A tale of two cities in one
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”
Charles Dickens’ opening first line from “A tale of two cities” is a strangely apt description of this moment in time in Philadelphia.
The newspaper of record of the nation, The New York Times, has just named our city #3 in its “52 places to go in 2015,” just behind Milan and Cuba.
Even more recently, Condé Nast Traveler named Philadelphia the #2 shopping destination in the world, behind Barcelona and ahead of Hong Kong.
Philadelphia will soon be the first city in the world with a completely self-sustaining Earthship made entirely from recycled materials. It is home to the University of Pennsylvania which, in 2014, was either the #1 college in the nation (College Factual) or #8 (U.S. News and World Report), and to five of the nation’s top hospitals, according to U.S. News and World Report’s rankings released in July 2014.
This is all heady stuff for a city that was at one time the butt of jokes (First place, a week in Philadelphia; second place, two weeks in Philadelphia ...).
It is also a testament to the many organizations and individuals working to make Philadelphia a world-class city.
But we’ve made it onto some less desirable lists this past year as well.
24/7 Wall Street ranked Philadelphia the poorest county in the commonwealth of Pa. — and noted how unusual it was for a county with such a large city to attain this dubious distinction.
When the U.S. Conference of Mayors released its report on Hunger and Homeless in Dec. 2014, Philadelphia ranked #9 in the nation — with 49 percent of requests of shelter for the homeless going unmet, and 20 percent of requests for food assistance from residents in need unmet as well. Moreover, according to the report, approximately 60 percent of those seeking food assistance were the working poor.
The Center for American Progress also ranks the School District of Philadelphia as one of the two “most fiscally disadvantaged large urban districts in the nation.”
The Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce (GPCC), along with 60 partner organizations, last year issued recommendations to promote economic growth and job creation in the city, a five-year plan titled “Roadmap for Growth.”
Our cover story this week focuses on just that roadmap. The GPCC’s director of public policy, Joe Grace, notes the city’s growth (driven by millennials and immigrants) and points to four neighborhoods where job opportunities have increased — Center City, University City, the Navy Yard and Temple University’s campus in North Philly.
An integral part of the roadmap is community input and participation in economic development initiatives — a vitally important concern for people of color who are all too often driven out of their neighborhoods by gentrification.
In fact, a decade-long study from Harvard University released recently seems to indicate that instead of the mixed income, economically and ethnically diverse neighborhoods that are the best outcome of gentrification, the process ends up replicating existing patterns of housing segregation.
There are undoubtedly challenges ahead for those envisioning and cultivating equitable growth in our city. We urge Latinos to participate in this process as fully as possible. It will take all of our communities, all of us, to ensure that the city eradicates the poverty that puts so many of our residents at risk, and that we move toward greater livability and promise.
The next “Roadmap for Growth” forum will take place Jan. 21 at WHYY in the historic heart of Philadelphia. Nilda Ruiz, the director of APM (la Asociación de Puertorriqueños en Marcha) as well as a member of Governor-elect Tom Wolf’s transition steering committee, will be one of the speakers at the forum.
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This photo caption for this article was corrected and updated at 3:16 p.m. Jan. 15.