Yorktown: You Are Here

Producer of the Work / Filmmaker: 

Yorktown Community Organization with Scribe Video Center

Year released: 
12 minutes

This video is available for purchase as part of the Precious Places Community History Project Vol. 3 compilation DVD.

Created in the early 1960s as an experiment in affordable home ownership for low and middle income families, Yorktown is one of North Philadelphia’s great success stories. Built on land that the Philadelphia Inquirer once dismissed as a gang and drug-ridden "slum,” Yorktown’s transformation was initiated by Bright Hope Baptist Church and 650 neighbors who banded together to address the housing needs of their community. They partnered with a development organization and formed a 98% black-owned housing cluster on 150 acres of prime land in North Central Philadelphia. Nearly 50 years later the community, still predominantly African-American, is thriving. But in recent years a familiar urban neighborhood specter has appeared: an expanding university. Temple University and developers connected to the university have increasingly bought up housing tracts adjacent to the campus to provide low-cost student housing. Elderly residents have sold houses to high-paying bidders seeking to transform their single-family homes into apartments for temporary renters. Like other Philadelphia neighborhoods, Yorktown’s vitality has been threatened by the combined forces of rising housing demand, university expansion, and gentrification. This documentary depicts a significant example of an urban housing success story, its challenges in an "urban housing boom era," and the tenacity of a neighborhood committed to maintaining its housing integrity.


It looks like a promising look at the trnasformation of Yorktown.

Reverse Racism

When a white community insists that it should not reduce housing prices and allow minorities to become part of the community its racism. But when a "98%" black community is faced with persons of any race who want to move in and pay good money for quality housing or developers who want to INCREASE house value there is outrage among the community that they are being marginalized and fragmented which is somehow a bad thing. Bad thing how? Bad for those small minded parochial people who abhor change? How is the reverse mentality of not wanting others to enter the fabric of a rich community not racism regardless of the color of skin of the residents? Hypocrisy and racist is the term. This is America where anybody has the right to move anywhere they please. Civil rights and the abolition of redlining were engineered by Dr. King himself which is the ironic point to this ridiculous attempt to keep the community "98%" black which is what this poorly veiled "protest" is really all about. Shame on you. Dr King would be disheartened. Progress adn change are coming. Accept it.

A response to your comment

White people, Puerto Rican, Caribbean and Sri Lankans have always lived in Yorktown. What the Yorktown community is objecting to is the mass buying up of one family homes by absentee landlords and turning them into rooming houses in violation of the residential zoning code.

Yorktown Issue

A special neighborhood problem arises from having the transient environment that goes with having rooming houses for university students in our area. Our streets are overburdened with the parking of extra cars. The student tenants have no vested interest in the community, therefore improper trash/recycling set out, lack of snow removal, lack of leaf collection, and littering become issues. At times, the boisterous house parties, loud stereos, TVs, musical instruments and general rowdiness that is characteristic of university students who are away from the watchful eye of their parents become big problems. Some students even become confrontational with the elder neighbors and block captains when asked to be considerate in community issues. There are carpets of cigarette butts outside of some of these properties, including vomit and urine on sidewalks and porches after parties, which no student partygoer makes any effort to clean up. There has never before been litter left from day to day to this degree in our community, and I bet it does not exist where those students call home. It was in the year 2000 that our quality of life was first threatened, when the first Yorktown property was purchased for the sole purpose of being cut up and made into a rooming house, housing several unsupervised students at a time. That activity was quickly multiplied throughout the community, and the misbehaviors of those student tenants made the residents feel as if they were under attack by a pack of raccoons. We are not discriminating against the students themselves. Temple students have lived in the community in harmony since the early 1970s renting rooms from residents considered to be “Empty Nesters.” There are even students whom we welcome who own their homes in the community and have vested interests by nature of them being resident homeowners. We oppose the unsupervised minors that have no vested interest in our community. We welcome the student who would board with the owner living in the property, or a student living as a member of a single family renting in Yorktown as the Philadelphia Code 14-1629 North Central Philadelphia Special District Controls dictate.

It is not the ethnicity of the people tearing at the fabric of the community. It is the illegal activity of creating rooming houses and promoting transient tenancies that tear at the fabric of a community that is supported by single families in long term residencies. The changing every 3,6, or 9 months by those who have no inclination to be part of the community causes the respective properties to be disconnected from the chi of the rest of the block.

What Yorktown wants from Developers: To be compliant with the zoning code regulations and restrictions regarding single family dwellings in our unique community. Construction/Rehabilitation/Demolition in a property must have the proper permits and/or variances before the work is started. Building/Plumbing/Electrical work in a property must have the proper permits and/or variances before the work is started. Do not create additional parking without zoning approval as required. Have the permit/use registration application match the actual work completed. Don’t do curb cuts reducing the number of on-street parking available for anyone. Don’t reconfigure any single family property to a multiple family dwelling. These points are the city zoning and building codes applied as law throughout the city. It is not anything special asking that this same law be applied and enforced in Yorktown. We have spent our individual time and personal funds working on preserving the integrity of the Yorktown Community.

So all of you who think it is a racial issue, reverse discrimination, or whatever nonsense you can conjure up in your little minds, Be advised, be enlightened, and be quiet!

Yorktown Issue

All of the comments made by Pam are 100% exaggerated. These investors have taken houses that were not being kept up and transforming them in to very beautiful homes as rentals. I LOVE how Yorktown has twisted this ordinance into a version that sounds so innocent. The ordinance is unconstitutional by excluding “Students” from a neighborhood. What’s next, Asian people?... since so many live under one roof? I can’t stand them… too many live in one house and they all drive which causes parking problems. How about we exclude “City Workers” from Fox Chase in Northeast Philadelphia? YES all city workers since they don’t really take care of the neighborhood. They can’t even do there jobs right so that must mean they suck as home owners.

This also is not ALL about race but there is definitely reason to be concerned. But I would rather not focus on that and FOCUS on the ordinance. The ordinance once again is un constitutional. The investors agree to 98% of what the ordinance says except for how it states “student Housing not owner occupied”. Just sub “student” with Asians or with Russians. Now do you get my point?

You are Racist! And that's your problem. Not ME!

For the person that commented on Pam's ridiculous claims. Thank You. I don't know who you are but thank you for seeing the the racism she speaks about. I am Sasha Vazquez. And yes I lived in Yorktown. I lived in two houses. One in Oxford for a year and one on Jefferson. My dad being the self-less person he is bought me a house so I could go to school at Temple and not stress about housing. And yes I lived with roomates. And NO I was never disrespectful, mean, ignorant, dirty or anything else negative that you and many other have tried to say about me. And no I did not have too many kids living in my house. There were only three bedrooms and only three of us in the house. My dad bought an old, run-down piece of junk. That if anything was in terrible condition and a place where racoons, rats, mice, roaches and anyother vermin you can think of lived. And he fixed it up and turned into a beautiful little home for me and my friends that I went to school with. Not as a rooming house. That was my home while I went to school. And the only time I ever was confrontational was when you, some other crazy racist neighbors and so called "block captain" would come ringing my doorbell and banging on my door to harrass ME! ANd it was more than once. I never started any problems. Some ignorant, and down right evil spirited person always brought some nonsense to me and in front of my house. I was told so many time that I did not belong in that neighborhood because that was a "black" neighborhood since whenever and I didn't belong because I wasn't black. But, don't get me wrong. Some of the neighbors on my actual block were great people. I got along with many of them So, its not all of them. Its just some. Really its just the older folk who are RACIST! As sad as it, its TRUE! Well, I am gone now so I hope they are happy now with the new neighbors they have. And no I didn't move because of you or any of the other crazy people like you, I moved because I chose to. I have moved on to bigger and better. Maybe you should consider doing the same. As a matter of fact because of my father selling the house and fixing it up, the comps for the property values went up over a $100,000.00 or more and YES thanks to George Vazquez. Your property is worth 4 to 5 times more than what you paid for it. So, when you do get over your self and your racist ways and eventually sell your property, the profit you make thank my dad! And for the record when there was a terrible blizzard in whatever year that was my father came and removed the snow not only from my house but my nieghbors too. He also paid a man from the neighborhood to come and cut my grass in my backyard. And as we all know, well those of us who have lived in Yorktown, its not all that great and beautiful the way you make it. So many of your "black" neighbors don't take care of their properties. Don't shovel their snow, mow their lawns, place trash in the proper recepticles and so many other things. But the fact is, I did and so did my dad! And no it doesn't matter what race we are, we are good, caring people that have done nothing but good in that community. So, yes we did have a vested interest in our home.
The soonor you realize that you cannot control all the many different races moving into Yorktown the soonor you will be at peace with yourself and others. You cant and wont stop it. We live in a beautiful world with many different beautiful people in it. Accept it! Love and be loved!

I highly recommend the

I highly recommend the Franklin Institute exhibit "Race: Are we so different?"; now until Sept 7th.