Noted urbanist (and inventor of the concept of the “creative class”) Richard Florida has a post up on The Atlantic Cities right now about The U.S. Cities Where the Poor Are Most Segregated From Everyone Else. And in that tally, Philadelphia ranks third in the nation. There’s some heavy math and other analysis in Florida’s methodology, and some will surely debate about that, but on a gut level, Florida is confirming what many of us have long felt: There are two Philadelphias, and to live here and move about the city is to often shuttle between the two but somehow never actually touch whichever side is the other. And according to Florida, this situation is getting worse — not just in the gradual spread of this kind of segregation across the country, but also in the widening gaps in the places where this already exists. As Philly changes so much and so quickly, before our very eyes, it also occurs to us that this was at the heart of the debate between the mayoral administrations of Ed Rendell and John Street — which is to say that here is something that we’ve been worrying about for decades, with seemingly no ideas about what to do about it or the resources to enact change even if we could. If you recall, Rendell’s way to a healthier Philadelphia for all — socially, economically, and so on — was to build up Center City; Street focused on the neighborhoods. Years on, Rendell’s gamble has shown to be a huge success, but perhaps on a strictly mercantile level, and he may have even started a steamroller of segregation, as Center City has slowly but surely put a kind of gentrification sprawl into motion. Florida’s analysis offers no solutions just now — it’s not bound to — but it does offer plenty of food for thought.
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