By Pat Loeb
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A proposal to develop a vacant lot in the Point Breeze neighborhood has opened a window on the fault lines that divide Philadelphians.
The divide ran right down the middle of the zoning board hearing room on Wednesday afternoon, when commissioners asked opponents and supporters of the mixed use development on Point Breeze Avenue to line up on either side. On the right was a line of young, white supporters; on the left, a line of older, African-American opponents.
“Now you have dividing lines marginalizing people on the basis of social economic incomes,” said one neighbor, Michael Ferguson, cutting right to the heart of the opposition.
“They have a bar on 19th street and whites just stay in there; they socialize to themselves. I know black people that won’t go into the YMCA because they feel like a foreigner in their own city,” Ferguson said.
The zoning board silenced Ferguson when he complained that—his word—“Mexicans” get all the construction jobs, and stressed that it must decide on the project based on actual zoning issues. It promised a decision in 30 days, but uniting the neighborhood clearly will take much longer.