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Gentrification as a Hindrance to Sustainable Lifestyles in North Philadelphia

  • Published on August 31, 2022

In North Philadelphia, Norris Square Neighborhood project sheds light on the effects of gentrification on their organization and in their community.

Gentrification is an often forgotten sustainability issue. Generally, it pushes for sustainable urban development, while overlooking the effects on culture and low-income residents. Norris Square Neighborhood Profit (NSNP) is a non-profit organization in the Norris Square neighborhood in North Philadelphia giving community residents and youth a place to “explore culture and social-justice issues, create art, and develop their sustainable-agriculture skills” through gardening. 


The six urban gardens that NSNP maintains are Puerto Rican/Latinx culturally-themed community spaces. When the organization was created in 1973, the biggest threats to the gardens were drugs and violence. Today, the NSNP gardens face a different, understated issue: gentrification. 


El Batey is Norris Square Neighborhood Project’s garden specifically dedicated to Puerto Rican Taíno history and agricultural traditions. Beyond the art and culture, the garden was used during the youth programming NSNP offers as an educational and experimental food production garden. This provided the youth with a space to learn how to grow and harvest produce that was sold to the community during their seasonal farm stand. 



Unfortunately, a developer bought one of the three lots and began an apartment project, destroying the garden. While the developer has the rights to the one lot, they pushed the construction onto the other two lots disregarding the community space. NSNP has secured legal counsel and is fighting to protect the once beautiful space. Today, with the construction coming to an end, NSNP is working to redesign the garden and bring it back to its original purpose. 


So, how is gentrification in Norris Square connected to sustainable lifestyles and education (SLE)? The idea of SLE is creating sustainable systems of living which includes poverty reduction and social well-being. In Norris Square, the progression of sustainable lifestyles to become the norm for all is hindered by the rapid gentrification. In this example, a small community garden was ruined. Yet, throughout all of Norris Square and the North Philadelphia Kensington area, gentrification is increasing the housing prices and pushing the proud Puerto Rican community out of their homes. This begs the question: how can we develop sustainable lifestyles when gentrification is being practiced nationally through policies that hinder communities like Norris Square?

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