This story originally appeared on PlanPhilly.
If you feed them, they will come.
On Thursday night, hundreds of hungry people braved the rain for a first-of-its-kind Night Market on Point Breeze Avenue. As lines for banh mi, barbeque and other food truck-made delicacies snaked down the packed street, PlanPhilly took out a microphone and talked to area residents about life in one of the city’s fastest- gentrifying neighborhoods.
Though concerns about displacement and racial tension tend to dominate conversations about what happens when higher-income people begin moving into a working-class area like Point Breeze, residents who visited the pop-up food market organized by The Food Trust spoke of strong community bonds and optimism for what was once one of the city’s most dangerous neighborhoods.
Renee Allen, 46, has lived in the Point Breeze for 12 years. She spoke of faster response times from police, and an improvement in quality-of-life issues. “I’ve seen a lot of changes for the better,” Allen said. “We had a nuisance bar across the street from my house they’re no longer there.”
Marcus Smith, 46, has lived in Point Breeze for 24 years. He appeared smitten by the Night Market, seeing it as a strong sign of progress in the neighborhood. “This right here is amazing to me because you couldn’t even walk around here without being on guard,” Smith said. “Now this right here is lovely. I like this right here.”
Anthony Coskey, and Kelly Murray, both 25, moved to Point Breeze almost a year ago. They said they’ve gotten to know their neighbors by joining in block cleanup efforts. And for them, as newcomers to the block, a little respect goes a long way.
“It starts with the people that been here forever,” said Coskey. “They’re leaders around here and they were the most welcoming when we came here.”
The Bradley family is one of those families that have been in the neighborhood forever. They have no plans to leave. Nine-year-old Brooke Bradley said that on her block she and her friends play games and even engage in a little entrepreneurship.
“We play like tag,” she said. “We make slime. Sometimes we play manhunt… or sell waters and stuff.”
Nadia Hironaka and Matthew Suib are raising their daughter in Point Breeze too.
Matthew Suib, 45, moved to the neighborhood 14 years ago. Nadia and Mathew’s seven-year-old daughter enjoys swimming in its public pools and playing at DiSilvestro Playground. He said his block is diverse, but its residents share a common neighborly attitude.
“There’s a bunch of different languages spoken on the block, but people communicate with each other,” he said. “People look out for each other…People are awesome down here.”