As University City expands, paradox abounds
My husband and I have lived in West Philly for almost 15 years, the last eight of which have been in Cedar Park. Over the course of our time here we’ve seen many changes, both good and bad. We’ve witnessed and been impacted by crime – which although statistically on the decline, appears ever-present. We’ve noticed young folks and families moving into the area, but seen an equal number displaced by rising rents or forced to the suburbs due to poor public schools. We live peacefully in a neighborhood with people of all colors and nationalities, yet within the past month, I’ve received my first of several tastes of reverse racism – and at a community fair in Cedar Park of all places.
Commercial investment is always a boon, and businesses – especially in the form of restaurants such as Dock Street, Dahlak, even our own mini-mart Fu Wah – have done a tremendous job of garnering interest in the neighborhood and making it a great place to live. The creation of the UCD has helped drive at least the outward perception of Cedar Park as a clean and safe community. And Penn has spent and will surely continue to spend thousands of dollars enhancing the image of its University City to the world-at-large.
What I fail to see, however, is how the Penn Alexander School has really benefited the majority of residents of Cedar Park, as such a small fraction of the population is served by the school. Most families in our neighborhood send their children to local public schools such as Alexander Wilson or Henry Lea, while a few of our (primarily white) neighbors have had their children bussed across University City to Samuel Powel near Drexel. Other Cedar Park residents send their kids to private religious schools like Spruce Hill Christian and Saint Francis De Sales, while others (as in our case), send theirs to public charter schools, such as Russell Byers, Laboratory or Independence Charter. It’s unfortunate that the true nature of the school situation in Cedar Park was not made clear in the article, and that other community resources, such as the A-Space on the 4700 block of Baltimore, which does a great deal to promote the direct interests of residents as well as others, were overlooked.
I welcome the good publicity that our neighborhood has been receiving lately, but I do question whether the public is being given the whole picture. Cedar Park is a collection of people as much as it is the buildings and businesses located herein. And unfortunately, many continue to be disenfranchised as others feel hopeful.