Mixed reaction to casino in neighborhood

    So far, the proposed Sugarhouse casino on the Delaware riverfront has produced more angry words than profits. Gaming officials, politicians, and activists have spent years arguing over siting, financing and permits. Now, the next sound you hear may be bulldozers.

    So far, the proposed Sugarhouse casino on the Delaware riverfront has produced more angry words than profits. Gaming officials, politicians, and activists have spent years arguing over siting, financing and permits. Now, the next sound you hear may be bulldozers. Sugarhouse officials say they’ll break ground on the site soon.

    While Construction may be chugging along, so is the opposition. Tuesday Casino-Free Philadelphia expects dozens of supporters will gather at the site at 6 a.m. to rally and use their bodies to try to block workers and materials from entering.

    Listen:
    [audio: 090928lfcasino.mp3]

    When you stand on the Sugarhouse site today, you see no hint of the glossy gaming hall pictured on the company web site. A mountain of dirt stands beside a field of wooden stakes with tiny pink ribbons blowing in the breeze. A few construction vehicles buzz back and forth.

    “Thump, thump…”

    The sound echoes blocks away, where 82-year-old Charlie Spross, a life-long Fishtown resident, is walking his 3-year-old cocker spaniel, Toby.

    090928lfcasino_1
    Fishtown residents Charlie Spross and Toby

    Spross: I don’t care for it right now, because the way I look at it, if the garages and all are filled down there, they’re gonna come here and park and it’s bad enough the way the parking is today.

    Back in Spross’ youth, nearby factories provided the people of Fishtown with plenty of jobs within walking distance. Spross says folks expecting the casino to shower jobs in a similar way will be disappointed.

    Spross: They can’t do it that way! You know the equal rights will be down here and say hey pal, just cause you’re from Fishtown that don’t mean everybody from Fishtown is gonna get a job down there. A lot of people figure they’re gonna get a job down there, and its only gonna pay eight or ten dollars an hour.

    Nearby, Richard Jackson’s job for the day is taking care of his 7-year-old son. He was laid off Friday from his job at a steel mill, and looks forward to Sugarhouse opening.

    Jackson: It’ll be a good idea for the neighborhood. More jobs, cause of like the economy is real down right down.

    Fishtown neighbors
    Fishtown neighbors

    Just a few feet away, neighbor Pam Morgan listens intently.

    Morgan: I don’t think its going to be good for our neighborhood. When we had the clubs round here there was a lot of trouble with prostitution, crime, and the casino is only going to make it worse. We had people parking on the street here doing things they shouldn’t have been in cars and people getting undressed right out in front of you. They didn’t care, they didn’t care.

    Other Fishtown residents say prostitution and drugs are already familiar here. And they’ll accept any business that might bring jobs.

    Jim Powell and his food truck
    Jim Powell and his food truck

    Powell: We do kielbasa, hot sandwiches, roast beef, roast pork, all that hot foods, then we do breakfast pizza.

    That’s Jim Powell, a lifelong Fishtown resident, who runs a food truck across the street from Sugarhouse. Powell bought the truck to cater to workers building the casino.

    He says business has been lousy.

    Powell: There’s hardly any guys working. But hopefully when it picks up things are gonna be a whole lot better.

    Despite all the protests, Powell says he knew the gaming hall would be built.

    Powell: You can’t stop progress. I mean I don’t understand why the people don’t want it. I cant see them letting all this area go with nothing going on.

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    Sugarhouse site

    After years of argument, Fishtown may be closer to finding out whether having a casino for a neighbor will be a boon or a disaster.

    SugarHouse expects to open an interim casino in about 10 months.

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