West Philly Vendors Suspicious of City's Plan to Revitalize 52nd Street Corridor

52nd Street vendors suspicious of city’s effort to revitalize their West Philly shopping corridor.

By Michael Alan Goldberg
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 11 | Posted Mar. 16, 2011

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A street vendor himself for 30 years, Abdulaziz says the vendors on 52nd are tough enough to weather the storm until then. “I vended for many years in different parts of Philadelphia without a canopy and I made a living. The canopy added a certain uniqueness and convenience, and it became part of your makeup and your business. Losing it was like losing an advantage … But you get over it in time. It’s not easy, but we’re not going anywhere.”

Though more of a pipe dream than anything, Postley hopes the neighborhood will band together and pressure the city to install new canopies. It’s for everyone’s benefit, he says, and would at least symbolize the community’s desire to resist gentrification. “I love this neighborhood. It’s my neighborhood. But people around here gotta open their eyes. They already got one foot in the door.”

Dow says he gets it. “I grew up in that community and went shopping there. I bought my shell tops [Adidas] right there. I continue to shop there. It is not our interest to remove the character of the neighborhood. But with progress comes change. There might be some people who won’t be as happy about it as others, but at the end of the day we’re going to have a thriving commercial corridor that more people will be comfortable coming into.”

A few days after that sunny afternoon in West Philly, a steady rain pounds 52nd Street. There’s hardly anyone out on the sidewalks, shoppers or vendors. But there’s Postley, huddled under a store awning near his clear-plastic-covered tables, a sour look on his face as he scans left and right for customers. “We’ve invested our lives right here, building up something from the ground you can call your own,” he says. “Even if it’s not a Sunoco or whatever, it’s our store. It’s a chance to make it, and then they take everything away and they leave you with nothin’.”

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Comments 1 - 11 of 11
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1. Anonymous said... on Mar 16, 2011 at 12:15PM

“Its time for change on the strip.
I stopped coming down there to shop years ago.
The sidewalks were crowded, the type of vendors and merchandise changed significiantly.
Let's see what the changes will bring to this area.
I would like to go to 52nd street and be comfortable shopping there.
I would like to see the sidewalks clear so I can walk and browse.
Also see people that I know from the neighborhood where I grew up.
I want to see clean stores and streets .
This could be a diverse shopping area and less crime.”

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2. Anonymous said... on Mar 16, 2011 at 03:00PM

“let's admit it. 52 st is pretty dirty and crowded on the sidewalks. Anything being done to open it up and clean it up, will benefit the vendors.”

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3. Anonymous said... on Mar 16, 2011 at 05:29PM

“I know that block very well and all I have to say is that those vendors did not take care of the block, at all. Garbage blows down walnut, chestnut and market street from 52nd and piles up in peoples yards. If the vendors took so much pride in that block, why is it covered in garbage?
There is a dead lot on 52 and market and you cannot even see the dirt. Garbage is knee high and pours out of the block and blows around in little garbage typhoons. It is pretty sad. I know 52nd was something different in the 70's, but that time seems to have passed.
I wish they would tear Mcdonalds down, too.
Independent vendors should definitely define the markets of 52nd, but the current vendors sell crap. Sorry, Bashir...”

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4. Anonymous said... on Mar 17, 2011 at 12:21PM

“As it is, it's extremely difficult to walk down 52nd St to the el stop--the sidewalk is too narrow and is just full of vendors' stuff.

And as everyone knows, there's tons of drug dealing, purse snatchings, and even shootings right by that el stop. Anything will be an improvement to that strip. I hope the vendors can hang on and make it.

The idea of 52nd St becoming a fancy mall for white people is hilarious, btw...right, that'll be the day.”

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5. pols on video said... on Mar 17, 2011 at 04:10PM

“GET JANIE BLACKWELL HER MONEY, in w philly everyone knows its janie blackwell s, she sold the hood out 10yrs ago, get rid of this person, her staff are crooks, she supported,carl greene to the ends, birds of a feather they hang together, we must retire all city council members this year put in people that dont have a clue ,well get more out of the new than these ol bastards, let follow are pols with cameras, lets see how they like it , if u work for goverment we must be able to follow you 24hr aday 365 with video, so we can show people what our pols do, take bribes, act like ur god”

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6. Anonymous said... on Mar 21, 2011 at 12:31PM

““Let’s call it what it is,” Postley says. “They gonna take the urban culture out of 52nd Street and make it into a little shopping mall for white people.”

Oh, so by "shopping mall for white people" you mean it will be clean, orderly, well-lit, safe, and properly maintained, with quality merchants selling quality products?

As a white person, thats one stereotype I can get 100% behind!

Let me know when the 'white-ification' of 52nd street is complete, sir...Oh wait, you and your bottom of the barrel, designer knock-off, swap meet garbage,bootleg DVD crap stall won't be there, will you? Awww so sad.”

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7. Anonymous said... on Mar 21, 2011 at 07:03PM

“When they ignore you it's the city abondoning the neighborhood. When try something it is gentrification. The idea of 52nd street becoming gentrified is not laughable. Gentrification has been moving westward from Uni. city for a while but I hope that not what is happening here. 52nd street has been going down for year, I would love to be able to walk down the street without hearing cat calls from men or seeing trash piled high on the corners on my way to the library but I wouldn't be so happy to see a starbucks..”

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8. Anonymous said... on May 3, 2011 at 02:24PM

“Does anyone know how I can get in touch with the Philadelphia Vendor's association head? Thank you”

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9. Mahari said... on Jun 18, 2011 at 07:16PM

“I purposely chose not to make my comments anonymously. I am a local business owner and real estate investor on 52nd Street. If we (african-american vendors, businesses and residents) took more pride in the area we could better the area ourselves without the city's assistance. It's filthy and embarrassing when the patrons of my business come from all over the country (literally) and I have to explain why it is so dirty outside. With my center city real estate, I pay additional taxes for cleaning and better services. I would pay this tax for west philly in exchange for clean streets and safety. Gentrification is not always bad. Diversity (and not just whites but including all races) enhances the education of the residents, community pride and boost the diversity of local businesses. Let's stop complaining and take some ownership and pride in "our" commercial district. Philadelphia was rated the second most dirty city in America behind New Orleans (and we have no disaster to blame).”

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10. Tracy said... on Feb 18, 2012 at 09:22AM

“I am glad the canopys were taken down. They were dirty, and made the street look dark and gloomy. I've lived on 52nd street 32 years, and remember when it was beautiful and thriving. Now it's dirty and the vendors do not assist in cleaning up their area. It's hard to walk down the street, because the vendors have half the pavement. I understand their tryig to make a honest living, but their blocking the pavement. I've been down there when fights have broken out, and because of the tables blocking he curb, it was hard to get out of the way of the fights. I hope the emprovement efforts by the city continue. I plan to be here another 32 years, and would like to see 52nd street alive again.”

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11. MsUnderstood said... on Feb 28, 2012 at 07:56AM

“I think it's horrible. While 52nd street could've used a clean up, it looks as if it has been cleaned out. Not only are the vendors disappearing, but so are some of the stores. When is the last time any of you been down there? I'm not even from that part of the city, but 52nd street used to be my one of my favorite walking shopping strip. Not for anything major, but mainly to people watch. Oh well, as long as they don't take the canopy down over 9th street, I'll survive. LoL”


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