The Students for the Preservation of Chinatown coalition is hosting interest meetings and info sessions to inform students in Philadelphia about real estate developments that they say pose a threat to the Chinatown community.
Founded last October, SPOC is a part of the Save Chinatown Coalition—which includes groups such as Asian Americans United and Save UC Townhomes Coalition—that opposes developments near Chinatown. The coalition has most recently opposed the Philadelphia 76ers arena proposal which would be located one block from Chinatown.
SPOC hosted a general interest meeting on Jan. 5 and an info session on Jan. 15.
SPOC co-founders College sophomore Taryn Flaherty and Bryn Mawr College junior Kaia Chau told The Daily Pennsylvanian that they had parents heavily involved with the Save Chinatown Coalition and were introduced to the coalition’s efforts at a young age.
“We are both daughters of activists who were active in the stadium and casino fights being built in Chinatown,” Flaherty said. “Our mothers in particular inspired us to grow up as people who were aware of what these huge developments could mean for this neighborhood that we were growing up in.”
Chau said the primary goal of SPOC is to mobilize college students in the Philadelphia area against the plans for a new 76ers arena in Chinatown.
“Penn and Drexel students have really strong ties with the developers of the arena,” she said. “We thought that we needed to really start pressuring both developers and the students at the schools to reflect on the systemic issues that the institution and the developers are perpetuating.”
In particular, the students said that SPOC is working to spotlight Penn’s relationship with David Adelman, who currently is the chairman of 76 Devcorp, the private development company behind the 76ers' arena. Adelman serves as CEO of Campus Apartments, which houses many Penn students, and currently sits on the Penn Medicine Board of Trustees.
“Penn administrators constantly work with David Adelman and the University City district,” Flaherty said. “This is unethical money that Penn is giving to Adelman, whether directly or indirectly. Our main goals are attacking that connection, trying to get Penn to reject this developer.”
To further amplify student involvement, SPOC is also looking to branch more into the arts sector, creating both an arts and communications committee for students to get involved with.
“Whatever talents students have, we can use,” College sophomore and SPOC organizer Kenny Chiu said. “If people know how to write, [they can] send out newsletters; if people have artistic abilities, [they can] make prints and put them around campus and the city. A big impact can be made.”
In early December, the Save Chinatown Coalition held its first community meeting in Chinatown to increase awareness of the issue and plan the group’s next steps and action plan. Representatives of several real estate developers, including Adelman’s 76 Devcorp, were in attendance and spoke on behalf of their companies.
“The tone of that meeting was nothing like [the developers] had been saying in the media,” Flaherty said. “Every single response [from the developers] to a question was met with massive amounts of boos and yelling.”
Following SPOC’s march in December from College Hall to Campus Apartments to denounce Adelman and the stadium development, Chau said that their next focus is the Penn Board of Trustees, including 1991 Wharton graduate David Blitzer, who is another leading developer of the 76ers arena.
SPOC will be forming a list of demands for the Board to meet, one of which is cutting ties with Blitzer, according to Chau.
Leaders of SPOC said that they encourage the community to keep up with news regarding Chinatown and the 76ers arena, suggesting students follow social media accounts and news outlets covering the events and thinking critically about what perspectives each source offers.
“A lot of the friends I’ve talked to have said that they found a semblance of home in Chinatown,” Chau said. “It’s a place of community, and so it will greatly affect Penn students for that community to be kind of destroyed.”