Over the past decade or so, there has been much ink spilled on the idea of ‘New Philadelphians’ vs ‘Old Philadelphians.’ Be it politics or neighborhoods, news articles pose New Philadelphians as the under-35 college-educated residents bent towards bikes and popup beer gardens. Typically living in Center City and surrounding neighborhoods, these Young Philadelphians moved from the suburbs or another city to be here.
Old Philadelphians, the storyline goes, are the ‘old heads’ of these and other neighborhoods, often the protagonist to the New Philadelphians. They’re the pipe fitters, mechanics, and service industry staff. Typecast as gruff, car loving, and opposed to change, the Old Philadelphians are often typecast as the antithesis of New Philadelphians.
While this is how the storyline plays out in the media, we believe, based on our discussion with countless residents and understanding the history of this city, that our platform and ideals, often cast as ‘New Philadelphian,’ are much more ‘Old Philadelphian’ than many would believe. Talk to any resident who has been here long enough and they will speak about about their time as a child, when they could play in the street with little fear of being struck by a car. Or how clean the neighborhood used to be, both because of the dedication of the neighbors as well as the services of the city. The desires for a cleaner and safer city are what many Old Philadelphians experienced and want to see return.
As people driving cars grew exponentially in Philadelphia in the 20th century, residents knew that for all the convenience of the automobile, they were giving up something. The streets that were once home to kids playing on the streets were now off limits. The streets that were once the community gathering place and meticulously cared for were now the domain of the automobile. Amidst rising vehicle crashes involving residents, the mothers, fathers, sons and daughters of the 1950’s protested across the city for safer streets.
The organization and scope of these protests, along with continuing street safety protests in the 60's and 70's, has yet to be matched by any ‘New Philadelphian’ protest. If we have a model and example for how to create safer streets, it’s not the New Philadelphians we need to look to, but it’s to these residents who have been desiring and demanding it for generations. This is why our platform is not ‘New Philadelphian.’ Our platform is for every Philadelphian.