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Hope and fear in Atlantic City

Reuters takes a look at the changing face of Atlantic City -- a seaside city facing enormous challenges and working to embrace exciting opportunities.

Brimming with promise but ground down by poverty, Atlantic City is trying to reinvent itself even as it teeters on the edge of fiscal ruin. Its perception as a seedy locale is just one of several hurdles.

The city has been devastated by the quick collapse of its one-time monopoly on East Coast casino gambling and could see its cash flow run dry by April. The ravaged local economy laid bare the city's bloated budget and over dependence on a single industry.

Now, even as local elected officials are faced with the potential of a state takeover, they hope some seeds they planted to clean up crime-ridden areas and diversify the economy could begin bearing fruit before long.


The city has added new recreation and entertainment venues from Philadelphia developer Bart Blatstein, for example. Stockton University, which is nearby and has about 8,600 students, unveiled plans to expand there, and the city played host to a summer of successful beach concerts.

Clean-up efforts at a Texas Avenue playground and other parks have also worked. Overall, crime in Atlantic City fell by 9.3 percent in 2015 through November, compared to the same period the previous year, and has been declining for most of the last decade, according to state police data compiled by Reuters.?

Original source: Reuters
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Travel + Leisure counts down Philly's top spots to watch the Super Bowl

Travel + Leisure picks their top five spots to catch the big game (February 7). You can root for the Panthers or the Broncos will sipping beer and noshing snacks. Here are our two favorites from the list.

2. McGillin's Olde Ale House
Established in the late 19th-century, McGillin's is the oldest continuously operating tavern in town. If you don't believe them, every single liquor license this modern speakeasy has acquired since 1871 hangs on a wall, alongside other signage of the ghosts of the city's past, like Wanamaker's and Woolworth. Shimmy up to the bar and order the SuperMug for $5, which gets you refills of Bud Light throughout the entire game for a buck a pop...

5. Brauhaus Schmitz
While this South Street German beer hall is normally your go-to venue to catch that other brand of football (along with Fado, a few blocks to the west), this year you can join the ranks of like-minded fans who believe that football—even the American kind—is best paired with lederhosen and giant draughts of bier. The game will be broadcast on the big screen in their Brauer Bund Beer Hall. Their $50 Super Bowl special includes pork rinds, roast beef, meatballs, wings, and more, all you can drink beer, and tax and gratuity. Make reservations by visiting their website.


Original source: Travel + Leisure
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The vision for Bok comes into focus with new tenants

The former Bok Technical High School is being transformed into a hive for local businesses, innovation and community engagement. As more tenants are announced, it becomes clear that the space will serve diverse masters.

Having already signed on makerspace Hive76 and Fringe hair salon, newish owner Lindsey Scannapieco and her development company, Scout Ltd., has signed Project P.L.A.Y., a private nonprofit preschool based in Elkins Park, to open a second location inside the hulking school building at Ninth and Mifflin in September 2016.
 
"The community was kind of seeking more day-care options," Scannapieco told Property. "I think it’ll be great." 
In an effort to subsidize building overhead and support the local business within the space, Scannapieco said they have applied for a liquor license for a permanent rooftop cafe...

In March, Scout Ltd. was awarded an endowment of $146,960 through the Knight Foundation's Knight Cities Challenge to reimagine Bok's outdoor spaces as a community engagement area called the "South Philly Stoop." The school will be located on the first floor and have direct access to a new outdoor play space on South Ninth Street, which is currently being designed. Scannapieco said that it would be open for community use after school hours...

 
Scannapieco said that Bok currently has filled out the first floor space with over 15 tenants, and a press release states that 75 percent are residents of South Philly and over 45 percent live in the 19148 ZIP code. Over the next year, an additional 35,000-square-feet of leasable space will be opened up, "and the process has begun for zoning of the historic auditorium and gymnasium for community events such as local sports leagues, fundraisers and private events," reads the release.

Original source: Philadelphia Magazine (Property)
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Fresh modern housing comes to college neighborhoods, but not for students

The New York Times takes a look at new residential development near colleges -- and notes that many of them have no interest in undergrad renters. University City features prominently in the piece.

A block from Drexel University, a glassy new rental building offers residents a roof deck with a heated saltwater pool, a fire pit and outdoor televisions — amenities that would make for a raucous college party, if college students could live there.

But the 28-story tower at 3601 Market Street was not built to house any of Drexel’s 16,900 undergraduates. Nor is it intended for the 10,400 undergraduates studying at nearby University of Pennsylvania.

Instead, it aims to attract young professionals — junior faculty, office workers and young doctors — to live in University City, a West Philadelphia neighborhood that is also home to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and the Penn Presbyterian Medical Center.

The Market Street apartments are among roughly 2,000 residential units that are planned or have recently opened in University City and are aimed at young professionals and graduate students. A local developer has also acquired eight rental buildings in the neighborhood since the summer, with plans to renovate those 600 units to attract more young professionals...

Near college campuses around the country, developers have begun building luxury housing for the staff, not the students. Tapping into a desire among some younger workers to live in walkable, urban communities, these developers have discovered that a college neighborhood can fit that bill, as students are no longer the only ones who want to live near campus...

Developers use various strategies to keep undergraduates away from these new projects, including high rents that most students can’t afford. They time leasing to miss the start of the academic year, reject applicants who will rely on a guarantor to pay the rent and design spaces that are not ideal for young students. “The undergraduates get the message,” Mr. Downey said.


Original source: The New York Times
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For Sale: Fiat used by Pope on his visit to Philly

Remember that adorable Fiat Pope Francis used to cruise around Philadelphia in September? It's going up on the auction block.

A tiny black Fiat 500L that ferried Pope Francis through Philadelphia during his historic first visit to the United States will be auctioned next week, officials said on Wednesday.

The car, which the 79-year-old Pontiff chose as a symbol of his concern for the environment and desire to put aside some of the rich trappings long associated with his office, will be auctioned on Jan. 29, said organizers of last year's World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia.

Proceeds from the sale will benefit the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia, they said. The car will then go on display at the Philadelphia Auto Show, officials said.


Original source: Reuters
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Examining the work of controversial sociologist Alice Goffman, chronicler of life in West Philly

New York Times Magazine takes a deep dive into the work and life of Alice Goffman, writer of 'On the Run,' a book based on her field work in West Philadelphia. The story is a nuanced look at a complex topic:

The object of dispute was Goffman’s debut book, ‘‘On the Run,’’ which chronicles the social world of a group of young black men in a mixed-­income neighborhood in West Philadelphia, some of them low-­level drug dealers who live under constant threat of arrest and cycle in and out of prison. She began the project as a 20-year-old undergraduate at the University of Pennsylvania; eventually she moved to be closer to the neighborhood, which in the book she calls ‘‘Sixth Street,’’ and even took in two of her subjects as roommates. While most ethnographic projects are completed over a year and a half, Goffman spent more than six years working in the neighborhood, which evolved from a field site into what she still basically considers her home. Her field notes, which she kept with obsessive fidelity — often transcribing hourslong conversations as they happened in real time — ran to thousands of pages. She had to spend more than a year chopping up and organizing these notes by theme for her book: the rituals of court dates and bail hearings; relationships with women and children; experiences of betrayal and abandonment. All those records had now been burned: Even before the controversy began, Goffman felt as though their ritual incineration was the only way she could protect her friend-­informers from police scrutiny after her book was published...

Within her discipline, attitudes toward Goffman’s work were conflicted from the beginning. The American Sociological Association gave ‘‘On the Run’’ its Dissertation Award, and many of Goffman’s peers came to feel as though she had been specially anointed by the discipline’s power elite — that she had been allowed, as the future public face of sociology, to operate by her own set of rules. As a qualitative researcher, Goffman paid relatively scant attention to the dominant mode of her data-­preoccupied field, instead opting to work in a hybrid fashion, as something between a reporter and an academic. She has also mostly refused to play the kinds of political games that can constitute a large part of academic life, eschewing disciplinary jargon and citing the work of other scholars only when she felt like it.

Worse, perhaps, was Goffman’s fondness in her writing for what could seem like lurid detail. Some of the flourishes in ‘‘On the Run’’ were harmless or even felicitous — one character’s ‘‘morning routine of clothes ironing, hair care, body lotion and sneaker buffing’’ — but others seemed to play up her own peril or pander to audience expectations. In one scene, two white officers in SWAT gear break down a house door, ‘‘with guns strapped to the sides of their legs.’’ She continues, ‘‘The first officer in pointed a gun at me and asked who was in the house; he continued to point the gun toward me as he went up the stairs.’’ In another, Goffman writes that the house of a family ‘‘smelled of piss and vomit and stale cigarettes, and cockroaches roamed freely across the countertops and soiled living-­room furniture.’’

Above all, what frustrated her critics was the fact that she was a well-off, expensively educated white woman who wrote about the lives of poor black men without expending a lot of time or energy on what the field refers to as ‘‘positionality’’ — in this case, on an accounting of her own privilege. Goffman identifies strongly and explicitly with the confident social scientists of previous generations, and if none of those figures felt as though they had to apologize for doing straightforward, readable work on marginalized or discredited populations, she didn’t see why she should have to. As another young professor told me, with the air of reverent exasperation that people use to talk about her, ‘‘Alice used a writing style that today you can’t really use in the social sciences.’’ He sighed and began to trail off. ‘‘In the past,’’ he said with some astonishment, ‘‘they really did write that way.’’ The book smacked, some sociologists argued, of a kind of swaggering adventurism that the discipline had long gotten over. Goffman became a proxy for old and unsettled arguments about ethnography that extended far beyond her own particular case. What is the continuing role of the qualitative in an era devoted to data? When the politics of representation have become so fraught, who gets to write about whom?

Original source: New York Times Magazine
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Philly-flavored emojis are coming to a smart phone near you

Visit Philadelphia has commissioned an emoji keyboard bursting with Philly pride. In no time you'll be texting soft pretzels and Rocky statues to fellow fans of the City of Brotherly Love.

The agency hopes the application, released Wednesday, will amplify the increasing buzz around Philadelphia as a tourism destination, said president and chief executive officer Meryl Levitz.

"Word of mouth is the most trusted source of advice for travelers and trip-takers," Levitz said. "This is another fun way for that word of mouth to travel."

The keyboard can be downloaded from the Google Play store and Apple Inc.'s App Store and activated while using messaging applications such as iMessenger, Android MMS and Facebook Messenger.

Users can then select from more than 40 Philadelphia-related images to insert into their messages, ranging from pretzels and cheesesteaks to caricatures of Benjamin Franklin and Betsy Ross.


Original source: Philadelphia Inquirer
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Media News: Philly's major media outlets donated to nonprofit

The Inquirer, Daily News and Philly.com have been donated to a new media institute.

"What would the city be without the Inquirer and the Daily News?" asked H.F. "Gerry" Lenfest, who until his gift was the sole owner of The Inquirer, Daily News and Philly.com website. No TV, radio or internet portal can match the news agencies in-depth coverage, he said.

On Tuesday, in a meeting with employees and then at a news conference at the Constitution Center, Lenfest formally announced the details of a complicated transaction designed to ensure that quality journalism endures in Philadelphia for generations.

The move places the region's dominant news-gatherers under the auspices of the nonprofit Philadelphia Foundation.

"In a democracy," foundation President and CEO Pedro Ramos said at the Constitution Center, "great cities need and depend on quality journalism."

Lenfest's gift will support and enhance "nothing less than an essential element of our democracy," Ramos said...

Subscribers and readers will see no immediate changes. Nor will PMN employees. The company's contracts with its labor unions remain in force. Bill Ross, executive editor of the Newspaper Guild, which represents journalists and other workers at PMN, said he was "somewhat optimistic" about the new structure.


Original source: Philly.com
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Frontier Airlines adds a bunch of cheap new routes from Philly

The budget airline has announced a slate of new destinations from Philadelphia, including Portland, Austin, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Kansas City, Milwaukee, New Orleans, Atlanta, Detroit, Seattle and Nashville.

Most flights start in mid-April, but at least a half dozen won’t roll out until May or June to accommodate delivery dates for some of the 18 new aircraft the carrier has on order.

None of these new flights will begin as daily service. Depending on the route, schedules are either Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday or Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday.

“The day of week schedule helps capacity meet initial demand as we enter these new markets,” said Frontier spokesman  Jim Faulkner .

The new routes are being introduced with fares as low as $39 one-way and target markets the Denver-based carrier considers “historically overpriced and underserved.” In in most cases the new routes put Frontier up against service offered by Delta, United, American or Southwest.


Original source: USA Today
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Philly is once again a Sanctuary City

New mayor Jim Kenney has reinstated Philly's status as a "sanctuary city."

Mayor Kenney on Monday barred almost all cooperation between city law enforcement and federal immigration agents, reverting to a policy that made Philadelphia one of the nation's "sanctuary cities."

"The only way that people buy into [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] is when they . . . have input into the process," Kenney - who had promised to rescind his predecessor's eleventh-hour order on his first day in office - said at a signing ceremony where immigrant-rights activists cheered.

Kenney said he had spoken with Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, who is promoting "Priority Enforcement," a replacement for "Secure Communities," an ICE program that has been rejected by immigrant groups and dozens of municipalities, including Philadelphia, as overly aggressive.

Kenney said Johnson will send ICE representatives to Philadelphia to brief immigration stakeholders on the new program and try to explain why it does not have the shortcomings of Secure Communities.

"But until that happens," he said, "we are going back to our old situation," which, between April 2014 and late last month, barred police and prison officials from telling ICE agents about an undocumented prisoner's pending release unless the person was convicted of a violent felony and ICE's request was supported by a warrant.


Original source: Philly.com
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Keys to the dinosaurs' extinction in South Jersey?

Experts from Rowan University are digging into a treasure trove of fossils behind a South Jersey shopping center.

Behind a Lowe’s home improvement store here, scientists are methodically scraping and sifting through a quarry pit that may contain unique insights to the mass extinction that eliminated the dinosaurs.

Back then, about 66 million years ago, the oceans were higher, and this part of southern New Jersey was a shallow sea, 10 to 15 miles offshore from an ancient mountain range that rose from the water. Today’s quarry pit was once the sea bottom, and one particular layer about 40 feet beneath the surface contains a bounty of fossils.

Kenneth J. Lacovara, a professor of paleontology and geology at nearby Rowan University, calls the layer a “mass death assemblage.” He believes it may be the only known collection of animal remains that dates from the mass extinction itself.

But they are not the only fossil hunters here.

Once a year for the past four years, the quarry has been opened to the public, and citizen paleontologists have come in droves — about 1,500 for the most recent community event last fall...

The dating of the fossil layer puts their deaths tantalizingly close in time to the impact of a meteor off what is now the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico. Most paleontologists think that the climatic cataclysm that followed killed three-quarters of the species living on Earth — and all of the dinosaurs except those that evolved into birds.


Original source: The New York Times
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Philadelphia welcomes a new mayor

On January 4, Jim Kenney was sworn in as the 99th mayor of Philadelphia.

"Government functions properly when it is accessible and accountable to the people it serves," he said in a relatively short speech that touched on broad themes of service, education and job creation.

He also briefly addressed the charged issue of police-citizen relations, saying two things must be kept in mind.

"Black lives do matter," he said, to applause - and then added that it also must be remembered that most police officers are decent, honest, hard-working civil servants.

"The vision that will guide my administration is that city government should first and foremost deliver efficient, effective services to all Philadelphians; regardless if they live in the Northeast or Southwest; if they're a new transplant or if their family has lived here for generations," he said.

"That may sound like a 'back to basics' approach. But, in reality, it is as large and as difficult a goal as has ever been announced on this stage."


"To achieve this vision," Kenney said, "we will all have to work together. Government simply cannot do it alone - we need our businesses, our non-profits, our universities and everyday Philadelphians to come together and row in the same direction."

Original source: The Philadelphia Inquirer
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Philadelphia Eagles' long snapper used magic to overcome tragedy

Jon Dorenbos experienced unbelievable tragedy at a young age, and a love of magic helped pull him out. He's been with the Birds for 13 years. 

Soon after Jon Dorenbos’s mother was murdered by his father, he moved in with his aunt and returned to his hometown for a Little League all-star game where he witnessed his first magic show. Today, Dorenbos, the Philadelphia Eagles’ long snapper, says that 30-minute experience helped turn around his life...

After Alan Dorenbos was found guilty of second-degree murder and sentenced to more than 13 years in prison, Jon and Kristina (who also have an older brother) moved to Garden Grove, Calif., to live with an aunt, Susan Hindman, who was Kathy Dorenbos’s younger sister.

Hindman, who was 32 and single, made sure her niece and nephew were active. Jon won the lead role as Charlie Brown in a community theater production, remained involved in sports and dreamed of playing baseball at Pepperdine University. But it was magic that won his heart...

For the past few years, he has toured the country during each off-season performing “The Jon Dorenbos Experience,” a small-audience show he created for corporate clients. He mostly does card tricks, but he says his main goal is to entertain.

“I don’t need you to think I’m some god figure,” Dorenbos said. “I’m not trying to sell you on the spirits of anything. It’s cool. It’s fun. Let’s have a good time, let’s laugh, let’s have some energy and let’s call it a day.”


Original source: The New York Times
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Land Bank simplifies the process for developing blighted properties

The New York Times delves into the tough situation Philadelphia faces when dealing with vacant and blighted properties -- the new Land Bank is hoping to help.

Abandoned properties, numbering an estimated 32,000 owned by both private and public sectors citywide, may be tempting targets for developers during a current real estate boom in some areas of Philadelphia. But potential buyers have often been deterred by delinquent taxes or by having to locate absent owners or determine that the owners are deceased.

Developers and city officials hope that the Philadelphia Land Bank, a recently created city program, will help sift through the labyrinth of records on vacant and abandoned lots like the Eubanks property and make them available for sale and redevelopment.

But some neighborhood residents and activists worry that developers’ efforts will lead to higher taxes and gentrification, forcing out longtime homeowners.

On Dec. 9, Philadelphia’s mayor, Michael A. Nutter, announced the transfer of deeds for 150 properties owned by the Philadelphia Housing Development Corporation, a city agency, to the Land Bank. The transfer represented the first set of buildings or lots to be taken over by the new entity.

A further 1,135 city-owned properties are to be transferred to the Land Bank by the end of 2015, beginning a process that could shift about 8,500 publicly owned vacant properties from a number of city agencies to a single entity that would become a “one-stop shop” for developers...

The Land Bank will determine whether developers’ plans are appropriate to local needs such as more affordable units in neighborhoods dominated by market-rate housing, or more market-rate development in a neighborhood that already has a good stock of subsidized properties, said Beth McConnell, policy director for the Philadelphia Association of Community Development Corporations, which advocates for the Land Bank.

Ms. McConnell said the Land Bank had the potential to clear urban blight and return land to productive use in a way that conforms with neighborhood and citywide plans.


Original source: The New York Times
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Philly makes Fodor's 'Go List 2016'

Philadelphia keeps reeling in the travel accolades, including a spot on this travel company's list of places to go in 2016.

Philadelphia may be one of the oldest cities in the country—UNESCO recently named it the first World Heritage City in the United States—but the wave of new eateries popping up in seemingly every neighborhood is evidence of both a food renaissance and cultural revival in the city. Formerly under-the-radar areas like Fishtown and Northern Liberties have experienced an immense revitalization with the arrival of many new breweries and beer gardens, turning these once-quiet neighborhoods into hip nightlife and cuisine hubs. Meanwhile, Philadelphia continues its rising trend of development with the stunning new Schuylkill Banks Boardwalk, as well as the soaring Comcast Innovation and Technology Center skyscraper that will house the much-buzzed-about new Four Seasons Hotel (expected to open in 2018). And, of course, the Democratic National Convention, taking place in Philadelphia in 2016, will usher in a wave of tourists and an even greater renewal of interest in this historic city.

Original source: Fodor's
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