Philadelphia Chinatown Fights Stadium Development
by Mike Liu (with thanks to Jeff Fong, George McKinney, and Andrew Leong)
On 11/13, PHILADELPHIA MAYOR JOHN STREET ANNOUNCED REVISION OF THE PLAN TO BUILD A NEW STADIUM FOR THE PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES NEAR CHINATOWN! Instead, the city will try to build both the Phillies stadium and the Eagles stadium near the existing South Philadelphia Sports Complex.
Mary Yee of the Stadium Out of Chinatown Coalition said, "I think it's a great relief and about time the mayor came to his senses." At his press conference, Mayor Street cited the lack of consensus, an indirect acknowledgement of the opposition of broad coalition that vigorously opposed the plan since it was announced in the spring. The APA community, neighborhood groups, religious, labor, ethnic, and political entitites and others were able to mount an effective and sustained campaign.
Since the demonstration, Chinatown residents were among over hundred people tesitifying against the stadium at City Council hearings. Also the city has had to revise estimates of the cost of the stadium upwards of 30%. Most recently in July, stadium opponents including Chinatown have sued the city to obtain information on the feasability studies around the stadium.
The stadium will block any growth of the small Chinatown to the north.
A united front of Asian Americans has emerged to fight a proposed baseball stadium that would drastically affect Philadelphia's Chinatown as a community and residential center. Nearly 1,000 people rallied to oppose the project, Chinatown businesses closed their doors for an afternoon, and other protests is being planned.
There are many reasons for opposing the stadium. Chinatown residents, organizations, and businesses say that traffic, noise, and disruption from construction will result. More importantly, Chinatown, a symbol of power, community, and identity could be swallowed up. Community leaders say the 12th and Vine site would take away their only potential to expand the neighborhood and destroy the only Asian American enclave in Philadelphia. And many Activists contrast the cost of the $600 million dollar stadium with Chinatown's unmet needs. Debbie Wei, of Asian Americans United, notes that Chinatown has no public school, no public library, no recreation center, and no park. A web site, www.stadiumoutofchinatown.com, has posted fifteen arguments against the project.
Other Asian Americans, across geography and ethnicity, have joined the protest, the Philadelphia Enquirer reported. "It brings sort of a wake-up call to us as a community leader," said Cindy Suy, executive director of the Cambodian Association of Greater Philadelphia. "The stadium subject has made us stop and think about what will happen to the Asian community down the road." Shuhan C. Wang, head of world languages for the Delaware Department of Education, says, "Chinatown needs to have its own territory there. With the stadium, it brings different crowds, different appreciation. Not that they shouldn't be integrated, but each one has its distinct characteristics." The e-zine also knows of a Vietnamese®American who went down for the rally.
The rationale for the site has focused on the potential for increased revenue for their businesses. This is similar to development pressures in other Asian American communities, such as Boston Chinatown (see www.protectchinatown.org) and Los Angeles Little Tokyo. "People who do not quite understand this community think it is a bunch of businesses and that our concern is making more money," said the assistant pastor of the Chinese Christian Church. Development supporters have typically ignored Chinatown as places where people live, obtain social services, and find community.
The march was well organized with protest slogans plastered on many businesses in the heart of Chinatown, a band, and children from local schools, The protests are being led by Philadelphia Chinatown Coalition to Oppose the Stadium, which includes the Chinese Benevolent Association and other traditional organizations, Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation, Holy Redeemer Church and School, Pennsylvania Indochinese Senior Citizens Association, Greater Philadelphia Chinese Chamber of Commerce, Taiwan United Association, and Asian Americans United.
Chinatown hopes to take their fight to the City Council, that has yet to begin hearings on the plan. At the City Council hearing in July, Helen Gym of Asian Americans United reported, "It was bad news. The Mayor reconfirmed his commitment to our site and criticized those who didn't agree as ones who "lacked vision" and weren't ready for change.
Chinatown here is pretty well organized and unified. We are settling in for a long battle and planning to focus on collecting petitions and signatures this summer. We are also going to look to the Republican National Convention here at the end of July."