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Chinatown community speaking out against Sixers' arena plan

Chinatown residents speak out against Sixers arena in meeting with developers
Chinatown residents speak out against Sixers arena in meeting with developers 02:31

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- Chinatown residents say they've been kept in the dark about the Philadelphia 76ers' proposed new arena, but that changed Wednesday when they meet with 76 Place developers, 76DevCorp.

The Sixers say they chose a location near Chinatown because it's in the heart of Philadelphia's public transportation hub and they hope to revitalize the area's economy, but 24 Asian American organizations and residents have questions about the proposal.

The community is speaking out loud and clear through these signs.

CBS Philadelphia

"This says 'Save Chinatown,'" Derek Sam, Chinatown resident and a business owner, said.

Sam has lived in Chinatown for over 40 years and owns a cafe blocks from where the Sixers have proposed to build a new arena.

"Here is not suitable for an arena," Sam said. "This is not a town, it's a village."

Sam is part of the group of residents and activists who oppose the plan and claim their community was blindsided by a bill at the Philadelphia City Council's Finance Committee last week.

They claim the bill contained certain language that would help developers move the arena process along by shutting down Filbert Street between 10th and 11th Streets.


"How will we survive? All the trucking and construction, six years," Sam said. "Answer my question."

David Gould, the chief diversity impact officer for the Sixers, said since August, the organization has held more than 30 small presentations in Chinatown with stakeholders in the community.

"Ultimately, what we're tracking toward is putting together a proposal for a community benefits agreement where we would commit to investing in interventions and programs and other things that will help address some of the concerns," Gould said before the meeting.

In Old City, Joseph Schultice says the Sixers-Chinatown controversy has been the topic of discussion at his bar, Nick's Bar and Grille.

"With the way the crime is in this city, to me all it does is give the criminals even more opportunity to prey on people," Schultice said.

CBS Philadelphia looked at crime stats from the Philadelphia Police Department.

Over the last year, there have been over 1,200 incidents within a 10-block radius of where the arena would go up. The majority of the crimes have been theft and robberies.

It's another reason some residents in this neighborhood are against more foot traffic coming to the area.

"We've got the right to decide what we need," Sam said, "not what they give to us."

It was a packed house Wednesday at the Ocean Harbor restaurant as the community continued its fight back against the proposed Sixers arena.

Gould was on hand to answer concerns from the Chinatown community. The crowd responded with boos, frustration and anger.

"One thing that we are very aware of is the sensitivities and frankly, the trauma this community has experienced from large-scale development in the past," Gould said.

The Sixers say they were denied an opportunity to provide a presentation at the meeting to clear up any misunderstanding surrounding the project.

They say to provide transparency, they have always provided a project website in English and Chinese and have conducted more than 30 small group meetings with translators, countless conversations and plan to continue to open more lines of communication.

"As we've done with every meeting," Gould said, "our goal is try to get accurate information out about the project and also express our genuine desire to do right by the community."

In response, residents say they feel like their voice was never heard from the beginning and this arena will destroy their home and culture.

"To make sure that for the first time ever out community voices, our residents, our small business owners, the folks who come to live and worship and learn and grow that their voices are heard for the first time," Mohan Seshadri, who attended the meeting, said. "Every meeting has been invite-only."

As for what's next, Gould says the developers plan on working with a steering committee made up of Chinatown community, business and religious leaders to continue to talk this proposal out.

"There's also been some misrepresentations and I tried to clarify it tonight that it's a 76ers steering committee and not a community committee," Gould said. "We didn't have any say in terms of who's on that committee or what their mission is."

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