Welcome to the neighborhood

Sharing the community surrounding Main Campus could lead to a gap made of more than geographic borders.

Sharing the community surrounding Main Campus could lead to a gap made of more than geographic borders.

Ruby Miller doesn’t keep her windows open anymore. Otherwise, the 72-year-old Jefferson Manor resident said she would never be able to sleep.
“I don’t have anything against Temple students,” said Miller, who has lived in Jefferson Manor for 30 years and has seen the changing landscape of the area surrounding Temple. Jefferson Manor stands between 10th and 11th streets and Oxford Avenue and Jefferson Street.

“But the loud talking, the singing and slamming of doors at 11 p.m. and 12 in the morning, it’s a headache,” she said. “We have been here for many, many years, and now we’re elderly. We need quiet.”

ASHLEY NGUYEN TTN North Philadelphia resident Diane Gass serves as a liason between the university and the local community members when problems arise.

With a growing student body – in 2009, undergraduate enrollment stood at 27,407 – there is also a substantial rise in the number of students who hail from other city and rural environments and inhabit non-Temple owned properties, which has diversified North Philadelphia even more. An estimated 12,000 students are expected to live on or near Main Campus this year, a 300 percent increase since 2002.

When Executive Director of Campus Safety Services Carl Bittenbender came to Temple in 1996, most of the student residential community remained on campus. The 1940 residence hall did not exist and the five-story 1300 residence hall was still a smaller, three-story building named Cooney Apartments.
“You see a transformation of the community,” Bittenbender said, noting the transformation of vacant lots and more food options. “Sadly, some of the negatives [about Main Campus] are the issues that the students have – noise, intoxication, urination, trash. When you look at it, it’s the conflict of a lifestyle. When a senior is going to bed at 11 p.m., a student’s alarm clock might be going off to get prettied up and go out.”

Such lifestyle differences, on top of old bitter feelings toward the expansion of the university’s campus, work against a possible cohesiveness between students and the community.

“[Students] don’t get that this was a neighborhood when Temple was just a few small buildings,” Justice, a 42-year-old 10th-Street-and-Oxford-Avenue resident who wished his last name remain anonymous, said. “I never felt as a lifelong resident that Temple cared about this neighborhood.”

“Every summer, more and more students come over to our basketball courts and play,” Justice said, pointing to young children and teenagers playing pick-up basketball at the Dendy Recreation Center at 1555 N. 10th St. “We love sports. If you play ball, get on the court. But it’s amazing for them to have basketball courts and gyms [on Main Campus], and then they still have the luxury to come down here and play. We don’t have that luxury. I know you can’t help everybody, but students live here, they park here, they use our space, but we’re not allowed to use a lot of their facilities.”

Roberta Faison moved to Jefferson Manor in 1970 and now serves as the 55-plus community’s Tenant Council president. She witnessed houses being torn down where Anderson and Gladfelter halls now stand and watched as drug stores that sold ice cream sodas came and went. When Faison first moved to the area, she said Temple students weren’t much of a problem.

“Temple’s presence has helped the neighborhood,” Faison said, “but on the same token, it has caused trouble. A lot of students do things they wouldn’t do in front of their parents.”

For community members, it is not just the noise levels of late-night parties that bloom into neighborly issues with students.

“[Students] live here, but they don’t live here,” Faison said. “Would they throw trash onto people’s lawns at home?”

Willie J. DeShields, president of the Yorktown Community Organization, said when students rent properties, sometimes owners do not properly maintain the upkeep of the homes if they are not residents. (Editor’s Note: The North Central Philadelphia Community Special District Controls prohibits private investors from renting homes to students in Yorktown and Jefferson Manor unless the owner is a resident of the home as well. In recent years, the rule led to eviction notices for many student residents, but no one was actually evicted.)

“You can almost tell when the houses are occupied by students rather than a family who owns,” DeShields said. “The grass grows higher. If you lived in the house, you would think that that person would be cognizant of the property, but when you don’t live there, it’s out of sight, out of mind.”

“If you walk out to 11th Street, you may see a lot of trash because it’s the main road, but when you walk into Jefferson Manor, you don’t see broken bottles or graffiti,” Faison added. “With any complex or home, people take pride in their lawns and being able to take care of their properties.”

Senior accounting major Jeremy Palmieri acknowledged that “a lot of the times, [living here] is just students’ temporary home.”

Though Palmieri has since moved away from Main Campus, he lived at 17th and Berks streets his junior year. Palmieri said he and his roommates threw parties in their house, but they were careful not to let party-goers throw smashed bottles over fences. One incident, however, beckoned the police to Palmieri’s house when a female student climbed over to a neighbors’ roof and threw a bottle from atop the house.

Though Palmieri’s house was robbed on Christmas day when no one was home – the robbers left boxes of Mike and Ike and Jujube candies – the roof incident “was the only time I really interacted negatively with the neighbors,” he said.

Palmieri and his roommate Luke Pisarek, a senior English major, also played baseball with neighborhood children, and were constantly patrolled by their neighborhood watch woman, “Miss Jean.”

“Every time we looked up, Miss Jean was there watching from the third-floor window,” Pisarek said. “But she was always nice. Always said, ‘Hi.’”
Palmieri acknowledged that there is a root to the problems that exist between students and locals cohabitating in the same area: respect.
“There’s not enough mutual respect,” Palmieri said. “It’s hit or miss. We can say, ‘Hi’ to them and they might not respond, but it’s the same thing for students. Everyone is different.”

Sixty-five-year-old Diane Gass, who lives in the Philadelphia Housing Authority’s Norris Homes complex between 10th and 11th streets and Norris and Berks streets, east of Main Campus, said the gap between students and the community has grown smaller. At times, though, Gass still finds herself invisible to students.

“We wish students wouldn’t be down on the people who live around here and treat everybody the same,” said Gass, who serves as the president of the Tenant’s Council for Norris Homes. “When students walk by while we’re sitting outside and don’t say anything, they don’t realize that we’re watching their cars making sure nothing happens to them.”

However, Gass said she appreciates the students who volunteer their time to assist Norris Homes. After Temple “adopted” Norris Homes in January 1995, it has since been able to set up community outreach programs pairing Temple resources to the PHA homes.

With the help of the Philadelphia Anti-Graffiti Network, children at the Norris Homes Community Center painted the tiles adorning SEPTA’s Regional Rail stop at 10th and Berks streets, which were finished and glazed by students from the Tyler School of Art.

Thomas Anderson, the now-retired associate vice president of community relations who worked as a liaison between Temple and the community for various building projects and scholarship programs, also helped organize neighborhood clean-up days for the Norris Homes housing complex.

“We had to motivate the people to want to come out and clean the playgrounds,” Gass said, recalling the first few clean-up days when Temple provided hot dogs and hamburgers. “Once the residents saw Temple students coming over to paint our playground and clean it up, they came out and started sweeping up too.”

But for some community members who lack the Temple connection – both Gass and Faison serve on the university’s Community Campus Council and can often contact Temple officials when problems arise – the sentiment toward the university and its students vary.

“There are some genuine [students] who care, but you have those few seeds or few bad apples just like the few seeds or few bad apples that are from the neighborhood who give students bad impressions of the neighborhood,” lifelong North Philadelphia resident Divine Allah, 41, said. “That’s how some people in the community feel about Temple. The people who are nice and interested in community cohesiveness aren’t making a lot of noise. You’re only going to bear witness to the negative things if no one speaks up.”

Anderson, who worked with the community during the initial transition and expansion of Temple, said the only way he was able to get anything done was to build up trust. Anderson visited homes, ate meals with residents and attended community meetings.

“Things have changed,” Anderson said. “All the nitty-gritty things were done years ago. Now there are different problems.”

“Getting along with the community is about respecting where you live,” he added. “Where you transfer yourself to is another community, but it’s still a community.

Ashley Nguyen can be reached at ashley.nguyen@temple.edu.


  1. Sorry — but this is very one-sided. Look at what Temple does for Philadelphia as a whole. Temple students bring over $1Billion into the Philadelphia economy every year; that’s important to note.

    Justice above says, “they still have the luxury to come down here and play. We don’t have that luxury. I know you can’t help everybody, but students live here, they park here, they use our space, but we’re not allowed to use a lot of their facilities.” Sorry, Justice…but these students pay taxes in Philadelphia and can use the community space. The majority of Temple’s operations are funded from tuition, which the majority of these students will be paying off for decades. If local residents want to use the Temple facilities, that is fair…but you need to pay a membership fee to help support their renovation and upkeep.

    Additionally, this article does not mention all the security problems the campus has that is caused from local residents. Pearson and McGonigle Halls have been vandilized for years with local residents being caught on tape.

    These people want to take all the pros of having the campus next to them (extra police force, shopping, etc), but expect to give nothing in return. If you want change, then ask city hall to start funding projects on Temple’s campus to help make your lives better. It’s a give and take. Be fair and balanced…

  2. Speaking as a Temple alum (2007), I wish the university would have enough space on campus for all students to live. When I lived near campus, I had my house burglarized and my car spray painted with a green streak when the Eagles lost a game. One of my friends had the cell phone yanked out of their hands by local middle school students riding by on bicycles. And need I not count the number of times, locals drove through the center of campus blasting loud music as we sat in class or taking tests.

    I have nothing against the locals – but there are issues on both sides of this debate.

    How about let’s put a South Street noise ban in place around and through campus? Anyone who is being loud, honking horns, or blasting music without a permit can be fined $300. Additionally, they should extend the drug zone fine to around campus just as they do to local public schools as well as a higher fine for littering. This would increate accountability on both sides of the debate.

    Temple plans to open up a lot of its soon-to-be-created park space and new library under the Temple 20/20 Plan to local residents. I don’t see a problem with this as long as locals cannot check out books and the school receives local city funding to upkeep.

  3. As a Philadelphia native and Temple grad, it’s always amazing to me that students come to Temple – an urban campus – and expect to live like they’re at Villanova.

    If you don’t want noise, neighbors and civic involvement, attend a university with a fence around it. When you choose to live in a neighborhood, you need to respect those who built it.

    I think this article struck a nice balance between what Temple (and its students) bring to the community, as well as what they take from it.

  4. These people didn’t build the neighborhoods. North Philadelphia was built from the wealth of the mills in the 1800s. But trends changed, and as the mills began to move to the South and as people began to relocate to the suburbs from the 1940s through the 1990s, new residents moved in — the same people that are there today.

    My point is not to say the people in the communities deserve any form of disrespect, but rather to say that trends shift and free market economics greatly impacts urbanization. It is healthy for a city to experience changes. And Philly is lucky that it is experiencing some growth problems like the one with Temple. It’s definitely a good thing…

  5. Temple should be more like Penn and Drexel!!! More stuff, more students, more shops (not the hair weave and shoe stores there today).

  6. Ann — “respect,” as you say, doesn’t mean letting locals use Temple property. Sorry — majority of them don’t pay taxes anyways — much less $10,000 – $21,000 per year in student loan debt.

    Not trying to be offensive. The locals benefit more from Temple than Temple does from the locals. Period.

  7. Ann may be amazed by students that come to Temple wanting to live like they’re at Villanova, but I’m surprised by the number of Philly natives that can’t see the benefits in Temple cleaning house. If locals don’t like it — they can move.

  8. @C I never said locals should be allowed to use Temple facilities. I agree that comes with tuition.

    @Jacobzz: Temple has definitely benefited the city in many ways. But locals who don’t like everything Temple does should move? Where? A person should leave their home because someone with more money is capable of taking some resources from them? I’m not saying one is better than the other in terms of Temple and the nearby neighborhood, I’m pushing for more communication and cohesiveness. No one should have to leave, and I think offering that as a solution is irresponsible.

  9. Ann – forgive me. I am very much playing devil’s advocate here, but please tell me what do the locals give to Temple? What do they do for this university? Nothing. They give us high crime, ruin our facilities, and complain about everything the university does. Temple brings in much needed tax revenue for a city that is cash strapped and losing money as businesses flee to avoid the over-unionization and high taxes. But unlike private industry, the local universities will never leave, and the city needs to do everything to let these universities grow and expand because the city needs the money. Additionally, Temple accepts an astronomical amount of transfers from the community college so that locals can be university educated.

    There are lots of programs to allow people to buy their own homes. These locals should look into using these programs if they don’t like the direction the university is taking. Realistically, it’s only a matter of time before they get pushed out. Look at what happened to Society Hill back in the 80s and to University City during the 90s. This doesn’t just happen in cities – look at what happens when Wal-Mart buys up farm property in rural areas. It’s all the same thing. Correct trends mean this community will either A) be taken over by Temple, B) be taken over by private business, or C) become too expensive for locals to afford so they move out.

    Lastly, hate to say this…this may be a “community” and this may be where people live – but is the existence of this community in the best interest of the city? Would the city be better off allowing Temple to buy up their homes so that the university could build lots of new academic and residential buildings along with a new stadium? I happen to think all of that combined would have a huge impact on the micro-economy of North Philadelphia – far more than trying to restrict the growth of the university just to keep a crime-invested working class community in tact.

    It’s not worth it. It’s in the best interest of the majority of Philadelphians for Temple to grow and expand, and if that means the demise of this community then so be it.

  10. It’s not about looking at what the locals do for Temple specifically, but what they bring to the community as a whole.

    Yes, crime rates are high, but even reading the pages of The Temple News, you must see how many solid, hardworking people live nearby campus. Do those people deserve to be forced out of their homes so someone can flip it and rent it to students who probably won’t maintain the property?

    If nothing else, I hope you can see that Temple students are capable of doing as much damage to a neighborhood’s quality of life as someone who’s lived there for years.

    I think we can take examples like Society Hill and University City and learn from them. Temple and its students often pride themselves of embracing diversity, yet saying it’s only a matter of time before we price people out of their neighborhood is the opposite of that philosophy.

    Why not try to find a balance? I’m not delusional enough to think everyone will just live together in harmony, but there must be some other way to approach this than Temple vs. The Neighborhood.

    To address your point of building up the campus and pushing residents out, think of this: if you believe the surrounding neighborhood is nothing but crime and drugs, why would you want to send those people out and spread those problems to other areas? The reason there are so many half developed/half struggling neighborhoods is because it is impossible to get the bad element of a neighborhood to fully leave. Instead, some leave and just contribute to the bad element in another neighborhood.

    Communities like this – with some good people and some bad – will always exist. By pushing out the bad, you’re only sending them someplace else to do bad. And the good people in the neighborhood are the ones who suffer, because they’ll be priced out of their homes and forced to live in another area just like the one they came from, but where they don’t know anyone and don’t know the “rules” of the neighborhood.

  11. @Ann, Jacob
    1. Kids: the only way you improve the “bad” elements is by targeting and improving the education/opportunities of kids growing up. It’s the only way to really impact a community. I’m not saying nothing should be done to combat “bad” elements, but the only place you’ll get a real yield is by helping out/working with kids from this community.

    It’s impossible not to agree w/ Ann here, it’s easy and tempting to see N. philly residents as a dying breed being pushed out by temple, but that viewpoint disregards them as people. If you were getting out-priced of the community you were living and wanted to continue living in, what would you do? The eviction of community members around here is not inevitable, or a sure-thing, nor should it be.

    Look at what “temple has done” for this part of the city, as people above put it. What have we done? Temple has turned this patch of the city into gregarious, efficient soviet-style development. You can’t evaluate which community is “better,” that community before temple or the student one. However ours is innately transient via the bachelor’s degree; we leave after 4 years.

    Allowing people to be driven out is no foundation to build a new community on; integration and cohesion are more important than the net prosperity or tax revenue of the city. People who live here, rightfully, don’t examine the revenue generated for the city when they’re looking at temple students, or the fact that we’re decades in debt to be here. They look at us as people, from a perspective which is down-to earth and human. No one gives a shit about the net economic contribution of the neighborhood, we care about who’s here and what they’re like. We care about people, all of us, even if you’re embittered and have something else driving you to say “no, this is ours.”

    There’s something that drives at least people I know to reach out and strive for community, which is innately human and valuable.

    Fuck driving them out.

    How about we actually help, instead of pretending like giving people work is a kindness? Temple’s “contribution” is debatable. We owe the people here nothing less than full involvement, integration, and relations.

    I realize that will never happen with most Temple students (at least mentally), but we can make up for that with programs helping children, and community at all bends of life. I’m not sure what it would look like, but it’d be a hell of a lot better than what little we do now, for each other.

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