Reconsider the NW Philadelphia Map
I’m writing to ask the LRC to reconsider the way it divided Northwest Philadelphia in its proposed House maps. Northwest Philadlephia has long been recognized as a unique part of the city of Philadelphia that has a distinctive flavor and set of concerns. And within it there are a number of closely knit neighborhoods that are themselves highly distinctive. One of these is Mt. Airy, zip code 19119, population of about 26,000. Mt. Airy is special in many ways. It is one of only ten upper middle class racially integrated neighborhoods in the country It has been so since the late 1950s and like the other 9 it was deliberately created by community activists who came together because they valued racial integration. In the late 1950s community leaders based in our churches and synagogues created two organizations, West and East Mt. Airy Neighbors that worked together to oppose racial block busting and deliberately create a racially integrated neighborhood. Those organizations have continued year in and year out to celebrate the community and to guide its development in a way that improves and quality of life in the neighborhood and protects its hard won racial balance. Yet despite the distinctive character of the neighborhood it has consistently been divided into a number of House of Representative districts for decades. Most recently, a large portion of West Mt. Airy—Ward 21, Division 24) has been joined to the Roxborough neighborhood of Philadelphia as well as portions of Montgomery County. While that portion of Mt. Airy is, like Roxborough, part of the 21st ward because that ward line follows 19th century political divisions, the political and cultural divisions between it and Roxborough—as well as the practical division of the Wissahickon creek and park which can only be crossed at one point in Philadelphia—is far more central to the lives of those of who live here. We understand that Mt. Airy is not large enough in population to make up an entire state house district. But that is even more reason for it not to be divided but kept whole. And to make up the additional population necessary to from a appropriate sized state house district, it should be joined to Chestnut Hill (zip code 19118) to the north and the northern part of Germantown to the South. These parts of Philadlephia are far closer in demographics and in community connection to Mt. Airy than either Roxborough or Lower Merion or Springfield Township of Montgomery County. Chestnut Hill, Mt. Airy, and Germantown are economically united by a major thoroughfare—Germantown Avenue—and three major transit lines, the Chestnut Hill East and West lines and the 23 bus on Germantown Avenue. These three neighborhoods are becoming ever more connected due to a recent upsurge of housing redevelopment. Working together is critical to the future of all three neighborhoods as integrated communities that provide opportunities to a wide range of households from working class to upper-middle class. A state representative whose concerns were focused on these three neighborhoods could provide the essential connection we need to work together as we plan for new development that benefits all of us while retaining the culture and diversity that has made them wonderful places to live. I respectfully urge the Commission to re-think the state house maps for our portion of Philadlephia and create a district that unites Mt. Airy with Chestnut Hill and North Germantown.