A report released two weeks ago confirms what people have been worrying about for a few years: That Chinatowns are a dying breed and that their death will lead to our beloved neighborhoods turning into only nominally distinct zones that all have the same pastel designs on their storefronts.
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In the decades since the term was first coined – in the preface of a 1931 book by historian James Truslow Adams – the notion of an “American Dream” that binds all U.S. citizens to a common goal of individual empowerment has taken on near religious significance. Four years into a recovery from the worst recession in more than half a century, it seems many of us have lost our faith.
A poll last month by The Washington Post and the Miller Center at the University of Virginia found that while a majority of respondents say the American Dream still has personal meaning to them, fewer than half think they have a chance of achieving it. And they’re pretty sure their kids won’t either.
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The latest in the case of Ori Feibush vs. The World is an accusation that OCF Realty’s Feibush fabricated violent, threatening, and grammatically poor text messages under the name of OCF critic Gary Broderick in a play to undermine him. After interviewing both parties and inspecting Feibush’s phone, we hold that the Point Breeze situation has become incredibly stupid.
The incident is super-confusing even by the standards of OCF drama, so sit back, relax and enjoy the oncoming tension headache:
Yesterday, the Point Breeze Organizing Committee, one of an ever-expanding mosaic of community groups in Point Breeze, issued a public “cease and desist” letter and video to Feibush. It’s a somewhat satirical take on Feibush’s own cease and desist letter that he sent to PBOC member Haley Dervinis after she protested a prospective OCF development in the neighborhood as the project was headed to the Zoning Board of Adjustments.
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A year ago, my best friend came into town for a conference and met me at my job for lunch. At the time, I was working at a non-profit in eastern North Philadelphia. She arrived at the corner of Third and Somerset Streets to pick me up, and as the blight of Fairhill yielded to the sprawl of Kensington, she started asking questions.
“OK. Um, whats going on, Philly?” she asked as she noticed broken sidewalks and vacant lots garnished with weeds. “Where are the grocery stores? Where are the schools? Who is allowing it to look like this?” Having visited me before, she referenced the disparities she’d noticed as a casual observer. “Where are the white folks? Everybody I’ve seen up here is black and brown.”
We continued down American Street and crossed Girard.
“This is ‘Northern Liberties,’ I said,” with cynical air quotes. “This is actually North Philly, too. But it’s been rebranded for the developers and hipsters.”
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We all know that Philadelphia is a city of neighborhoods, and that the constant push-and-pull between forces that would preserve those neighborhoods and their identities and the forces that would remake those neighborhoods into something new. And some fear that City Hall’s recent reassement of property values could accelerate the latter process, by dramatically raising taxes on longtime homeowners.
Thus: “Gentrification relief.”
A City Council bill would give a property-tax break to longtime homeowners in rapidly gentrifying areas. People who have lived in their homes for more than 10 years, and have seen their assessments more than triple, would be eligible for the gentrification relief.
Sounds good right? NewsWorks offers the example of a woman facing a $3,000 tax hike who would instead face just a $300 rise. So what’s the problem? Well, even well-off owners of homes originally bought for a high prices would also be eligible for the tax break.
Under state law, Philadelphia can’t use a “means test” to decide if a resident deserves the gentrification tax relief based on their age and income. That means wealthy homeowners could benefit from it. For example, a Council analysis found that one resident who bought a house for $725,000 would be eligible for the break.
The Inquirer adds:
Mayor Nutter has pledged that no one will lose a home because of AVI. The best weapon he and City Council could wield in that effort may be so-called gentrification tax relief.
That cap would last 10 years or until the home is sold. Many homeowners who would qualify live in neighborhoods that have grown thanks to the city’s 10-year tax abatement on rehabs and new construction, a sore point for longtime residents who never got a similar break.
City Paper has compiled a handy chart documenting how each City Council member will get affected by the city’s Actual Value Initiative (provided the current assessments and 1.32% tax rate hold steady. Big winners: Marian Tasco and Bobby Henon each save about $1,400. Bill Greenlee is the biggest loser, as his Fairmount taxes will rise by more than $1,500. Jim Kenney, Maria Quinones-Sanchez, and Darrell Clarke, all of whom live in gentrifying/gentrified neighorhoods, would pay more than $1,000 each. The full chart is here, which you can print out and scour for conspiracy theories, based on who proposes which kind of AVI amendments going forward. [City Paper]
The mighty urban theorist and Atlantic Cities honcho Richard Florida has descended upon Philly to judge its creativeclassishness. The results: Philly has two substantial but tightly clustered cohorts of “creative class” individuals–”which includes workers in science and technology, business and management, arts, culture media and entertainment, and law and healthcare professions”–in Center City and Manayunk/Chestnut Hill. (Many assume creative class means “hipster” but these days it seems to mean ‘professionals,’ basically.)
Overall, Florida designates 34.6% of the metro area as “creative class,” on par with NYC’s 35.9% and Chicago’s 35.1%. Not surprisingly, the city’s working class (by which Florida appears to mean blue-collar working class), is all but absent, comprising 17.8% of the metro area. Besides D.C. and Miami, which have never been industrial strongholds, no city Florida studied (of 9) scored this low.
Using snappy heuristics to explain a region’s character can be perilous ground for big thinker pundit types (as this magazine taught David Brooks), but Florida appears to be on target here; manufacturing is indeed dead and Center City is indeed doing well. (With such a broad definition of “creative,” Florida is essentially commenting on the city’s revival in the last 20 years or so, so judgments about its arts scene and general hipness are not material.) Florida’s series is called “Class-Divided Cities.” The question that remains is whether Center City’s success (and subsequent outgrowth into gentrifying neighborhoods) exacerbates or alleviates the stark class divide he notes. [Atlantic Cities]
According to City Controller Alan Butkovitz, 343,191 properties will experience tax increases under the city’s proposed Actual Value Initiative (AVI) overhaul, compared to 107,603 which will owe less. Here are the five ZIP codes he estimates will experience the highest average annual tax hikes, assuming (optimistically) a 1.25% tax rate. Listed are the annual amounts average properties in each ZIP would owe.
19102: $1,634 (39.8% increase)
19148: $819 (78.4% increase)
19146: $768 (44.6% increase)
19130: $815 (27.3% increase)
19103: $946 (17.5% increase)
I expect not a few of you loyal readers live in these ZIPs, which comprise Rittenhouse, Fitler, Grad Hospital, parts of South Philly and Fairmount, among other neighborhoods. More surprisingly several neighborhoods that would experience big tax hikes aren’t quite so tony as these ones. The highest tax increase–191%–would occur in 19133, a North Philly area not quite known for its rapid gentrification. [Daily News]