Monday, August 15, 2005

Philadelphia: The Trendy New . . . Brooklyn


Jessica Pressler of every-city-has-one arts-and-politics rag Philadelphia Weekly wrote an article for Sunday's New York Times entitled "Philadelphia Story: The Next Borough":

Philadelphians occasionally refer to their city - somewhat deprecatingly - as the "sixth borough" of New York, and with almost 8,000 commuters making the 75-minute train ride between the cities each weekday, the label seems not far off the mark. But Mr. Kreslins and Ms. Gaeta are a new breed of Philadelphia-bound commuters, those who come from New York by train or the popular Chinatown bus for a weekend and then come back, with a U-Haul, to stay.

They are the first wave of what could be called Philadelphia's Brooklynization.

Hard numbers assessing exactly how many new residents are from New York are not available, but real estate brokers are noting an influx of prospective buyers and renters from the city; club owners and restaurant employees have spotted newcomers, on both sides of the bar; and "everyone knows someone who's moved here from New York," said Paul Levy, the executive director of the Center City District, a business improvement group, and himself a former Brooklyn resident.

Attracted by a thriving arts and music scene here and a cost of living that is 37 percent lower than New York's, according to city figures, a significant number of youngish artists, musicians, restaurateurs and designers are leaving New York City and heading down the turnpike for the same reasons they once moved to Brooklyn from Manhattan.

"We got priced out of Manhattan, and we moved to Brooklyn," said John Schmersal, 32, of the three-member band Enon; two of them migrated here in January. "Then we got priced out of Brooklyn. Now we're in Philadelphia."

I don't think I like the idea of Philly building a reputation as suitable for those who just can hack it in Brooklyn, but I like Philly, and I like it getting the right kind of attention. I like young, creative, hip, ambitious people--at times I fancy myself one--and I can relate to their attraction to Philly. Charming places to live are both abundant and affordable. The music scene, from what I've seen of it, is as exciting as it is relaxed, from the Symphony playing in the outdoor Mann Center in the summer to Sleater-Kinney headlining a show at the Trocadero to interesting new concert-cafe-restaurant-radio station that opened last year in my neighborhood. Philly is big city enough to have anything you could want, and small town enough for you to feel comfortable. You might say that I have love for Philadelphia. You know, like a brother.

Not everybody sees the Pressler article as a good thing. The Rittenhouse Review says New Yorkers can keep their New York. Eschaton similarly argues that loose lips sink ships.

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