Hank's Take: Neighborhood name game

- Paul Janaitis calls himself a small developer of a couple dozen properties. He’s put up signs from Cecil B. Moore up to Lehigh and Front Street to 6th, announcing Stonewall Heights – “A Modern Historical District.”  

Paul says “Badlands” is no name for anywhere, he lives in the area and loves it. 

“I’m developing here. I want people to know about this area,” says Janaitis, who met Flynn at Norris Park.  “I want people to come and shop at your stores, I want them to buy my houses.   I want people to live in this community and I want people to know about it.”

If one guy can put up signs about a neighborhood name, I thought he should put his two cents in.  I put out a chairs,  got out the sidewalk chalk, and busted out my new name for the area, Fat City.   But it couldn’t be that easy, could it?  A guy puts up a sign or my dopey chalk drawing? And can a name change a neighborhood?   Samantha, Kyia, and Jamil work at a Kensington school.   

“It doesn’t change the love and the family of the ‘hood,”  says Kaia.   “It just changes the name.”

“I don’t think anyone would even actually take that personal,” says Jamil.  “Because it’s just a name, like every little borough has a name around here already.   We named the streets ourselves anyway, you know?”

Maybe the difference is Paul’s methodology – he’s used so-called “bandit” signs to spread his message, and he’s far from the only violator there.   And he’s definitely bought some bargain publicity.   Marcos Ramos grew up on Dauphin Street – he’s seen the neighborhood name game played before – and he says money’s talking very clearly right now.   

“They start building stuff up – now they’re charging million-dollar houses – and renamed it to Northern Liberties.   I have family over there they can’t even afford it and they had to sell at the lowest price and move out.”

Paul says he’s not that guy, and his electrician and his masonry guy say he’s stand up.  Either way,  ten years from now,  Kensington will probably still be Kensington and Norris Park will probably still bear the name of Issac Norris – former slave owner.   It’ll cost a lot more to live there – maybe I’ll open up a bar and call it Fat City.  I’m Hank – and that’s my take.

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