What are the hopes and dreams of Philadelphians for the future of their city? The annual #whyilovephilly party, a gathering of some of the most enthusiastic Philly evangelists from all corners of the city, must be one of the best places to find out.
The theme “Why I love Philly” has transformed from a hashtag movement into an annual event showcasing civic do-gooders, local chefs, locally brewed beers and distilled spirits, music, visual art and performance.
NewsWorks, one of the sponsors of the event, was on hand last month at the Arden Theatre’s brand-new Hamilton Family Arts Center to ask partygoers what was on their wish list for the city in 2014.
Bobbi Katz, a Philadelphia resident, who lives off of Cityline Ave, said she wants less corruption and more brotherly love. In the new year she said she wants to meet “interesting and creative people who want to make a difference.”
“I’m looking for peace and tranquility,” she said. “When you reach our age, most of our peers are gone. I’m 71 years old, and I’m not ashamed to tell people.”
Nicole Forrester, who lives in Old City, said she’s dreaming of a third subway line — “to go from northwest to southeast, to bring in a lot more diversity and open up a wider range of really good living situations for people. Right now, you have to have a car to live in a lot of different areas, or have to walk or take buses. And if we had a third diagonal line going that way, it would really make a better city.”
Andrew Jones, who lives in Montgomery County and works in Center City, is also wishing for expansions in public transportation. “I would love if the regional rails ran more frequently and later at night,” he said.
Jones also said he’s looking forward to continued growth in Philadelphia neighborhoods like Fishtown and Northern Liberties, which used to be on the fringe, but have been experiencing a boom period.
Javarro Russell, who moved to Northern Liberties a couple of years ago, says he’s hoping in his third year that Philadelphia will concentrate on the environment and clean up the city. “There are so many parts of the city that could use some revitalization,” he said. “Once you get the place clean, the people will come and they will spend money, and things will be better.”
He said the El could be cleaner, too. And he suggested that SEPTA might play a part in connecting the homeless people who frequent the stations with resources that can help them.
“There are a lot of homeless people in the city and a lot of people with mental illness,” he said. “That could use a huge improvement.”
West Philly resident Polly Edelstein has been impressed by the growth of the city’s cultural sector. “If that could continue to grow,” she said, “that would be excellent.”
Fairmount resident Anisha Sinha echoed those sentiments, saying what excited her most about Philly is the new restaurants, good food, street fairs and pop-up markets.
Brett Mapp had a lot on his New Year’s wish list. “The first thing I’d be looking forward to in 2014 is Corbett to lose the election,” he said. “I would hope that some Christmas holiday miracle would happen and the Philadelphia school system would actually get some finding. And of course for the Eagles to win the Superbowl.”
Friends Shontai Sterling and Ja’mila Wells, both of West Philly, had education top of mind, as well, and the opportunities it can bring. “We need to improve our schools by any means necessary,” said Sterling.
“I understand when you have a good education, it gives you a great foundation in life. When you don’t have a good education, you fall into the traps that they have out there.” It’s a path that leads you into the prison system, she said — “and I understand that the prison system makes a lot of money” — but at the end of the day, whether you become a doctor or a garbage collector, it’s better to be cleaning up the trash in the streets than to end up in the prison system.
Logan Square resident Brendan Walsh said he wants to see the city encourage young entrepreneurs to stick around after college, take advantage of the relatively low cost of living, and build new businesses in town. “The corporate tax code is so archaic, it drives a lot of the bigger companies out of the city,” he said, “but it frees up some of these younger college graduates to pursue some entrepreneurial ventures. I’d like to see them continue to support entrepreneurs and organically promote Philly and all the benefits here.”
Aaron Moselle conducted the interviews used for this story.