This website combines the efforts of four students from the University of Pennsylvania: Lindsey Lansky, Ashley Torres, Alison Varney, and Benjamin Watkins. These four students spent the Fall 2011 semester enrolled in Thomas Sugrue’s seminar “Perspectives in Urban Poverty.” Using the foundation of topics learned in class, we were to research a specific neighborhood in Philadelphia and offer a multi-discipline study focused on poverty and public policy.
This group was assigned the Kensington Neighborhood. Please read below on each contributor’s topics of interest, as well as the major lessons learned in their research.
Lindsey is a sophomore in the College majoring in Urban Studies and Economics and minoring in Philosophy. She chose to cover the economics and nonprofits pages as well as the demographics section. She chose economics because she was interested in discovering what an “impoverished” economy looked like, specifically which businesses were typically successful in impoverished areas. She was very disillusioned at the ability of predatory financial schemes to make a profit in the Kensington neighborhood while other local businesses struggled to survive.
She chose nonprofits because she currently is a Student Director at a nonprofit in West Philadelphia, LIFT-Philadelphia. Lindsey also hopes to enter nonprofit consulting after graduation. One of LIFT’s major work areas is improving employability of impoverished citizens, so she was interested specifically in nonprofits that also worked to improve employability. She hoped that by learning about other nonprofits she could learn about how LIFT could better serve the community. During the project, Lindsey was very impressed at how many nonprofits tailored their organizations to meet specific needs of the community. She found the Community Women’s Education Project, which specifically targets single mothers, particularly interesting.
Ashley is a Senior in the College majoring in Sociology, with a minor in Urban Studies. She chose the topics of Housing and Neighborhood for two reasons. First, her current profession is in the housing industry, but she seeks to have a greater understanding of the development phase decision-making, especially as it relates to development that must be incorporated into an existing neighborhood and coexist with the existing landscape and current residents. Second, a very near and dear personal interest of Ashley’s is community uplift and revitalization. She wants to understand how different neighborhoods across the nation’s metropolitan areas, especially those that are impoverished and neglected, can be restored or revitalized. And she aims to make this a process that is in the hands of the residents.
In researching Kensington, Ashley was most surprised about the dichotomy between the smaller neighborhoods that make up the whole. It was surprising to see the differences that emerged between Kensington proper and the Fishtown/Olde Richmond area. She was most struck by the diverges in home values, home ownership, development patterns, and cost burdens. Taking that into account, it was less of blow to realize that the neighborhood efforts to modernize and revitalize are not felt in all corners of Kensington. There are a significant amount of resources invested in the Fishtown/Olde Richmond neighborhoods, but there is an equal amount of initiative among its residents.
Alison Varney is a LPS senior majoring in Social Sciences and minoring in Japanese. She chose the topic of education because it is one of the top indicators for any community or neighborhood on the quality of life in the area. Since the Kensington neighborhood is divided in light of significant gentrification in the Fishtown and Port Richmond areas, Alison wanted to investigate if there were any positive effects for schools in the area because of this gentrification. Food and other necessities and access to it is another essential indicator of the quality of life for any community, and that is why Alison chose to investigate this topic further in the Kensington neighborhood.
Ben is a junior in the college majoring in economics and minoring in math and east Asian languages and studies. He chose to cover the topics of advocacy, community, and civic infrastructure, along with relationship with Greater Philadelphia. Because of his interest in city planning and neighborhood structures, he decided to examine closely these different aspects of Kensington, with hopes of discovering what exactly went right and what went wrong in this neighborhood.
Through his research, he discovered yet another world outside of Penn he didn’t know about. Because of his interest in community service, Ben got involved with various campus organizations such as Community School Students Partnerships (CSSP) and the Financial Literacy Community Project (FLCP), in hopes of continuing these efforts and learn more about the community. This project has given him insight on neighborhoods outside of the West Philadelphia regions and a look into exactly how diverse Philadelphia is.