Why Even The Temporary Privatization of Public Space Is Too Much

 

Admission to Franklin Square park will require $17 during the Chinese Lantern Festival, which concludes on June 12. | Photo: Alejandro A. Alvarez, for The Inquirer

Admission to Franklin Square park will require $17 during the Chinese Lantern Festival, which concludes on June 12. | Photo: Alejandro A. Alvarez, for The Inquirer

  • For six more weeks, Franklin Square, William Penn’s perpetual assurance of public space in the northeast quadrant of Center City, will require a $17 admission fee after sunset, and, in daylight, resemble “a high-security military base,” with its chain-link fence and black mesh. Such is Inga Saffron’s estimation of Historic Philadelphia’s partnership with a Chinese lantern firm to hold the light festival, a deal that is hoped to garner $220,000 for the non-profit organization, which she is quick to admit has done much to resuscitate the long maligned public square. Yet she worries that such budget-righting measures make for a slippery slope toward the further abrogation of the public to the private. “Sorry, parks exist to provide city-dwellers with a green respite, not do yeoman’s work for the economy.”
  • On July 28, 1918, as the First World War approached its climax in the entrenched forests of France, Philadelphia experienced some of the worst racial tensions in its history, seeing “mobs engaged in gun fire on nearly every other corner of a section bounded by Washington avenue, Dickinson street, 23rd and 30th streets,” reported The Inquirer at the time. Ken Finkel’s Philly History Blog chronicles this race skirmish of 1918, which, as significant and horrific as it was, has not well preserved itself within the city’s collective memory.
  • Economists from the U.S. Geological Survey and the National Park Service report that Independence National Historic Park attracted some 4.3 million visitors last year, raking in $365.3 million for the local economy and supporting about 3,853 jobs. These numbers, notes the Philadelphia Business Journal’s Kenneth Hilario, amount to a 20% increase from 2014.
  • Nearly two and a half years after its creations and nearly six months after its first property deposit, the Philadelphia Land Bank has seen its first two property transfers, says Plan Philly.
About the author

Stephen Currall recently received his BA in history from Arcadia University. Before beginning doctoral studies, he is pursuing his interest in local history, specifically just how Philadelphians engage their vibrant past. Besides skimming through 18th century letters, Steve is also interested in music and travel.

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