NOTE: Before any comments please understand that this is from a 9-10 page document that naturally would have been overwhelming to read if it came together in one post. I apologize for any misunderstanding. For the other parts please read the Introduction and Part 2). After this post there will be a Part 4. Enjoy and be mindful!
Carolyn Adams in an essay entitled “Philadelphia: Neighborhoods, Division, and Conflict in a Postindustrial City” (1991) says that poor nonwhites were the most affected by redevelopment projects (p. 119). As a result they faced the demolition and displacement from their homes.
In “Poverty and Inequality in the New American City” (2008) written by Michael B. Katz, Katz believes that there are pros and cons to urban renewal and gentrification. He states, “Trash-filled streets signify the poverty of city governments unable to pay for their cleaning and the inability of residents to hire private services” (p. 55). This is Katz’s way of recognizing the cons of urban renewal. He emphasizes that “cities remain vibrant centers of arts, culture, education, and research, and the new immigration has rekindled the diversity that lies at the core of the urban experience and constitutes its great appeal” (p. 55-56). In Katz’s opinion this is a good way to keep urban areas in a good standing in terms of preservation.
One of the most accurate analyses was written by Kristen Koptiuch in an essay entitled “Third-Worlding Our Home” (1991). She states (p. 90), “A quarter century ago, violent struggle wracked a North Philly African-American community reeling from the first flush of deindustrialization and the initial throes of what has by now become a wholesale extinction of labor-market options for young blacks (cf. Davis 1988).” It is a myth that the conditions of today’s North Philadelphia are the fault of the people. The area had also been blighted by a riot that took place in 1964. Koptiuch states, “The area has yet to recover from the devastation that seemed like a cancer to engulf, ghettoize, and significantly depopulate it, but this lack of improvement has not been the result of self-inflicted wounds.” These riots took place in a response to the national movement of civil rights but also because of “police chief/ mayor/ party (now Republican) Frank Rizzo” (p. 91). He was a controversially racist mayor who did an awful job at hiding his prejudice for non-whites.
Koptuich recognizes the change of North Philadelphia in the 1990’s and states (p. 91):
But while the political nuance of the new appellation symbolically invests with African-American ethnicity the planned urban renewal of the North Philadelphia ghetto, the riot’s scars indelibly mark the deep fissures rent in the social and architectural body of the neighborhood, as if in cumulative, collective refusal to forget an important moment of popular struggle.
This carried into the early 2000s and it was then that Mayor John Street decided to carry out his plan for the Neighborhood Transformation Initiative in 2001 (McGovern, Philadelphia’s Neighborhood Transformation Initiative: A Case Study of Mayoral Leadership, Bold Planning, and Conflict, p. 529). Despite his and the NTI’s efforts, they underestimated the cost of demolition as well as other factors. McGovern states, “The first two neighborhoods to attract a substantial infusion of NTI funds for demolitions and acquisitions satisfied these three criteria. Strawberry Mansion was a blighted community located in Lower North Philadelphia, just north of gentrifying neighborhoods in Center City and adjacent to Fairmount\Park, the city’s largest park.” The classification of blighted communities in terms or demolition appeared to be more about the gentrified Center City. By demolishing and beautifying the unattractive areas it would increase the wealth of Center City’s market.
Community groups and affordable housing advocates both agreed that the NTI was headed in the right direction, but felt as though the administration should do more to improve the housing conditions for existing residents (p. 553). McGovern also explained that others were concerned about the influx of gentrification in their areas. City officials were not concerned about the issue but the “responses to gentrification fears did not satisfy community activists, who increased pressure on the Street administration to take more assertive steps” (p.554). Although Street attempted to help beautify and revitalize many regions such North Philadelphia, the NTI had a model that was reflective of urban renewal, which is a reason that it warranted various protests. Street went wrong by not getting the community involved and not attempting to receive public funding. He could have gained the community’s support if he engaged them or let them in on NTI’s plans. The NTI model needed “to be supplemented by measures to ensure that revitalization will actually benefit existing residents” (p. 563).
By taking the necessary step of getting community involvement in the future, this can be the solution to implementing revitalization to blighted areas such as North Philadelphia. Revitalization can be beneficial to everyone if the community becomes more of a priority, as opposed to displacing poor non-whites within the area. It can be concluded that the city’s plans for North Philadelphia were very similar to Stephen Girard’s vision of exclusivity. Their vision for exclusivity did not benefit poor non-white families.
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2. Clampet-Lundquist, Susan. “Finding and keeping affordable housing: Analyzing the experiences of single-mother families in North Philadelphia.” J. Soc. & Soc. Welfare 30 (2003): 123.
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6. Koptiuch, Kristin. “Third-worlding at home.” Social Text 28 (1991): 87-99.
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