By Randall Yip, AsAmNews Executive Editor
A coalition of Chinatown business and community leaders in Philadelphia this morning officially announced their opposition to the proposed 76er arena.
They fear the arena the team hopes to build on the Chinatown border will hurt business, drive up rents and destroy their community.
The formation of the Chinatown Coalition to Oppose the Arena comes just weeks after hundreds packed a town hall with 76er officials who told them the Downtown arena would invigorate an area in need of more foot traffic and thriving business.
The group says its reached out to 100 Chinatown businesses and 90 of them have formally signed a petition to oppose the arena.
Many who spoke say they have a connection to Chinatown.
Harry Leong grew up in the community and is President of Philadelphia Suns, a volunteer organization.
“We support the 76ers. We do not support the arena,” he said. “We know this arena will destroy Chinatown. This will greatly affect the surrounding communities negatively.”
Selena Yip says she has deep roots in Chinatown and runs the Philadelphia Asian American Film Festival
“I am connected to this community both personally and professionally. My family calls Chinatown home. We are a multilingual, multicultural community. This is what makes Chinatown special. This is what makes it irreplaceable. We will not allow billionaire developers to determine what happens in our neighborhood. We will not lose our right to self-determination.”
As an interpreter repeated Yip’s words in Mandarin, she began to cry.
“We feel your pain. Home should be considered safe,” said Rev. Mark Kelly Tyler of Mother Bethel AME Church.
He recalled a similar fight with Temple University when it proposed building a stadium in North Philadelphia and home to many African Americans. The community protested the plans and Temple University abandoned its stadium before it was built.
“When we fight, we win,” said Tyler. “Fight back against this plan to gentrify your community. It needs to be protected from greedy developers. Those who trust in their riches will fall. The righteous will thrive like a green leaf.”
Elizabeth Koo of the Asian American Legal Defense and Education fund vowed her group would be “exploring all legal options” to stop the arena.
“For a city to remain welcoming, affordable spaces need to be available,” she said. “The proposed arena will take those spaces away. Chinatown originated from the very type of violence that Asian Americans continue to experience today.”
Bobby Zhang, co-founder of Hoyu Cultural Center, brought up how a similar basketball arena in Washington DC chased away Chinatown residents there. Today there are few Chinese living in DC’s Chinatown.
“I urge everyone to be united. We will tell the 76ers we do not want them here. We will unite and fight until we have our victory.
The Coalition also includes the Chinese Restaurant Association of Greater Philadelphia, Pennsylvania United Chinese Coalition, and Renewal Presbyterian Church.
(Correction: An earlier version of this story misidentified the president of the Philadelphia Suns. We regret the error)
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