PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Elderly and disabled residents who live in and around the site for the proposed Temple University football stadium held a press conference Monday. They want their councilman and the university to nix the plans for the facility once and for all.
“We’re the voters, we’re the ones that live here, and we are saying no!,” says Ruth Birchett, a longtime North Philadelphia resident who has served as a block captain in the area around the proposed 35,000 seat stadium for decades. She joined about a dozen and a half pastors, activists and some residents who live inside the Diamond Park Apartments at 15th and Norris Streets.
“They don’t want to talk with me, and I am a Temple alumni and I am embarrassed by my community,” says Birchett.
She says she’s live her entire life in the area around Temple and watched displacement of residents who lived in areas now owned by Temple University.
“I remember when there were homes in the 1400 block of Norris Streets,” she says, “I used to play inside of the those home, and so the displacement has occurred already.”
Marsha Thrower spoke from her wheel chair. She is one of dozens of senior and disabled residents living in the apartments across from the proposed stadium site. She says fears displacement if her landlord is pressured to sell.
“They are going to build this stadium directly across the street from us, cutting us off from civilization basically,” says Thrower. “I just don’t think it’s right.”
Earlier this month, Council President Darrell Clarke told Temple News that he does not support the stadium project and would not unless there was community support. A Temple University spokesperson wrote in an email today:
“Our goal continues to be to engage our neighbors on this and other substantial quality of life issues that are important to the residents of North Philadelphia. We will continue to have conversations about the multipurpose facility and other issues in small community meetings in the near future.”
“Temple doesn’t have a leg to stand on because they did not talk to the people before they proposed ,” says Rev. William Brawner, a member of POWER, an interfaith activist organization that is part of the No Deal Coalition working to kill the stadium project. “There is no compromise– the students don’t want it, the community doesn’t want it- the pastors, the preachers and the congregations don’t want it, who else do they need to talk to???””
Tension between Temple University and area residents reached a boiling point earlier this month when University president Richard Englert was shouted down at a community townhall. At a separate community meeting hosted by residents, hundreds said they are against the stadium.
10 days ago, Valerie Harrison, a special advisor to Englert, appeared on KYW’s public affairs show, Flashpoint, and said that the university had met with 10-plus residents over the past 17 months and that feedback from those meetings helped to fuel the ideas behind the stadium. She also said at that time that the university’s goal is to continue to engage the residents of the impacted area of North Philadelphia to give them the opportunity to learn about the proposed multipurpose facility and weigh in on the project fully informed.
“Temple won’t say who they talked to,” says Brawner, “those people will not stand up against all the people who don’t want it.”
Members of the No Deal Coalition called out elected officials, demanding that they not support the stadium at the site ever.
“We want them to make a permanent commitment to not supporting this stadium so we don’t have to run around every six months and protest again,” says Rev. Robert Shipman, another member of Prince of Peace Baptist Church who is part of the No Deal Coalition. He directed his request to Council President Clarke.
“Listen to the people who put you in office,” he says.
Residents expressed skepticism toward those in elected office, especially with elections coming up next year.
“We are tired of the deal makers,” says Birchett. “We don’t want a stadium and we don’t want it introduced later on.”
The residents and others in attendance at today’s press conference say they will fight until Temple University finds another site for its stadium.