Arrivederci, South Philly
"I think I’m a guy who stayed within a small-town framework, really," he offers.
"I work three blocks away, we travel infrequently [he doesn’t drive], and I’m comfortable here … I don’t want anything else." He adds, though, that his attitudes sometimes cause him to feel "a bit like a dinosaur. "
They make him sound, sometimes, like one of the abandoned. "I look at my aunts and uncles, and I don’t think any of them ever moved out of South Philly, and I grew up thinking it would always be that way," he tells. "I remember my cousin: first he went away to college, then he moved all over, New York . . . then he married a girl who wasn’t from South Philadelphia-she wasn’t even Italian-and I remember being sad that he was never coming back. I thought you always came back. "
Though he plans to remain, Cardella admits to twinges of uncertainty. "There is a feeling among people who are not moving-a fear of stagnating. Like, ‘Other people are moving away; maybe I should be moving too.’ " On the other hand: "I think there’s something fine here that’s being lost by those who go. I think it’s something other areas would like to emulate. "
Another among the loyal is Jim Tayoun, the Lebanese-American who represents South Philadelphia east of Broad Street in City Council. This Thursday morning we are driving through his district, and Tayoun, whose quick black eyes and olive skin make him look more Mediterranean than many of his constituents, is extolling the strengths of his turf.
"People on the east side of Broad Street don’t run," he is saying, pointing to a neighborhood that has recently become quietly integrated. "People are holding on. When integration was a sudden threat it seemed like the whole neighborhood was going to run, but people aren’t running now."
Out walking now, waving to constituents with one hand, Tayoun uses the other to gesture toward new fronts, total rehabilitation work and the absence of sale signs. He stops a young man in a late model car, asks him whether he still lives in South Philadelphia and tells him to pull over to be interviewed.
He is Anthony Console, 23, a contractor who recently bought a house downtown but out of the neighborhood of his youth. Console calls his old part of town "the best neighborhood in South Philly-it’s solid. He didn’t buy there, he says, only because he couldn’t afford it.
He admits, though, that his main reason for buying a house was that it was "a good investment." And if it wasn’t so good? "Then it would be stupid to buy it," he explains matter-of-factly, "a waste of money. You don’t have to stay in South Philly anymore. "