Displacement, Gentrification and Unsustainable Development in Philadelphia:A Portrait of Water-Induced Marginalization and Economic Precarity

Authors: Marilynne Diggs-Thompson*, University of Pennsylvania
Topics: Ethnicity and Race, Urban and Regional Planning, Economic Geography
Keywords: gentrification,displacement,homelessness,affordable housing,waterfront development, casino development
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/14/2018
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Studio 7, Marriott, 2nd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Social scientists, social workers, and political activists who have worked with the population flow of marginalized individuals such as homeless and mentally ill in and around Philadelphia and debt-crisis-ridden Atlantic City area have long recognized that issues of displacement and economic precariousness figure prominently. Social problems related to luxury-dominated gentrification projects in the Center City neighborhoods, coupled with the dramatic decrease in funding for low-cost and public housing also continue to exacerbate subsistence and housing insecurity among the working class and poor. The rapidly expanding development of the Delaware and Schuylkill River waterfront has had deleterious effects, and the near-implosion of Atlantic City’s casino gambling industry combined with the post-hurricane Sandy devastation neighboring shore towns has forced this city to declare bankruptcy twice and it is now grappling with a State takeover. Another serious weather-related storm would render the Atlantic City and its people crippled in unprecedented ways, and many believe that Atlantic City is a Puerto Rico-like environmental and socioeconomic disaster waiting to happen. This research discusses the complex issues related to the economic fragility of black, immigrant, mentally ill and myriad of displaced and marginalized people living in and along the Atlantic City/Philadelphia geographic corridor, with a particular focus on those who have been impacted by various water-centric economic developments, disasters, activities, and events. Spurred by oceanfront and waterfront tourism, gambling and waterside residential growth during the past decade, this paper outlines the many challenges imposed by regional socioeconomic changes, shifting political priorities and fiscal re-appropriation.

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