Philadelphia’s Chinatown residents fear a proposed NBA arena could threaten their existence
Xu Lin, a restaurant owner, said that when he immigrated to the U.S. with his family as a teen, Philadelphia’s Chinatown provided them with jobs and housing.
Xu Lin, a restaurant owner, said that when he immigrated to the U.S. with his family as a teen, Philadelphia’s Chinatown provided them with jobs and housing. And today, he says, it continues to be a refuge for his family and other immigrants trying to put down roots in the city.
“There was a lot of racism. There was a lot of violence,” Lin said. “But we know that Chinatown is a home, somewhere that’s safe. We can be who we are. I can be who I am. I can speak the language. I can look how I look and be OK.”
But Lin said that after the Philadelphia 76ers unexpectedly announced their plan to build a sports arena adjacent to the neighborhood, he was worried that the safe space might erode. He is one of many Chinatown community members, business owners and organizations that formed a coalition to speak out against the proposal, which they say was developed without their input.
Critics say the project threatens to gentrify the enclave, bringing economic pressures to the community and negatively affecting the surrounding environment long-term. Frustrated residents add that they have repeatedly had to fend off similar projects that failed to include their voices. And given the financial strain the area has had to shoulder due to the coronavirus pandemic and the subsequent waning of the economy, some worry that the arena could serve as a final tipping point.
“It feels very insulting to the community to not be consulted before they make a huge public announcement,” said Lin, whose restaurant, Bubble Fish, is a few blocks from the proposed site. “Every few years, somebody wants to dump a big project like that in our community that threatens our existence. We are pretty tired of it.”