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Old 09-14-2019, 07:17 PM
 
46 posts, read 85,677 times
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There is a double-standard that repeats itself again and again when it comes to discussing neighborhood change with regard to race. While class is inextricably tied to stereotypes and reactions, race remains the often operative topic when this issue is debated in the press, on forums like this, and then behind closed doors among those who are already established in communities where demographic shifts are taking place and especially when racial differences are overtly apparent as that takes place.

I am surprised that we cannot be mature enough in the mainstream to acknowledge that all people make unflattering comments about people that in some way are not like them or about whom they may have conscious or less conscious biases. When neighborhoods change en masse from "white" to "black" or "white" to some other group, as thousands have across our country and many in Philadelphia have as we know, the common story angle is that the whites are being intransigently resistant to any change and need to work on their own bigotry whether overt or not. I am certain there is such bigotry in the face of demographic shifts; I have watched my own relatives react in such ways over the years, and the anecdotal stories in Philadelphia are legion.

But why don't we talk more about the consequences of neighborhoods that might have been nearly 100 percent white for many decades, and then begin seeing more non-white buyers, and then quite honestly see violent crimes take place that verifiably never happened in previous years? When those crimes are committed by people from groups that are also coincidentally moving into the community, is it that odd to imagine that some may imagine that some of their unfortunate biases are coming true even though we know that overall they are not becoming the mainstream in their community? When Overbrook began turning from a massive Italian/Irish section in the 90s to one that today is almost 100 percent African American (a transition that took just less than 10 years to transpire), and robberies and murders began happening on a scale never ever seen before there, were the people moving out wrong to think the area was declining and to associate any of that with demographic changes in their community? The easy reaction is to attack me for asking this; it's harder and meaningful work to actually talk about it and reason through what is really happening.

In a different way, stories accumulate about the travails of "gentrifying" areas of Philadelphia, where the angle from the start is how people are "losing" their homes to the rich hipsters with multiple college degrees moving in, or because the developers are making a profit off the community by renovating houses and redeveloping brownfields or replacing existing housing stock with new homes. There seems to be this total aversion to acknowledging how private property works for buyers and sellers, and a refusal to acknowledge that many people in areas that were in decline or of low property value may have been waiting many years for a chance to get out and do something else, live somewhere else, and gladly sell out to these developers or yuppies. It's like there's a tacit refusal to imagine that poor people can make decisions for themselves and can discern when they want to leave or decide they have such an opportunity and may have other ideas about what they want for a life or place to live. I can think of many people I know who either "got out" of such areas or friends that know people around them that are thrilled they can get top-dollar finally for their homes and go elsewhere even if the area is trending upward in some way. Further, what about people in these same areas that have their own stereotypes about the largely white in-moving population and their habits, beliefs, behaviors? Let's not pretend that doesn't exist and potentially has its own toxic side. I've lived in areas of Philadelphia that are almost entirely African American for half of my life, often the only white person on a block; I have at times heard many of the same ignorant comments about me or generalizations, etc. that I hear in white areas that are changing, though in a different context.

I think it's unproductive to act as if someone's area is "theirs" and "outsiders" can help but not dominate the discussion, while in other contexts saying that a race of people is being ignorant for being worried about major demographic shifts in their neighborhood. One group gets to implicitly say an area belongs to them in the face of change but another may not? Being poor gives people the right to say or act how they want toward new neighbors who may be wealthier or look different, but some other people who are assumed to be not as poor that look different from their new neighbors can't be irritated by change? The majority in Germantown can be upset by incoming people that don't fit the 50-year-long racial majority there but people in Mayfair cannot be upset in this same way? It's a nonsense double standard and so many on these forums, Facebook groups, in the news, etc. pretend it doesn't exist. Everyone has their biases and they play out similarly whether we like them to or not; we spin them to make them seem more different.

Either people want to help Philadelphia get better or they do not. If people want to act like an area is their territory and that some people are outsiders even though they may own a home there or pay rent to live there, they may do so, but they're fooling themselves. Neighborhoods change, people make choices, even poor people that have limited choices at times, and that change is often uncomfortable and foreign to us while it is taking place. We all have to cope with it, make room for each other, and be serious about working together. Everyone is so "progressive", but on their own terms, and we build echo chambers to reassure each other that we all make sense. But that, too, fosters a sort of pretend unity while concealing biases that are conveniently perhaps more socially acceptable than others. Either we are for each other, or we are not - it's not easy always but it's a worthy pursuit in our neighborhoods.

So Germantown, Olney, Oak Lanes, Overbrook, etc....on and on - they either belong to all who decide to come there, or they don't. They were built for people to call home, to invest in, and care for, not to be balkanized according to each avant garde social view that prevails at any one time.
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Old 09-15-2019, 03:38 PM
 
9,932 posts, read 5,629,379 times
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Visibly speaking there really hasn't been much physical decline to the section of Overbrook that used to be predominated by Italian-Americans. I'm in that area a couple of times a month sometimes more. It looks fine. I could absolutely live there.

I would also like to point out that in the 1920s, during Prohibition, Italian-Americans were a dominant factor in Haddington and Mill Creek and there were tons of Italian-American gangsters. Additionally during that time Al Capone's "home" was ESP for about a year.

The reason I know about the level of mobsters and gangsterism is because my grandfather, who was a master tailer, made clothes for these people and made a lot of money, indirectly, from the sale of illegal alcohol.

Times are different now but seeing the past as some kind of crime free paradise isn't correct wrt a time when W. Philly had mostly majority white neighborhoods.
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Old 09-18-2019, 11:25 AM
 
32 posts, read 6,245 times
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I've looked at Mount Airy and Germantown as well as Chestnut Hill and East Falls.

What I don't care for about Mount Airy and Germantown is how hit or miss they are. They don't have many amenities either. Mount Airy is quite shabby although there are exceptions in the far northeast portion and the far western portion. The overall shabbiness and untidiness of neighboring properties would drive me crazy if I bought in Mount Airy.

Chestnut Hill and East Falls are much better maintained overall and better long run value, methinks.
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Old 09-19-2019, 02:14 PM
 
Location: East Mt Airy, Philadelphia
1,075 posts, read 1,088,073 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DXBtoFL View Post
I've looked at Mount Airy and Germantown as well as Chestnut Hill and East Falls.

What I don't care for about Mount Airy and Germantown is how hit or miss they are. They don't have many amenities either. Mount Airy is quite shabby although there are exceptions in the far northeast portion and the far western portion. The overall shabbiness and untidiness of neighboring properties would drive me crazy if I bought in Mount Airy.

Chestnut Hill and East Falls are much better maintained overall and better long run value, methinks.
Of the four 'hoods mentioned, only Chestnut Hill comes close to having a uniformly "un-shabby" appearance. Yes, Mt Airy (East and West) has a few less-than-pristine houses and even blocks. Certainly G'town does. But look at the part of East Falls near the Blvd and try not to call some of those blocks uneven in appearance. If you're really into tidy and uniform, your best bet is the 'burbs. City growth, decline, and resurgence is going to leave some scars. Some people/landlords aren't going to keep up their property the way most of us would like; that's unfortunate, and it's also part of living in a city as old as Philly.

As for Mt Airy not having amenities - I can buy groceries, do my banking, have a good selection of dining options, and do a lot of my day-to-day along and nearby G'town Ave. It's certainly more vital and functional than East Falls in that regard. Then again, maybe "amenities" means different things to different people.
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Old 09-19-2019, 03:00 PM
 
501 posts, read 437,391 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DXBtoFL View Post
I've looked at Mount Airy and Germantown as well as Chestnut Hill and East Falls.

What I don't care for about Mount Airy and Germantown is how hit or miss they are. They don't have many amenities either. Mount Airy is quite shabby although there are exceptions in the far northeast portion and the far western portion. The overall shabbiness and untidiness of neighboring properties would drive me crazy if I bought in Mount Airy.

Chestnut Hill and East Falls are much better maintained overall and better long run value, methinks.

That's a strange critique but to each their own I guess. Mt. Airy is a very old neighborhood that is economically diverse. That is one of its many charms. If you want to live in a affluent neighbhorhood that will wall you off from the rest of the world and its problems it is probably best to look elsewhere.


Eitherway the vast majority of Mt. Airy is not shabby. The dogtown section of EMA is shabby as is the area in WMA near Germantown ave and sharpnack/weaver. Otherwise it is pretty consistently nice with just a few run down houses thrown in.


I honestly have no idea what you mean by lacking amenities. Mt. Airy has six train stations, several grocery stores, bars, restaurants etc.


From my house I can walk to a train station in under a minute; I can easily walk to three bus lines that will take me to the subway. I am a 6 minute walk from twelve restaurants (including six bars and a live music venue), a theater, a deli, ; 10 minute walk to a grocery store. A slightly longer walk to about six more restaurants and three more bars. The neighborhood does lack retail but Chestnut Hill is just down the street and big box retail in Cheltenham, Jenkintown, Plymouth meeting, and Willow Grove is nearby. What amenities do you think are lacking?
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Old 09-20-2019, 09:48 AM
 
32 posts, read 6,245 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KansastoSouthphilly View Post
That's a strange critique but to each their own I guess. Mt. Airy is a very old neighborhood that is economically diverse. That is one of its many charms. If you want to live in a affluent neighbhorhood that will wall you off from the rest of the world and its problems it is probably best to look elsewhere.


Eitherway the vast majority of Mt. Airy is not shabby. The dogtown section of EMA is shabby as is the area in WMA near Germantown ave and sharpnack/weaver. Otherwise it is pretty consistently nice with just a few run down houses thrown in.


I honestly have no idea what you mean by lacking amenities. Mt. Airy has six train stations, several grocery stores, bars, restaurants etc.


From my house I can walk to a train station in under a minute; I can easily walk to three bus lines that will take me to the subway. I am a 6 minute walk from twelve restaurants (including six bars and a live music venue), a theater, a deli, ; 10 minute walk to a grocery store. A slightly longer walk to about six more restaurants and three more bars. The neighborhood does lack retail but Chestnut Hill is just down the street and big box retail in Cheltenham, Jenkintown, Plymouth meeting, and Willow Grove is nearby. What amenities do you think are lacking?
So much of Mount Airy is like this: a nicely maintained house next door to a house with the porch falling off. A beautifully restored half of a twin while the other half of the twin has only seen the cheapest of Home Depot materials and looks like crap. Quite a few of the properties look like they haven't seen a penny of investment in 50 years. And a lot of the yards are very overgrown.

There are some segments that are more cohesive in their maintenance. Upper eastern Mount Airy is quite lovely. The far western edges of West Mount Airy is also lovely. But altogether it feels like a very distorted neighborhood with badly kept blocks intermingling with well kept blocks, and nice houses next door to run down group homes and extensive foliage of overgrown landscaping. It's clear there's too many houses owned by people who really can't afford to keep up their properties properly. I wanted to love Mount Airy, but I just couldn't, and it's also apparent enough that many of the residents of Mount Airy do like the disjointed and somewhat chaotic nature of their neighborhood.

As it is, it must be an interesting state of affairs that people are now paying more money for cramped rowhouses in Point Breeze (!) than a bigger and statelier house in Mount Airy. That, I suppose, is what I mean by amenities nearby. Being able to walk to to a wide range of destinations, shops, restaurants, supermarkets and easily rely on public transportation in doing so. The money is clearly concentrating on greater Center City. Personally I like the houses (the nice ones) of Mount Airy and East Falls much better than Point Breeze or Bella Vista or just about anything in South Philadelphia, but the pull of the ease of convenience to amenities and minimal commutes is very strong.
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Old 09-20-2019, 12:43 PM
 
Location: North Jackson
2,041 posts, read 3,259,785 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DXBtoFL View Post
As it is, it must be an interesting state of affairs that people are now paying more money for cramped rowhouses in Point Breeze (!) than a bigger and statelier house in Mount Airy. That, I suppose, is what I mean by amenities nearby. Being able to walk to to a wide range of destinations, shops, restaurants, supermarkets and easily rely on public transportation in doing so. The money is clearly concentrating on greater Center City. Personally I like the houses (the nice ones) of Mount Airy and East Falls much better than Point Breeze or Bella Vista or just about anything in South Philadelphia, but the pull of the ease of convenience to amenities and minimal commutes is very strong.
How do you account for the success of Manayunk in your analysis? Pretty shabby.

If lack of amenities means no hook up bars for young people, then no Mt Airy will never be like South Philly. It's always going to be a mainly residential neighborhood without the extreme social activities of downtown. Most of Philly is like this.
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Old 09-20-2019, 02:16 PM
 
32 posts, read 6,245 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JacksonPanther View Post
How do you account for the success of Manayunk in your analysis? Pretty shabby.

If lack of amenities means no hook up bars for young people, then no Mt Airy will never be like South Philly. It's always going to be a mainly residential neighborhood without the extreme social activities of downtown. Most of Philly is like this.
I don't know Manayunk well enough to be able to comment.

Whatever it is, and I don't want to argue ad infinitum on what amenities means as it will vary from person to person (no, it is not solely restricted to hook up bars, for we're not talking about college age kids, but people who can afford 300-750k housing). The money is clearly flowing to proximity to center city Philadelphia, unlike in the 1920s when the money was flowing away from center city to Mount Airy. Point Breeze is a perfect example, along with Brewerytown, of formerly very working class areas rapidly gentrifying. People's preferences for what they want out of their neighborhood is clearly shifting and that's why places like Point Breeze are booming and seeing appreciation and investment on a scale that isn't happening in the NW Philadelphia, despite a clearly superior housing stock up there that is affordable for what you get.

I will say I also think another reason has to do with the lack of appeal in home upkeep and maintenance. The Mount Airy houses cannot be inexpensive to maintain and heat, especially compared to a rowhouse in Point Breeze or Northern Liberties.
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Old 09-20-2019, 03:17 PM
 
Location: Midwest
1,277 posts, read 1,850,473 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DXBtoFL View Post

As it is, it must be an interesting state of affairs that people are now paying more money for cramped rowhouses in Point Breeze (!) than a bigger and statelier house in Mount Airy. That, I suppose, is what I mean by amenities nearby. Being able to walk to to a wide range of destinations, shops, restaurants, supermarkets and easily rely on public transportation in doing so. The money is clearly concentrating on greater Center City. Personally I like the houses (the nice ones) of Mount Airy and East Falls much better than Point Breeze or Bella Vista or just about anything in South Philadelphia, but the pull of the ease of convenience to amenities and minimal commutes is very strong.
I lived in Mt. Airy for over five years without a car, relying mainly on my own two feet to do normal neighborhood errands. Took SEPTA downtown to go to work and occasionally to leave the neighborhood for things. When I eventually did leave Mt. Airy it was only because of a much larger disappointment with the directions big cities are headed in general.

A lot of people move to Mt. Airy after living in the other neighborhoods closer to downtown. There are several people on this board with that same story. I'm one of them myself.

One thing you might fail to realize is that amenities means different things to different people (even though you state that you do). Greater Center City is going the same way as most big cities, offering a kind of pretend cosmopolitanism where peoples consumer choices help convince themselves of their own uniqueness - even as the model itself is basically the same anywhere with enough income willing to be disposed of. The people who seem to buy into it the most seem to be people who did not grow up in a cohesive neighborhood, and are therefore trying to fill some sort of hole but don't know with what. Philadelphia has layers of uniqueness for sure - but it's clearly not what people are seeking, as it's always the same type of restaurants, bars, coffeeshops, whole foods and targets following this money to whatever supposed amenity filled places they land...

Mt. Airy has all kinds of people. It has a very diverse housing stock - mansions, twins, row houses, all within close confines. It's known for being racially diverse - which is not entirely true, as it's mostly just black and white, although that's pretty good for Philadelphia standards. But it, along with sections of Germantown, is diverse in that there are a ton of different kinds of people living different kinds of lives, at different income levels, with different experiences. Yet there exists a sort of uniting set of values in how people view themselves and their neighbors. There's a cohesiveness so strong that many people can even overlook the absolute horror of living near someone who uses Home Depot materials....probably because they actually know this person and possibly even respect them as a human.
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Old 09-21-2019, 02:28 AM
 
Location: Germantown, Philadelphia
5,551 posts, read 2,711,899 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DXBtoFL View Post
So much of Mount Airy is like this: a nicely maintained house next door to a house with the porch falling off. A beautifully restored half of a twin while the other half of the twin has only seen the cheapest of Home Depot materials and looks like crap. Quite a few of the properties look like they haven't seen a penny of investment in 50 years. And a lot of the yards are very overgrown.

There are some segments that are more cohesive in their maintenance. Upper eastern Mount Airy is quite lovely. The far western edges of West Mount Airy is also lovely. But altogether it feels like a very distorted neighborhood with badly kept blocks intermingling with well kept blocks, and nice houses next door to run down group homes and extensive foliage of overgrown landscaping. It's clear there's too many houses owned by people who really can't afford to keep up their properties properly. I wanted to love Mount Airy, but I just couldn't, and it's also apparent enough that many of the residents of Mount Airy do like the disjointed and somewhat chaotic nature of their neighborhood.
I was discussing this phenomenon, which I refer to as "what a difference a block makes," with an interior designer I know who lives in Mt. Airy this afternoon over lunch in Washington Square, near my office. (I live in Germantown, btw.)

I don't think that phenomenon is unique to Mt. Airy at all - I've seen it in neighborhoods all over the city. Only the most affluent neighborhoods here - Society Hill, Chestnut Hill, Rittenhouse Square - appear to me to be completely free of this one-block-beautiful, the-next-block-beat-up pattern.

I can give you an even greater contrast just a few blocks from me. More on this below.

Quote:
Originally Posted by FamousBlueRaincoat View Post
Mt. Airy has all kinds of people. It has a very diverse housing stock - mansions, twins, row houses, all within close confines. It's known for being racially diverse - which is not entirely true, as it's mostly just black and white, although that's pretty good for Philadelphia standards. But it, along with sections of Germantown, is diverse in that there are a ton of different kinds of people living different kinds of lives, at different income levels, with different experiences. Yet there exists a sort of uniting set of values in how people view themselves and their neighbors. There's a cohesiveness so strong that many people can even overlook the absolute horror of living near someone who uses Home Depot materials....probably because they actually know this person and possibly even respect them as a human.
The median household income in my East Germantown Census tract, which straddles Chew Avenue, is about $21,000 a year. That's poor, no matter how you slice it.

I live on the east side of Chew, and you'll find that neat-house-next-to-beat-up-house pattern all over on my side of that street. I remember walking past a house on the verge of demolishing itself a block east and south of me one afternoon as I was doing a get-a-feel-for-the-state-of-my-area walk. But cross Chew and head a block to the west on either Locust Avenue or Church Lane and you will enter a pocket of affluence - large freestanding Victorians and Colonials on sizable, tree-shaded lots. Three houses have gone on the market in this patch in the last three months or so, and I've featured all of them on Phillymag; they listed for prices around $500K, way above what other houses in this tract sell for. And they sold for their asking prices after a relatively short time on the market.

Most of the people who live in these houses are affluent and African-American (one of them with whom I'm acquainted: activist-scholar and bookstore/café proprietor Marc Lamont Hill), but there are some white families living in them too; I rode the subway and Route 26 bus home with one of them after we met at a book-launch party on South Broad Street Tuesday evening.

And these people live in the same Census tract I do. Much more modest rowhouses surround this area, plus some larger twins that were built for the upper middle class of the time at the end of the 19th century but have gone downhill in status (and physical condition) since then. This patch shows up as "insufficient data" on the maps showing median household income by Census block group, probably because it would be too easy to identify individual households even with aggregate figures for that area.

I think FamousBlueRaincoat pretty much has it right when he says that the people who live in Mt. Airy and Germantown don't fret as much about the variance in condition of some houses or blocks because they're familiar with the people who live in/on them. I think you may find that these two neighborhoods, whose neighborhood-wide median household incomes diverge widely - Germantown's is low, Mt. Airy's, fairly high - are the most socioeconomically diverse in the city: five percent of Germantowners earn $125K or more a year, and Mt. Airy's southeast quarter, "Dogtown," is pretty poor. (As you head north on Chew Avenue, you will notice a point in the middle of the block between Meehan Avenue and Gorgas Lane where the small rowhouses and modest twins suddenly stop and are replaced by big freestanding Colonials. This is also the dividing line between the lower- and higher-income part of East Mount Airy, and it looks as if you crossed a force field separating the two.)
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