We’re not losing it so they can build a school, or a firehouse, or a highway or a hospital. We are losing it because the real estate prices have gone really crazy up, and it’s time for the developers to make their money.
That is the opening statement visibly upset Mel Athanasiadis, the owner of El Greco’s Pizzeria, gave to approximately 50 protesters outside his 1529 Cadwaller Street property. Community members joined Athanasiadis to protest the controversial seizure of 35 properties through eminent domain in the Olde Kensington section of Philadelphia. Athanasiadis owns seven properties related to this land grab.
At a time when we’re closing schools for our kids,” he adds, embracing his young daughter, “and for firehouses who cannot afford to keep them open [sic], we can afford to give the developers tax credits and grants. And this is only one project. I’m not against development, I just don’t want anyone stealing from me.
According to City Paper, the nonprofit Arab American Development Corporation and Conifer Realty, a New York real estate firm, will build Tajdeed, the name of the proposed affordable housing development. Tajdeed, which translates to “renewal” in Arabic, would be located across the street from the Al Aqsa mosque. The possibility of the mosque renting out units from this Arab American Development Corporation project exists as well, due to Sharia banking law.
City Councilwoman Maria Quiñones-Sánchez, who represents this district, proposed legislation for this project.
There’s no question that there is a lot of blight in Olde Kensington, yet this eminent domain land grab is seen by community members as an effort to usher in neighborhood gentrification, and there may be validity to residents’ concerns: There is no guarantee that the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency will grant Low Income Housing Tax Credit to the Tajdeed development, which means that property values – and taxes – may go up, pushing low-income residents from the area.
There are a myriad of reasons why impacted community members are angry. Among them: A lack of prior notice about land seizures, and what they see as insufficient compensation from the city, which is often lower than what they purchased property for. They have a year to appeal the city’s offers.
Read City Paper’s Samantha Malamud’s comprehensive reporting on this eminent domain land grab.
Libertarian activist and journalist Michael Salvi was on scene to record yesterday’s demonstration. You can watch his video below.