By Denny Cao, Megan Chung and Kathy Luu
We are high school seniors in the School District of Philadelphia, and we are writing to Rep. Jared Solomon to express our gratitude for his service thus far and propose future actions as residents of the 202nd district.
Despite Asians accounting for roughly 8% of the population, 11% of small business owners in Philadelphia and 12% of the population in District 202, little has been done to protect and preserve our culture and people. As Asian-American students, we appreciate his sponsorship of HR208 that would mark May as Asian-American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. Although it is a small act, we believe that it will lead to a better understanding of our culture and reduce prejudice against Asians. However, more action must be taken.
Currently, there is a proposition for a 76ers arena on Market Street between 10th and 11th streets. Evident from similar construction projects like the Capital One Area in Washington, D.C., these arenas destroy Chinatowns. In Philadelphia, Chinatown is home to thousands of Asians, numerous small businesses, churches, schools and, most importantly, our culture. People would be displaced, businesses would be destroyed, and another part of our culture would vanish. We urge his support against this arena in order to preserve Chinatown — preserve our culture.
In the 1930s, construction began for the Vine Street Expressway, disregarding the voices of Asian Americans, effectively dividing Chinatown into two. The effects it has had on the community are still seen today, as it limited the expansion of the community, increased congestion in the streets, and created noise pollution. Now, students from Holy Redeemer must cross the high-speed intersection to get home or go to the main portion of Chinatown. We urge him to support the plan to apply for a federal grant through the Reconnecting Communities Pilot Program to fund the project to cap the expressway in order to bring together the community and create more room for expansion. However, what also must be done is to incorporate affordable housing in the plan, as OTIS director Christopher Puchalsky suggested to mitigate the effects of gentrification. This has definitely been made easier with his sponsorship of HB581 which has incentivized the construction of affordable housing.
With respect to transportation infrastructure in Philadelphia, we support his leadership in the movement for the Roosevelt Boulevard subway line. We appreciate the initiatives that he has taken to spread the word to the community including having a community advisory board and hosting the public town hall. Considering the infrastructure bill that President Biden signed into law last November, we believe it is the best time to reignite discussions of a public transportation line for Northeast Philadelphia. As high school students, a large portion of our days is allotted to transportation to and from school. To get to and from the Northeast, students often need to take at least two separate buses or subways, forcing us to wake up earlier and get home later than most. The addition of the new Roosevelt Boulevard Line would increase our efficiency as students and our safety as children taking public transportation. This addition would also benefit other community members as the Northeast is a largely residential area with about 400,000 people, most of whom could benefit from a new connecting subway line. Additionally, this line would allow for more intracity contact and commerce. With numerous false starts since 1913, we urge him to make this more than just another time the prospect of a new subway route in the Northeast was brought up.
We also appreciate his dedication to reducing gun violence, including his support for four gun control bills in June 2022 that proposed requiring safe storage of firearms, a statewide assault weapons ban, allowing municipalities to make gun law decisions even in contradiction of the state’s laws, and implementing red flag laws. We acknowledge his introduction of a bill that would create local task forces specifically made to investigate and prosecute gun crimes and triggered when a community reaches a certain threshold of gun violence. We support his dedication to reducing gun crimes in our neighborhoods by increasing the number of police officers, especially in communities most affected by gun violence. We urge him to keep fighting for gun control bills and policies to reduce the devastating gun-related crimes that have spiked recently. Just recently, there were two shootings that occurred on the same day in close proximity to our school, and there are daily threats to our safety near our homes or places that we frequent. Especially as students who commute to school and other locations in Philadelphia every day, it has become extremely difficult to feel safe when walking outside or riding SEPTA. We believe this is the most pressing issue at this time. ••
Denny Cao, Megan Chung and Kathy Luu are seniors at Masterman High School.