In an unfortunate series of events, Philadelphia's Gayborhood neighborhood was delivered several hits in the last month. The former Letto Deli, a unique piece of 50s era Americana, was demolished. iCandy was faced with the suspension of its liquor license. And sadly, it seems, Westbury will be closing.
After a fire broke out in the Spruce Parker Hotel, the city shut it down. The Westbury, a popular gay bar, was caught in the cross fire. Without a second exit, the bar was shut down along with the hotel.
The city has been looking for a reason to shut down the Parker for years. The hotel is a remnant of a city that no longer exists. Some call it a hostel, others a whore house.
It's by-the-day, -week, and -month rates harken us back to a time when cities were more than Carrie Bradshaw and Co. brunching with their trikes in toe. Cities were places of diversity...ugly, ugly diversity.
To be fair, the Parker has become a venue for prostitutes, drugs abuse, suicide, and other ill repute. But it was also a place for those struggling to make ends meet, newcomers, and rent hikes. The Parker represents the ugly diversity that self ascribed champions of sympathy love to love but refuse to talk about: hardship, crime, and homelessness.
As unfortunate as it is, the Westbury is collateral damage. But the Parker offered something unique: affordable housing in a city that still needs it.
For all that's been said of the Parker, I'd love to see someone rattle off the crime rates at 13th and Spruce relative to any other corner of Center City, even Rittenhouse. The Parker was a flea-bag hotel, sure, but that's all it was. It was as much a place of struggle as it was for insidious activity.
People only want to see the worst in others.
Liberalism can be a blindly double edged sword. While many who proclaim themselves champions of cause pat themselves on the back for cleaning up their neighborhoods, they've ignored those they've displaced with nowhere to go. We liberals view community gardens as improvements, but turn a blind eye to those who strive for a warm meal from McDonald's.
What sickens me most about the Parker's closure isn't the building's closure, it's the hypocrisy behind the unofficial campaign to eradicate the occasional warm bed for those accustomed to sleeping on the street.
The Gayborhood of all places is Center City's last vestige of cause. We should know better than anyone. When a kid is thrown out of a suburban home for coming out to his parents, the Parker was a bed. Now he or she has a steam vent along Market East.
Progress isn't measured in the superficiality of new condos and hotels, it's measured in compassion. The Parker may have been a den of inequity, but no one stopped to question why that den existed. Its drug abuse, prostitution, and suicides weren't products of the hotel, they were products of our society. Now that the Parker is gone, those atrocities won't vanish, they'll be relinquished to the streets where they'll be ignored.
We shouldn't have been campaigning to close the Parker, we should have been campaigning to end the reason the Parker served a need.
13th and Spruce may find itself with a new hotel, market rate apartments, or a vacant building. But erasing the Parker from Philadelphia did nothing for those who needed it. At best it traded a rare alternative to a homeless shelter for boutique hotel rooms. At worst, those who resided at the Parker will be living on the streets in exchange for an abandoned high-rise.
Think about that, then pat yourself on the back. As so-called "progress" transforms American cities with upscale apartments and trendy cafes, is it any wonder that homelessness is on the rise?
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