Census Bureau estimates.

To be sure, the Le Bok Fin combatants are a distinct, rather homogenous subgroup. Taken as a whole, New Philadelphians are an extraordinarily diverse bunch, many of whom couldn’t care less about a rooftop bar. But the chunk of New Philly that does get defensive whenever the G-word is mentioned has had outsized influence in Philadelphia. They’re shaping the debate in the media and changing the demographics of neighborhoods far from the wealthy progressive enclaves of Center City and Chestnut Hill, and their economic might is stoking development and rejuvenating commercial districts from Passyunk to Market East to North Broad.

As a group, New Philadelphians remain relatively politically disengaged — at least on Election Day. But my fellow NPs clearly have strong political opinions about local matters, particularly matters that have a direct link to life in the city as they experience it. More generally, many seem to think Old Philadelphians are a parochial bunch, altogether too tolerant of corruption and mediocrity. “Philadelphia has made tremendous progress in the decade I’ve lived here,” 33-year-old Geoff Kees Thompson wrote this winter as he introduced a new political action committee called 5th Square, which backs urbanist-friendly politicians. “What it needs now more than ever are better leaders who think progressively about our city, not retrograde candidates stuck to our decline-filled past.”

In a city that moves very, very slowly, the New Philadelphians are an impatient lot. They flood 311 with complaints about trash-strewn blocks, obstructed sidewalks and fading bike lanes. Last spring, after seeing other cities pull off 24-hour subway service on the weekends, they demanded that SEPTA do it here — and won. When four old-school state lawmakers complained about pop-up beer gardens, writing in a letter that the establishments were a “grave concern,” newcomers blew up their phone lines and convinced them to back off. One of those legislators, who had been in office for 29 years, told me he’d never gotten more calls about a single issue in his career. Not even schools.

In addition to beer gardens, we newbies tend to favor dense development, investment in transit, and policies that discourage car ownership. We’re urbanists, through and through. But too much of the time, my comrades appear certain that their view on any number of controversial big-city questions is the objectively correct one. On Le Bok Fin, they’re right on several points, most obviously that it’s far better for a hulking building to be put to use, any use, than to sit vacant.

But their certitude goes much further than it should, into murkier, more complex matters. Take the issue of gentrification. Many NPs argue that it doesn’t exist, not as it’s commonly understood. They cite academic studies that show impoverished residents actually move out of gentrifying neighborhoods at lower rates than they move out of neighborhoods that aren’t changing. They point to University of Colorado-Boulder economist Terra McKinnish’s findings that the incomes of black high-school graduates went up when their neighborhoods gentrified. In other words, plugged-in New Philadelphians argue, gentrification isn’t the problem — it’s the solution. I wish it were that simple.

BACK IN 2007, I MOVED from rural Pennsylvania to Fishtown. My roommates and I quickly developed a crush on Philly, but we were irked by much of what we saw: the city’s anti-bike attitude, its trash-strewn streets, the fact that then-Mayor John Street was waiting in line for nearly 15 hours to buy an iPhone. We were the only New Philadelphians on our block, though, and that made us a little reluctant to loudly demand solutions like extra bike lanes or citywide street cleaning. Today, neighborhoods like Fishtown are bursting at the seams with people like us.

New Philadelphians have reached a critical mass, and that’s emboldened some of them. Then there’s the self-esteem factor. After hearing for years that white flight decimated cities, some NPs find it deflating — embittering, even — to be resented as gentrifiers when they move to certain Philly neighborhoods. I think they should buck up and try to understand where Old Philadelphians are coming from. My peers, not so much. “Where do we want the upper middle class people to live?” asks Geeting. “Anywhere?”

Timing seems to play a key role as well. Take Thompson. The Maryland native moved to Philly in 2005, and in his first decade here, he watched the city’s homicide rate drop precipitously, its debt rating rise to an A-plus, and its population increase for the first time in 60 years. Compare that to what Jeff Hornstein saw when he settled in Philadelphia in 1990: Crime was rampant, City Hall was on the brink of bankruptcy, and affluent people were moving out. To Hornstein, there were — and still are — two Philadelphias: “There’s Bostonadelphia, which is where we live,” he says, “and then there’s Detroitadelphia, which … is much bigger.”

Though both Hornstein and Thompson began as educated, well-to-do, politically active transplants, they took very different paths. Hornstein made it his mission to fight for Detroitadelphia. He became an organizer for a janitors union and ran for City Council on a jobs platform. When he lost, he told himself, “Let’s start a little bit smaller.” He then campaigned to become president of the Queen Village Neighbors Association, and won by promising to build a bridge between the area’s poor and wealthy residents. That’s the old model of privileged urban liberalism.

Thompson represents a new model. His PAC advocates for more parks funding, more open data, and safer streets for pedestrians and cyclists. These issues are more pressing than they might sound: In the past year and a half, there have been more than 22,000 hit-and-runs in the city, and the dead and injured are hardly limited to new arrivals. Still, there’s no denying that these are also topics near and dear to Bostonadelphians’ hearts.

And while Hornstein is slow, steady, and willing to work with his enemies, Thompson readily acknowledges he’d rather defeat his. During this year’s primary election, the 5th Square PAC bought up several longtime city politicians’ domain names — the modern-day equivalent of planting your campaign lawn signs directly in front of your opponent’s.

THAT APPROACH DOESN’T SIT WELL with a lot of people, including some members of the same tribe.

Matt Ruben is one of the original New Philadelphians. The 46-year-old head of the Northern Liberties Neighbors Association moved to the city in 1992. He’s long fought the good fight for zoning reform and smarter waterfront development. In fact, Geeting credits Ruben and others like him with elevating the urbanist cause. “They did a lot of that work, which developed it into a political issue,” says Geeting, “and it’s taken on more of the language of politics.”

And the tone as well. In the Bok debate, some of my fellow New Philadelphians treated the suggestion that they should work on their empathy as a punch line. Ruben was disgusted: “When people say ‘This photograph of people doing yoga on the roof and posing next to ‘Water Not Safe to Drink’ signs [at Le Bok Fin] is appalling and symbolizes the problems we have in our city,’ I do not understand what kind of mentality can listen to that and say, ‘You’re vindictive, you’re stupid, you’re ignorant, you have your facts wrong.’”

But does that antagonistic approach work? Ruben thinks not. “They are excellent at being strong advocates,” he says of the NPs. “They’re not as good at educating people who don’t already agree with them.” The newcomers would argue that since Old Philadelphia still has a near-stranglehold on the big levers of power — the Democratic Party, Council, the unions and so on — they have to scream and shout to get anyone’s attention. They’re like a cat whose fur stands on end so she can look bigger than she is.

I understand why they’re doing it, but Ruben’s right. Hell, I’m a 29-year-old New Philadelphian, and these New Philadelphians are alienating me.

Tone isn’t the only problem, or even the biggest one. I’m genuinely worried about what will be lost if yoga studios sweep the landscape. It’s one thing for D.C. or San Francisco to be sterilized. But Philly is different. Philly is old, Philly is weird, Philly is special. I’m not a glorifier of grit. Far from it. But there’s a real problem with people who act like much of the city is garbage that needs a thorough New Philadelphia cleaning.

And I’d hoped for more out of my peers than bike lanes and beer gardens. Don’t get me wrong; that stuff is great. But Philadelphia has massive problems. It’s the poorest big city in the nation. There are roughly 395,000 residents living in poverty here, 126,000 of them children. Our school system is terminally underfunded. The city could use New Philly’s help.

Many of my peers moved here precisely because they wanted to save the city. They were idealists. But sometime between the 2007 election of Mayor Michael Nutter and the day U.S. Congressman Chaka Fattah was charged with using taxpayer money and charitable donations to pay back an illegal $1 million campaign loan, they changed. Thompson says they’re “pragmatic,” but “cynical” may be the more accurate word. They’ve started believing they can only change the small stuff — or, worse, they’ve started thinking that what’s most important is fixing what most bothers them.

When Thompson talks about education funding, he gets as fired up as I’ve ever seen him. “If I could tell you one piece of American public policy that I think is the most anti-Democratic thing,” he declares, “it’s the way that we fund our school system through property taxes!” But, he tells me, that’s not the right fight for him. For one thing, there are plenty of education-focused nonprofits already. Plus, he says, “Politically, it’s not possible.”

I get it. The city’s problems are enormous and systemic. Some days they seem intractable. But New Philadelphians owe it to the city — and themselves — to try to solve them, to shoot higher, and to fight for much more than a rooftop bar.

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  • PhillyBlows998

    Why would anyone every apologize for gentrification in the first place? It takes garbage areas and improves them. The people who live there only pay more property tax because their homes are now worth more. That is called a good thing. Truth is the only people who complain about gentrification are usually black people who are racist towards the people who are moving in. So sorry your dump is now a nice place, with law abiding, tax paying citizens.

    Gentrify the entire city!

    • mike t

      Why would we want to gentrify the entire city? We need all that crime, filth and poverty to keep a nice balance.

      • BoStaff

        That’s what the northeast is for

        • PJ

          there’s a lot of crime in the northeast?

    • Dude

      such an ignorant statement…

    • Drjmvamp927

      I totally agree with you! I have been buying and rehabbing homes in North,West, South Philly,Fairmount,Girard area for over 20 yrs. The “verbal crap” I have dealt with over the last 20 yrs have been from neighborhood people who let their homes and neighborhood go to crap.Except in Point Breeze,where I’ve dealt with “low-class white trash” but I told them I’m “white trash from old Manayunk,project trash form East Falls” and you don’t want to mess with me,they normally shut up.

    • fraufrau

      you know, it’s really not their fault that they are poor or that the neighborhoods are run down. there are policies in place that have essentially ghetto-ized certain areas. it gets really hard to work or make a decent living when there is no easy access to jobs or decent education, really hard to start a business when you don’t have that education or your neighborhood isn’t zoned for it. really hard to do a damn thing about it when there is no political will to offer public transport to your neighborhood or tax credits for businesses to open.

      it doesn’t make it any easier when the poor are periodically forced to leave their homes because they can no longer afford to live in a yuppie playground. their homes may be “worth” more, but most of them don’t own their homes, so the landlords raise rent and they have to leave. they have to gather and re-group somewhere where their prospects are probably even worse. again and again and again. even if they do “own” their homes, that doesn’t mean that they can afford the property taxes without taking out another mortgage. in the end they’ll have to end up selling because they aren’t going to be able to get a job at the tech firm opening up across the street with the limited education that they’ve received from going to a failing school.

  • ES

    Wow, nicely balanced piece. While not personally a NP (came here in 1981 for school), I remain in their camp. It’s precisely because of decades worth of politicians like Fattah, Street, Mariano, Goode Jr and some Councilwoman who used her city car to drive the kid to an expensive private school every day that you have to throw up your hands and say: if they don’t care about the WHOLE city, why should I? These politicians are THE people entrusted to take care of the whole city, but they generally have only their self interests as a priority. Thank god for Rendell who got the ball rolling, or we would be Detroit. The facts that many politicians are crooks doesn’t seem to bother many Old Philadelphians which I find unbelievable. I think the FBI investigation of Street as he ran against Katz for a second term actually got many OPs out to vote FOR him, because Street twisted it into a racist plot.

    If the city welcomed more working NPs with good salaries to the city and supported them in what’s important to them we’d have more tax dollars from their wage taxes and RE taxes. We should be growing our tax BASE and not our tax RATES. When I was a NP myself, I wanted the same things that today’s NPs want: a clean, safe, enjoyable place to live with resources and businesses that matched my needs. Let’s be more welcoming, less judgemental and maybe learn from the NPs.

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    • dmeehan

      “if they don’t care about the WHOLE city, why should I?”

      When did we get to the point where others moral failings are an excuse for our own?

      • PJ

        the law of the jungle

      • TarHeel Trouble

        You arrogant holier-than-thou jerk. Yes, it’s possible that several generations of “take, take, take” borderline criminal politicians can discourage someone with higher ambitions. And I bet you voted for every one of them!

        • dmeehan

          So generations of systematic disenfranchisement might lead someone to lose faith in the system and not live up to their potential? And this is justified (or at least understandable) regardless of any appeals to personal accountability? Interesting…tell me more.

          • TarHeel Trouble

            It’s so ingrained in the system that those with higher ambitions and a sense of realism move on / move out. The city is left with folks who support social programs that make them feel like they are contributing / make them feel better, while the programs do nothing but suck money down the drain. ……………folks like you.

          • dmeehan

            Those *with the financial and social resources, support, and opportunities* move out. Those who are oblivious to the realities of people at the bottom tiers of society and can’t possibly fathom that other’s experiences are different from there own get indignant about it……..folks like you.

          • TarHeel Trouble

            Nice try. My Dad’s 8th grade education didn’t get me much, but he made me commit to education and hard work. I try to see what value a program adds before I commit (or ask someone else, e.g. taxpayers) to commit.

          • TarHeel Trouble

            Sorry, ended early there. ….. commit money to a program. It’s nice if a social program sounds good (and makes folks like dmeehan feel good, feel like they’re “helping’, but it means nothing unless It produces results.

  • Samuel Nicholas

    Isn’t the basic profile of the New Philadelphian single or married and childless? Who else spends half their disposable income on going to restaurants? I may exaggerate but that seems to be a constant in the articles about New Philadelphia. I’m an old Philadelphian who returned in the last decade. Certainly, there is much that has improved. But there is no way I want to see the Jeff Hornsteins or Jon Geetings ever obtain political power. Old Philadelphia respects toughness not the dogooder who believes that his inherent intelligence makes him worthy of the power to impose his ways upon us. New Philadelphians, jusf keep telling us that we must give up our car and ride a bicycle and it’ll soon be time to kick your ass back to wherever you came from.

    • PAPlan

      Why so hostile? People are moving to Philadelphia because they love it just like you. Your stereotypes are silly. I grew up in Appalachia, my father is an autoworker, my grandfather was a coal miner. I worked hard to get to where I am and to be able to call Philly home. There are plenty of new Philadelphians just like me.

      No one is telling you that you MUST give up anything or do anything, but if we made it easier for more people to give up their car then that would benefit us all because it would mean less congestion for you too.

  • Has anyone lived in or spent a great deal of time in Montreal as well as Philadelphia? I wonder if any comparisons can be drawn. Montreal has been slower to gentrify than the rest of Canadian big cities (usually happens in the form of condos there).

  • Milly Taylor
  • Justthetruth

    There will always be poor people and there will always be slums. And while those living in poverty are subject to many things that are not their fault, much of their continued state of poverty is the result of bad decision making. But, to be fair, the affluent – and especially these upper middle class or even upper class young or younger people – are where they are because of their privileged networking (not hard work, even if they DO work hard): networking that others don’t have access to. You can preach all you want about diversity and equality but in the end elitism always wins.

    • BoStaff

      Well isn’t that just the greatest generalization anyone’s ever read. #sad

      • Justthetruth

        Well here’s another generalization to add insult to injury. Most of these young urban white people are the children of doofus pushover fathers and sniveling snit mothers. So sorry.

  • NateFried

    The biggest take away I see from this article is Ruben’s opinion that NP is good at advocating to a group that already agrees with them but not to a group that doesn’t. As a NP who came in 2003 from across the river in the northeast, got his BS, PhD, and currently as a post-doctoral fellow in the heart of the city…I have seen so much change and excitement here, but there is certainly a divide between old and new philly that can only be bridged by finding common ground and considering the needs between both groups. Cars is a great example. Old Philly needs cars but new philly doesn’t. New Philly needs to understand the need of a car for reverse commuting old philly and old philly needs to understand that the need for free parking can negatively impact the ability to grow. Too often the arguments just end up with anger and yelling. We have to understand one another before we can make progress. The answer of course for cars is CAP AND TRADE! As for gentrification…in philly, the only people we need to worry about are long-term renters who never bought a home. Long term home owners have tax relief which will greatly help them. Cultural gentrification (ie white washing or “sterilized” as the author puts it) ,however, is definitely happening in many parts of the city. In terms of that, Getting is right. Cities change. But again, its a matter of each side trying to understand one another. Old Philly needs to realize that new philly is simply moving here because they are attracted to this city. New Philly needs to understand that as they move into a new neighborhood, just as when you are introduced to a new group of friends, you need to be respectful and have your thoughts on trying to integrate to a certain extent into that community. I believe the biggest concerns of old philly in terms of gentrification is the way that they feel as they see newcomers enter into their neighborhood, buy expensive houses, or start new businesses as a collective of only new comers without integrating much into the neighborhood itself. Old Philly needs to see that this is not always the case, but new philly needs to be aware of these potential feelings and be respectful as they move into a new area. Its similar to a book I read a long time ago called the “mindful traveler” or something, which tried to make travelers mindful of the people who live in the areas they travel. Maybe something along the lines of a “mindful gentrifier” is warranted here.

    • Mike Oneill

      Hey, D*bag PhD…newsflash. There have been tons of long-term renters in the city who spend much disposable income, volunteer within their communities, pay city wage tax, and belong here just as much as a home owner. People do not own for VARIOUS reasons. Terrible point coming from a PhD. Stick to science. Unless of course, “long term renter” is code for something else?

      • NateFried

        You are not the friendliest person I’ve ever met online. As for “long term renter”, that means they are pretty much the only group of people in the city who are at risk of being pushed out by rising prices since rent will increase faster than the tax burden due to the gentrification relief opportunities for those who own their home. In no way am I saying anything other than the idea that they are the most “at risk of gentrification”. If there is any anti-gentrification efforts pursued, it should be for them. Philly, however, still has the highest home ownership rates of any big city ( Thus, my argument being that there is more of a cultural gentrification going on rather than a resident one. To combat that, its important to consider the culture of the old as the new moves in.

      • Los Campesinos

        Totally missed his thoughtful point because you were anxious to jump on what you perceived as a racial/classist slight. This is the reason the divide between people continues to grow and be reinforced with vitriol.

    • judethom

      The so called New Philly reformers, in their 20s and 30s, rich with Mommy’s money, who rehab houses and move into working class neighborhoods, often do not communicate or relate to their long term neighbors. They isolate themselves and form “pods,” and this builds resentment.

      • NateFried

        I wouldn’t say its all “mommy’s money” though. That’s what is so amazing about Philadelphia, its a city that is still at a price point where people like me (growing up very poor) have an opportunity to purchase a home or renovate one. I do, however, agree that its the isolation that generates the anger from the people in the neighborhood. Gentrification wouldn’t sting so much if the new comers were there to be “part” of the neighborhood as opposed to not interact with it until it becomes something they like.

  • mike t

    The nerve of these people, buying a dilapidated piece of property that no one else wants with their own money, improving it, and then opening a business which brings in tax money to the city. They should be ashamed.

    • Drjmvamp927

      They should fix the property,and then turn it over to the “very people” who let their neighborhood go to S**T,did nothing about it,live in the filth,and complain when “people with jobs and money who pay taxes,spend money in Philly” want to live there.

      • Anthony Patterrson

        Right, no one in those neighborhoods worked or paid taxes, or fought to improve it. It’s important to keep telling yourself that.

        • surlybastard

          No, the residents themselves didn’t let it happen, but who kept putting Fumo, Goode, Street, etc. into office? How many of the city’s politicians have ended up under federal investigation? How many have gone to prison for some kind of corruption?

          • Pirate7X

            Rizzo, thank you? This reactionary and polarized politics that keeps Philly divided and broke goes waaaay back.

  • Loren Robbinson

    As a new Black Philadelphian, I guess I have a different perspective. Most of my “free” time is spent on community service and engaging with other peers of color, both new and old Philadelphians, who love and are committed to making this city better. Holly, I would admonish you to step outside of your comfort zone and your privilege zone to meet some of these fine folk. Several of them ran for public office in this last election and many people are doing more for this city in a day’s work than any single word, phrase, or paragraph gave them credit for in your piece above. Be part of the solution Holly, not the problem.

    • Dude

      Nicely said! I would love to know what community service group are you involve in?

    • Holly Otterbein

      Thank you for the thoughtful comment. This story is very much a critique of the gentrification triumphalism (and sometimes self-centered political agenda) of a subset of New Philadelphians, who are mostly white, liberal and well-educated. I describe them here: “The Le Bok Fin combatants are a distinct, rather homogenous subgroup. Taken as a whole, New Philadelphians are an extraordinarily diverse bunch, many of whom couldn’t care less about a rooftop bar. But the chunk of New Philly that does get defensive whenever the G-word is mentioned has had outsized influence in Philadelphia.”

      So when I use “New Philadelphian” as shorthand throughout the story, that’s who I’m talking about. But it is just that: shorthand.

      You shine a light on an important issue, which is that the media (myself and PhillyMag very much included) needs to cover other New Philadelphians more, including people of color, older people and immigrants. I don’t think that fact should prevent me from writing a critique of one group of NPs. But I do agree 100% that other NPs are undercovered, and I want to be part of changing that. Please feel free to reach out. I’d love to talk with you more.

  • MA

    This article was truly revolting. New Philadelphians? Please. Just stay out of Uptown. You’ll be in for a real fight.

    • Eric the Red

      Cuz uptown funk gone give it to ya?

  • Holly usually knocks it out of the park, but this one is a bunt to 1st for me. I read it as more observation than news, and while hers well-worded, is one that I feel is not difficult for others to make on their own.
    Stuff like “my comrades appear certain that their view on any number of controversial big-city questions is the objectively correct one” can speak about nearly any demographic. Young urbanists aren’t the only group to aim to be well-read and favor empiricism, nor are they the only group to feel their conclusions were arrived at with firm intellectualism. Nor is there nothing new about a demographic being politically nuanced but not participating heavily in elections. It sucks, but it’s no portent. And finally (not Otterbein’s words), “They’re not as good at educating people who don’t already agree with them.” Who, as a group *is* good at doing that? I need to know, so I can spend more time around them and possibly be swayed.
    Ms. Conklin’s piece was junk, and as a journalist covering urban topics I’m surprised Holly wasn’t equally as furious as her article’s subjects when that junk was shared about like news.

  • republicanatheist

    Part of the problem is that the city has been run by one party for more than 60 years. That’s not healthy in any democracy as we’ve seen from the amount of corruption in the ranks of the city’s Democratic politicians. So long as they have not real competition, nothing will change. How many NP’s would dare to pull the R lever in the municipal elections this November?

  • mcwsunshine

    OMG, Gawd forbid anyone should improve a city steeped in crime, by bring tax-paying services and jobs to the area. Gawd forbid, anyone should do anything positive to pull a city out of abject poverty or families out of generational dependency on government. The budding success of Philadelphia is clearly not a part of the agenda of a government that promotes low expectations and further decline in our cities. The left promotes this economic dependency, promotes the crime and corruption in local government and expects, in return, nothing less than slavish devotion in the voting booth.

  • alwaysconfused

    Thank you Holly for a thoughtful article. However, as has been mentioned, perhaps the thing that is missing here is the displacement of longtime residents (renters as well) in these neighborhoods. It seems some are quick to refer to garbage and abandoned homes. Simply put, as a lifelong Philadelphian who has lived in such a neighborhood, it’s a much deeper issue than garbage and vacant properties. It speaks of a purposeful neglect of certain communities to spur such change. Also as a lifelong Philadelphia, I recall neighborhoods being a clean place to raise children. Neighbors prided themselves on assuring sidewalks and steps were maintained. Parents were comfortable and confident that their children were safe because the neighborhood was really a village where each watched out for the other. Remember, there was a history (and great one) before newer, disconnected people came into the neighborhoods. That should be celebrated, respected, and considered. I am proud to be from South Philly, not because I am on a crusade to redefine territory, but because it is my home. If home is where the heart is, then consider what home means. It is a place, good or bad, where we poke our our chests and smile at the very sound of our neighborhood or block. The memories, friendships, extended families, enjoyments, laughs, sorrows, triumphs and tragedies. That’s home. Home is not some recent construct of trendy bars and rooftop hotdog huts, far removed from those who paid their dues and should be able to live unthreatened by increased taxes and developer hounds seeking to displace them simply because they no longer fit. If you come here, show some respect and try to understand the people because, rather some know it or not, they were here first, and since “gentrification” connotes “people coming into a place” it tends to suggest that people did not already exist prior, when surely we did, and do, and expect to remain. Use any modified monikers you wish, i.e. New Philadelphians (NP), urbanists, etc. I am from the “neighborhood” and that speaks more of what I am, “a neighbor.”

  • disqus_yeXoLuD8ui

    Gentrification is the off-spring of the original ancestor: “redlining” and it’s cousin “urban renewal”.

    I realize most people think the people who inhabit poor neighborhoods do so because they’ve made bad choices, and perhaps some of them have. However, many slums were created by outsiders with the blessings and assistance to developers of government and elected officials.

    A very good article, (The Real-life Negro Removals”), explains this process and may show people who dare to read it that the world is not always as one thinks it is.

    • PAPlan

      I’m fairly certain that both Holly and most of the “new Philadelphians” she is talking about are well aware of the nasty history of redlining and urban renewal. These are well-educated, progressive folks. I’ll gladly read your article, because I think it will probably be interesting–but you are preaching to the choir.

  • Edwin L Goff, PhD

    A nice balance would include a ‘hyperbole counterweight’ in the Title, e.g.,:

    “The Death of Gentrification Guilt: *the Rebirth of Noblesse Oblige*”

  • Lele215

    Privileged millienials acting entitled? I’m shocked.

  • dmeehan

    This is a very well-written article which takes time to cover the many sides of a very complex issue. Nice to see in this world of polarized click-bait. Thanks.

    • surlybastard

      I have to disagree with that. The problems that these communities are facing are due to the years of failure on the part of of city hall and Harrisburg; this is given little mention in the article. The new residents appear to be tired of being scapegoated for the historical problems of the city.

      • dmeehan

        “tired of being scapegoated”? Poor them! Being critiqued on some blogs! What injustice! Perhaps they should work a little harder to not be so oblivious to those structural issues.

        • surlybastard

          You make it sound as though they somehow conspired with Goode 30 years ago to put the city into its present condition.

          • dmeehan

            No, just not be oblivious.

          • surlybastard

            So I guess it would have been better to leave Bok Tech to lie fallow, for the community to “mourn?”

          • dmeehan

            No, I have no problem with the reuse of the space, per se. But to become self-servingly defensive when asked to consider the powerful metaphor of a former public vocational school now turned into a luxury french restaurant shows a lack of character, and a lack of respect for civic duty.

            They are not responsible for the cities past, but as residents, they are now responsible for its future. As citizens, they are responsible for understanding the history, understanding the problems, and understanding how these problems have effected the future of their neighbors and, if they don’t move on to follow the next trend, or escape to the suburbs for the schools, themselves.

            Their attitude comes off as myopic and oblivious. Oblivious to the condition of their neighbors, oblivious to their duty as citizens of a community, and despite their self-identification as “urbanists”, oblivious to what makes a great city.

          • bem

            Well said!

          • TarHeel Trouble

            Effort to make old obsolete buildings into attractive usable space is one way to help a city. But you are too busy pontificating to do it.

  • KenzoInASuit

    I live in a new construction home in a gentrified area. I have a good job, have a decent car and as of yet my wife and I do not have any children. Until I moved to this home I never realized how many stalwart, Philly born Negadelphians existed. I grew up in Kensington, loved my neighborhood and wouldn’t change my childhood for anything. What great memories I have from my early life in the 80’s/90’s Philly. I find now that neighbors automatically classify me in a category of “privileged” because I have a new home…That is until I tell them I’m “from the neighborhood”. Just because I come home in a suit doesn’t mean I’m privileged. I worked my ass off to get everything I have and stayed in MY city to help make it a better place. Lately I’ve been observing my neighborhood and what creates this separation between NP and OP(I’ll use these terms to reply to author’s comments. I think that is part of the problem). One thing the jumps out at me every time I open my front door. Hey Newbies, don’t be afraid to say hello, hi, how are you, good morning, etc. I must say hello 25 times a day to NP’s who look back in fear unless I’m in my work attire. Then they like me because I must be like them! You moved into a neighborhood with pride, with history and those OPs who live there went through a hell of a lot of BS to maintain it as a neighborhood while you were on a swing set in the suburban-cushy playground. You have no idea what is was like to grow up in a true Philly blue collar neighborhood. You fly in and immediately want to crusade for everything you want that Philly hasn’t had to offer. Take the time to learn about the culture, embrace everyone, even the 60 yr old fishtown native drinking a 40oz at 7am in his jorts and Steve Carlton shirt from 1980. They where all here when you weren’t. OP’s, embrace the newbies for without them, this city will die. Immediately drop the labeling as old vs new and come together as one. Things like BOK and Pop up Gardens are a fantastic use of blighted land that would otherwise sit vacant and offer nothing. Philadelphia may be changing because of the NP’s flight into the city, but the core of Philadelphia is those who kept it, loved it and hand-delivered it you to build upon. The cuts I had daily from sliding into a make-believe 1st base covered in glass, the broom handles i stole from my grandmother’s to play stickball, tackle football in the middle of the street, the labeled corners, the pride we had, the sneakers I’ve left over wires, the soft pretzels I sold and the many many hot summer nights…That was Philly, it still is and now the time has come to make Philly grand. Never forget your past, always build a better future. Come together as one. Your article is great but lacks one thing…Togetherness.

    • lnewnam

      Thank you for sharing your views! So well said.

    • Jacquie Jackson Bowler

      I also am a native Philladelphian and live in Center City. I can totally relate to your comment. Well said

    • Eric the Red

      Well said!

    • KW

      Run for public office, please. You are awesome.

    • Guest

      So very well said my friend.

  • PJ

    “But there’s a real problem with people who act like much of the city is garbage that needs a thorough New Philadelphia cleaning.”

    umm, about 85% of the city is garbage that needs a thorough cleansing

  • Anthony Patterrson

    The death of gentrification guilt (whatever that is): the birth of convenient cognitive dissonance. A pop up beer garden is not a neighborhood investment. The dissonance is in having to sign a waiver because the building you’re taking selfies in is dangerous. Sheesh.

  • SteveA

    I get the overarching point about the changing demographics in Philadelphia, but Le Bok Fin is the wrong focal point. It is not indicative of gentrification. Yes, NPs (as you call them) are defensive of the G-word because of the fact that it’s better to make use of an abandoned building than to let it sit. But NPs are just as defensive because Le Bok Fin is not pricing anyone out. There is no cover charge and you can get a beer at a reasonable price. Scannapieco – say what you will about that crowd – could have charged $10 for the view, $12 for a crappy gin and tonic, and instituted a dress code. Instead, the pricing and atmosphere is accessible to anyone. The food is an homage to the former school’s history, not a bastardization of it. This could have been gentrification, but it isn’t.

    The reason that the meaning of ‘gentrification’ is changing as you suggest is because of articles like this. That area of South Philly has always been a middle-class neighborhood, and Le Bok Fin changes nothing. The people who go there are not rich. The people who live there are not priced out. When you associate ‘gentrification’ with Le Bok Fin, you’re just criticizing change in general, even if it embraces the socio-economic class of a given neighborhood. This dilution of word meaning mutes the dialogue and should be discouraged as much as gentrification itself.

    • Guest

      well said my friend.

  • surlybastard

    Philadelphia has been controlled by the likes of Street, Fattah, Fumo, and the corrupt unions for years. And what have they done for the city? God forbid young white collar professionals should come in and upend the power structure!

  • One edit to your piece:

    Yes, I “demanded” (aka created a petition that received over 2,500 signatures) for 24/7 SEPTA train service.

    No, I’m not a “New Philadelphian.” I was born and raised in Fishtown. I have lived here for 30 years. I have had to take Night Owl buses for almost every job I’ve ever had (mostly in the service industry.) And I wanted a change, so I petitioned for it. And WE won. Old and new Philadelphia alike. Better public transit (no matter the time) is a benefit to ALL Philadelphians.

    • Hamiltonian

      yeah, that’s one of the issues I have with this piece. Everyone is pushed into roles that don’t necessarily fit them. A lot of people who are pushing to “improve” Philadelphia are home-grown Philadelphians, and not all of our concerns are aesthetic. The city I grew up in resembled the Philadelphia described by Hornstein, and the only way to avoid that Philadelphia is better local government and a better and bigger city tax-base. Going the “negadelphian” route isn’t likely to produce those results, so I chose to avoid it.

      • hildebrandtrachel

        There’s no way to talk about this issue–and we should be talking about it–without defining groups as best as possible. Of course, most don’t fit the stereotypes perfectly…

        I mean, I’m sure that I am perceived as a “New Philadelphian,” but it happens that I was born and raised here (and attended public schools my entire life). It’s a weird place to be, for sure.

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  • Bob Hartley

    What this piece ignores is the the history of housing and lending policy in the United States and how that policy benefited many of those young white people moving into what were traditionally poor and working class communities. Many of those areas were red lined by the FHA for decades (from the 1930s until 1968). That meant that no inhabitants of those areas had access to FHA or GI Bill backed loans and, because of this, they themselves could not invest in their own neighborhoods. The people who were granted FHA and GI Bill backed mortgages were white workers who wished to invest outside of the red lined areas. After WWII, herds of white workers moved to newly built suburbs (African American workers were banned from both accessing loans and/or buying those homes), taking their tax dollars with them. That white affirmative action created much of the wealth enjoyed by the white middle class, which, in turn, made it possible for their children and grandchildren to not only achieve higher incomes, but provided them with much of the wealth and credit status that makes it possible for them to invest in once red lined neighborhoods and displace poor and working class people in general, and people of color in particular. So, it doesn’t matter how “liberal” the new residents are, it is white privilege that provides the funding that displaces poor people in general, and people of color in particular.

  • ctcc

    Gentrify Norris Square!!!!! A hidden gem…great park, near transportation!

  • Bob Hartley

    What this piece ignores is the the history of housing and lending policy in the United States and how that policy benefited many of those young white people moving into what were traditionally poor and working class communities. Many of those areas were red lined by the FHA for decades (from the 1930s until 1968). That meant that no inhabitants of those areas had access to FHA or GI Bill backed loans and, because of this, they themselves could not invest in their own neighborhoods. The people who were granted FHA and GI Bill backed mortgages were white workers who wished to invest outside of the red lined areas. After WWII, herds of white workers moved to newly built suburbs (African American workers were banned from both accessing loans and/or buying those homes), taking their tax dollars with them. That white affirmative action created much of the wealth enjoyed by the white middle class, which, in turn, made it possible for their children and grandchildren to not only achieve higher incomes, but provided them with much of the wealth and credit status that makes it possible for them to invest in once red lined neighborhoods and displace poor and working class people in general, and people of color in particular. So, it doesn’t matter how “liberal” the new residents are, it is white privilege that provides the funding that displaces poor people in general, and people of color in particular.

    • Pirate7X

      Tell that truth. But they don’t hear you though, they’d rather blame the ethnic exploited and Black politicans for the whole city’s problems.

  • No Sassin’

    I’m so over poor people.

  • Matthew Christopher

    This is a thoughtful article, but I do feel it isn’t honestly addressing why people were upset with the
    anti-Bok crowd because it neglects to even mention Jobs With Justice’s
    stunt to have people interfere with the business and give it poor
    ratings online. Wanting a discussion is one thing, trying to destroy a
    business because of it is another, and that’s a large part of the reason
    people were so indignant about the Bok complainers.

  • Didite

    Some of these comments are faulting the neighbors at Bok for not coming up with an alternate solution themselves. They need a reality check; the wiggle room for non-corrupt neighbors is pretty slim.
    I live near the old West Philly High School. It’s been vacant for several years now and went through a complicated selling process to a developer. My neighbors attended plenty of meetings. They also cleaned up the trash and drug paraphernalia off the sidewalks in front of the school building. However, most of us don’t have a couple million bucks to buy the building or the shady connections to have it signed over for less.
    The situation with Bok neighbors is most likely pretty similar. You can be a law-abiding, civic-minded person and all your efforts amount to dust in the wind.

  • campmisty

    Ed Bacon and Willard Rouse were the original New Philadelphians, if that’s really a term. Both dragged a city kicking and screaming into some semblance of permanent
    modernity. That this article does not go back in time longer than the author has been of age reflects the shallowness of today’s “New Philadelphians.” I suspect, in the long run, NP’s are only here to do the “city thing” before retreating to the median of American lifestyle.

    Look! It’s Epcot Philadelphia! Soon the lovely vacation will be over.

    • bem

      ” That this article does not go back in time longer than the author has
      been of age reflects the shallowness of today’s “New Philadelphians.” I
      suspect, in the long run, NP’s are only here to do the “city thing”
      before retreating to the median of American lifestyle.”


      • judethom

        They will leave.

    • judethom

      This comment is so totally on target. These 20-30 something “New Philadelphians” only go back (in urban history) so far, then they shut down their engines. Perhaps it is time for them to start having babies and think about moving to the suburbs.

      • yankeecitygirl .

        when the children are school age and NP parents suddenly come face to face with the school system, are they going to advocate as strongly to improve the schools as they do for their trendy rooftop selfie-friendly watering holes? time will tell.

  • Los Campesinos

    “In the past, after reading Conklin’s essay, people like this probably would have retreated to their renovated rowhomes and quietly pondered the unintended side effects of redevelopment. That’s what I did.”

    There is an important place for critical discussion about the complex effects of gentrification. Grouping large numbers of individuals based on superficial commonalities and assigning them negative generalizations – while being sure to absolve yourself, of course – serves only to alienate those on one side and further incite hostility among those on the other side.

    On what do you base this claim of greater contemplation among those of generations past? Your readers undoubtedly take great comfort in knowing that your superlative thoughtfulness is around to combat the mindless depravity of the rest of the NPs. Good journalism does not reek of moral hipsterdom.

  • guest

    There is little more over rated than than the “long time resident”. Let us not forget half the long time residences are the ones who collectively ran the city into the ground in the first place. The elected the politicians, littered the streets, let their homes go to crap, paid their taxes and water bills rarely if ever, their kids have the highest rates of dropouts nearly in the entire country, and they are highly dependent all manor of government aid. And the other half fled to burbs at the first signs of decline.

    • PAPlan

      Your last sentence is the real culprit. The cities financial burdens stem from the loss of a large portion of its tax base. The people that were left behind, in many cases, were left behind because they had the wrong color skin and weren’t allowed in the suburbs.

  • Ed Feldman

    I’ll make this personal and historical. Young people, me included, moved into the city to experience what they couldn’t get at home, whether in the suburbs or the homogeneous and culturally barren neighborhoods in which the grew up. They moved to ethnically rich, yet economically poor areas they could afford, and ate the food of earlier immigrants or original inhabitants. Sometimes, the newcomers made these neighborhoods so popular that the existing businesses got forced out and replaced by the very chain restaurants and sameness they had sought to escape. So they moved again. From South Street to Northern Liberties, and the process repeated itself. Now it seems as if the new urbanites want to change the character of their city into one that replicates the suburbs. They feel more comfortable with ethnic food made by MBA grads who study a cuisine for a while and then create their “take” on it, with a tripling of price. I have heard this new type called yunnies-“young urban narcissists “. They want the city without the grit. They think $20 pad thai is normal and acceptable. Fine. But there is and ugly and racist side to this. Immigrants and original inhabitants who cook the food of their cultures are not reviewed by any newspaper, because they don’t have a press release to send to Michael Klein. And so they struggle while Federal doughnuts becomes a “Thing” Do you think anyone else in this city cooks good fried chicken? How would you know?

    • Merilyn Jackson

      If you read the paper I write for you would see ethnic restos reviewed by Craig LaBan almost every week. I guess you missed yesterday’s too. If you went to those restaurants, you would see glossy copies of those reviews in their windows. Sometimes its really hard to to get a table at Sky Cafe or Hardena. And just try getting into the Bomb Bomb Room most nights or Los Gallos (a LaBan fave) or Khmer Kitchen. Happy eating

      • no

        I’ve never heard of any of those places you’ve written about… but I’ve been to most “modern american” cuisine restaurants… federal donuts and all the expensive pad thai because everyone talks and raves about them in papers and print. I’m going to guess that holds true for the majority of people. All my friends and students who come to this city just hang out at new, cool, hip places and totally ignore the struggling businesses, ethnic groups, etc.

        We sit around pretending we care but we do nothing except enjoy our outdoor cafes in the once “hood” and we really don’t care about the impact that much.

        Ed is pretty much on point.

  • Gwen

    I pitched this idea to the editors at philadelphia magazine and not only did they not respond — they took the idea and had a staff writer write it. As classy as this trashy publication gets.

    • Thanks for your comment, Gwen. As I said in my emailed response to you, we’d already written several pieces on Le Bok Fin — and this piece was long in the works — when your pitch arrived. We receive a lot of unsolicited pitches and I try to respond to them as they arrive. I regret not responding at the time of your pitch and I hope you’ll pitch us in the future, though I’ll understand if you do not.

    • Eric the Red

      A trashy publication that you pitch stories to? Interesting…

  • TarHeel Trouble

    The “New Philadelphians” can start to make the world a better place by no longer voting for smug “know-it-all” politicians like Obama and Wolf, both of whom are disasters.

  • frontporchswing

    “PRIVILEGED, LEFTY URBANISTS … They voted for Jim Kenney and Tom Wolf and Barack Obama.” You can’t possibly be stupid enough to believe that Kenney, Wolf or Obama – or the people on that rooftop – are lefty anything. They are all members of the self-entitled Neo-Liberal Club.

  • EarlyMedievalSerf

    The author is obviously young, 29 I think she said; and she naively fails to mention that 2005 wasn’t just the beginning of the New Philly, it was also the year the first season of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia aired on FX. This is arguably the best comedy on television at the moment, and probably one of the funniest ever made, and to not give credit to the show for revitalizing your city borders on narcissistic. Give credit where credit is due and thank Mac & Sweet D and the rest of the gang for starting giving Philly a new life, you jabroni.

  • Mark Rose

    A friend moved from outside the city to the lower Grad Hospital area a few years ago. When I asked what the street was like she said, referring to the longtime residents “It’s good but there are still a few people who haven’t moved out yet.” This always sat ill with me although I’ve struggled to really say why. I offer it here for thought or comment.

    • yankeecitygirl .

      Entitlement in its “yunnie” manifestation.

  • T

    Philly desperately needs to lure more young, chic, educated people with disposable incomes.

  • Philatonian

    I usually have nothing to say about PhillyMag articles, but this piece is so balanced, poignant, and necessary I have no words. While summing up pretty much every preconceived notion I have about Millennials, Otterbein also proved that there’s a camp in her generation (even if it’s just her) that is self-aware, empathetic, and, at least on some level, understands that the superficial gestures of urbanism are not synonymous with what it means to be urban. This isn’t just an article, it’s a manifesto. Just a fantastic article.

  • judethom

    Many of the so called New Philadelphians are suburban transplants, hooked on the udder of Daddy’s money and/or connections. They do not understand city life. They come into working class neighborhoods, rehab houses, and then don’t talk or relate to the older neighbors around them at all. I see this everywhere. They isolate themselves; they form peer group “pods.” Also, they tend to live together in groups of 3 or 4 because they cannot afford single apartments and housing, despite Daddy’s money.

  • Judith Robinson

    African-American Occupied Homeowners are being moved out of Brewerytown …BILL#150409
    allows PHA (horrible managed )to use EMINENT DOMAIN ,- Unprecedented!!! That is policy that keep us blighted! Also takes African-Americans Homeowners assets/wealth.Who are advising /petition for the LAND?!

  • Merilyn Jackson

    As an older, underprivileged hyper-urbanite who lives across the street from BOK, I am happy to see Lindsay Scannapieco doing something with this empty building. It was, in its day, a great service to the 2000 students from all over the city I was aware of from the 60s to the 80s. My son almost went there but we got him into South Philly high. But then, fewer and fewer students were sent there. Perhaps it was the stigma of going to a vo-tech as opposed to an academic high school which may have followed you forever and kept you at a low-economic level? Were students smarter or more studious nowadays? Who knows. But the building where I voted a couple times a year was falling apart, smelled horrible, was unhealthy for students and teachers and visitors alike and only had a student population half what it was built for.

    The relief the surrounding residents felt once this school was shut was palpable. No more screaming fights and cursing outside your door after 3 pm, no more police cruisers descending, no more blood or piss on your doorsteps, no more of your plants simply destroyed for the fun of it and garbage strewn everywhere. Many of the people in the surrounding blocks of every ethnicity moved in here in the last decade, so they are not long term residents being displaced. Some are very clean and quiet and welcome in the neighborhood, while others are a problem.

    I’m a block captain for EPX Neighborhood Assoc and my neighbors and I have had help from EPX in dealing with neighbors who feed and house multiple animals bringing us rats, mice and cockroaches; with an illegal church that packed 70-100 people in a small space with a maximum capacity of 20 at all hours with only one exit and which leased the upper floor to drug dealers with pitbulls left outside on the deck all night long; with the same property later becoming a produce store that was selling liquor illegally, (the LCB squashed that) with a mid-block body shop operating 24/7 in a row home on Dudley Street that took L&I 2 years to shut down, an so on.

    I was born in Fairmount, went to Hallahan and Temple, had several business in Chestnut Hill and on South Street, lived in Queen Village 17 years and write about and fight for this city I love every which way I can.
    Signed, Fairmount Chick living in South Philly and still fighting for it.

  • sam

    Gentrification doesn’t even bother to happen in the deep South Philadelphia… Mayor, city, developers… no one cares to address anything about the Pennsport/Whitman area whether it is drugs, crime, litter, poverty, literacy