North Philly Residents Raise Cry Against Temple Stadium Plans

A crowd of roughly a hundred gathered at the Church | Rob DiRienzo
A crowd of roughly a hundred gathered at the Church of the Advocate to talk about Temple’s relations with the surrounding community. | Rob DiRienzo

[UPDATE, December 7th] Council President Darrell Clarke‘s spokesperson Jane Roh responds: “The 5th District office was not informed about this meeting; otherwise, an attempt would have been made to address residents’ concerns in person. Regardless, the community knows that Council President Clarke considers advocating on their behalf his office’s top priority. When residents expressed their concerns about an advertising campaign at the Cecil B. Moore SEPTA station, Council President Clarke intervened and the issue was addressed. With regard to Temple University’s proposal to build a stadium in North Philadelphia, Council President Clarke is already involved and advocating for the community. He has made it clear that the concerns of the community must be solicited and considered. If that does not happen, neither will the stadium.”

[ORIGINAL] Frustration dominated the conversation at a community meeting held to discuss the proposed Temple football stadium Thursday night.

About a hundred people, both residents of the community and Temple students, gathered at the Church of the Advocate to talk about the stadium. As I have written before, members of the community surrounding the university are less than thrilled about the prospect of a 35,000-seat stadium smack-dab in the middle of their neighborhood. Preliminary plans have called for the demolition of a recreation center and park that sits on the site, and there has been no word where football fans will park – leaving neighbors fearing that their homes will be bought out by the university.

“My grandfather bought my house in the ‘50s. This is my home,” said Glenda Bryant, who is in her third year at Temple. “I remember being a little girl riding down Broad Street seeing Temple and wanting to be a Temple student. Now, I’m not as proud.”

Looming over the meeting: A history of  poor relations between the university and the permanent, non-student residents whom surround the campus. Many residents complained that they cannot not even get a friendly hello out of their student neighbors. One resident who spoke cited the controversy over Temple advertising at the Cecil B. Moore subway stop as an example for what they feel to be a flagrant disregard for the community.

“I hope and pray [the stadium] is not a done deal,” said resident Kenneth Johnson, who lives on 21st and Diamond. “I hope and pray that is not all a formality. Give us a chance to fight this.”

But the chances of a stadium on the 1500 block of Norris Street are all but certain, with Temple’s Board of Trustees voting this coming Tuesday. Of the $100 million it will cost to build, $70 million will come from what would normally go to the Linc for rent, while the other $30 million would have to be fundraised, The Temple News reports.

Thursday’s event was organized by 15 Now Philadelphia along with a handful of other college activist organizations. Dr. Anthony Monteiro, a former professor of African American studies at Temple whose firing drew student protests last year, was also present. A lot of the attention was on City Council, particularly Council President Darrell Clarke, to stop the project. Clarke represents the 5th district and grew up in North Philadelphia.

“Darrell Clarke, get on the side of the people. Speak up. How are you going to give all of this away with nothing in return?” Monteiro said. “This is a form of genocide. North Philadelphia is not just a location. It’s a spiritual universe.”

Anthony Monteiro
Dr. Anthony Monteiro, a former professor of African American studies at Temple. | Rob DiRienzo

“This is an issue of white supremacy,” he told the crowd. “Who’s running the show? White corporate men. This is an institution founded on white supremacy. They tell students when they come here that they should be afraid of the black people.”

Ruth Birchell is a fifth-generation North Philadelphian who has lived on Norris Street for 65 years. She said that the community has been under the threat of a land grab by Temple since she can remember.

“I asked my father when I was a little girl, ‘Are we going to have to move for Temple?’ and he told me in a loud voice, ‘No baby, we ain’t going nowhere.'”

When asked if the stadium could bring much-needed economic opportunity to the community, she scoffed.

“They talk that trash, yet we don’t get hired. Trickle-down economics doesn’t happen in North Philadelphia,” Birchell said. “I met with the guys on the corner. They want to learn how to roof, they want to become carpenters, they said they’d be willing to do demolition. But guess what? This is a union town. And what pigment are all of those trade union workers? People of color are locked out. Still.”

She too directed blame at Clarke, and even called for his impeachment. While Temple’s Board of Trustees will likely approve the plan, she called on the city to step in.

“The pressure goes to the people with power to give approval for these things. Council would have to vote on an eminent domain situation. Then there are State Senators, the zoning board, the planning board,” Birchell said. “If Darrell Clarke gets his way, this will be a nail in the coffin for North Philadelphia.”

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