South Philly residents discuss signs of gentrification during Bridging Blocks event

Attendees at the Guerin Recreation Center discussed the obvious and not-so-obvious signs that gentrification is about to impact a neighborhood.

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Eric Marsh Sr. speaks to a group of people.

N.I.C.E. manager Eric Marsh Sr. helped attendees engage with one another on the topic of gentrification. (Cory Sharber/WHYY)

More than two dozen people came together at the Guerin Recreation Center to discuss the impacts gentrification can have on Philadelphia’s neighborhoods with WHYY’s Bridging Blocks team.

Attendees noted the changing face of their neighborhoods, as well as how developers can exact change in a community almost immediately.

Jerome Whack, a resident of South Philly, says registered community organizations (RCOs) have systematically tried to remove long-standing Black residents from South Philly.

“I would say the gentrification is the quiet violence in Philadelphia,” Whack said.

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Community members also discussed the not-so-obvious signs that gentrification is about to impact a neighborhood. Wayne Ritz, who lives in West Philly, says once you see roads being dug up, gentrification is right around the corner.

“Once you see construction going on for the water mains, it’s a done deal,” Ritz said. “It’s gentrified. They’re building the infrastructure for new development, which may not happen for another ten years.”

To South Philly resident Fern Hagedorn, conversations like this are critical.

“I think I maybe understood gentrification on just a surface level when I see the buildings around and people dying, being displaced,” Hagedorn said. “But here are people who are potentially going to be displaced. Some are in the process of being displaced, so this is a discussion about real lives.”

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Zenobia Cofer is another attendee who was glad there was so much engagement during the conversation.

“People weren’t being overly defensive about, you know, ‘This is my neighborhood, this is their neighborhood,’” Cofer said. “This is what’s happening, and these people are doing X, Y, Z.’”

The event was part of the Bridging Blocks series, a civic engagement initiative between WHYY and The Free Library of Philadelphia. The next event is scheduled for May 31 at the Cecil B. Moore Library.

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