83. THE NORTHEAST ATTEMPTS TO SECEDE FROM THE CITY, 1985
It has often been said that Philadelphia is a city of neighborhoods. But in the mid-1980s, its biggest — the amorphous blob of rowhomes, shopping centers and not much else known collectively and simply as “The Northeast” — decided it didn’t want to be one of them anymore. Residents in sections like Rhawnhurst, Bustleton, Fox Chase and Morrell Park had been silently stewing for years over what they felt was taxation without representation, watching as the city put its hand out annually to take their money only to see that money go to other, more politically connected neighborhoods. All of this simmering anger came to a boil in 1985, when a feisty state representative named Hank Salvatore introduced legislation in the Pennsylvania House to chop off 44 square miles — with almost a third of the city’s population — into a new entity to be called Liberty County. Salvatore rode his newfound fame as the Northeast’s Jefferson Davis to a State Senate seat, but his movement died. Still, the ruckus gave new voice and, for the first time, a tangible identity to the city’s least understood tract. And while the Northeast didn’t secede, a good number of its residents did. Unable to shake that gnawing sense that City Hall didn’t give a shit about them, the working-class whites who over four decades had built the Northeast into one of the most economically stable sections of the city began a steady exodus to the ’burbs, destroying the ethnic homogeneity that had fueled the secessionist cause. Over the next quarter-century, they would be replaced by various non-European immigrants, as well as by an influx of African-Americans fleeing the detritus of North Philly — a migration pattern that would change the complexion of the Northeast, and the city, forever.