Hunting Park: Block Maintains Neighborhood Ties Despite Shootings
Two shootings occurred on the same block in Hunting Park during March. They happened close to home. They happened on a quiet street full of close-knit neighbors who spend days out on their stoops, watching children play.
The weekend after the second shooting on March 21 near the 1300 block of Pike Street, residents weren’t hiding behind doors. Although some questioned their safety on the block, they weren’t fleeing by the dozens, leaving behind empty and vacant houses.
Boys played football in the street. Residents stood outside Pike Street Grocery corner store, exchanging funny anecdotes. A woman walking home from Church, palm leaves in hand, passed one to her neighbor.
The memorial to the 47-year-old man shot in the head stood at the edge of Park Avenue. The man is still in critical condition at Temple University Hospital, according to police. Two weeks earlier, former boxer Tony Martin was fatally shot while visiting a rental property that he owned.
The shootings, residents said, caused some to question staying on the block. But most residents said that they had no interest in going anywhere else. Pike Street is home, they said. Neighbors are family—you do not abandon family.
“No place like home”
Rodney Williams said that he has lived on the block since birth 24 years ago.
“My family moved, but I stayed here,” he said. “This is where I was raised.”
Williams said that this particular block is older in age, although statistics of Hunting Park indicate that the neighborhood as a whole is younger. According to the American Community Survey, the median age of Hunting Park residents is 32, and nearly 60 percent of the population is under 40.
“We do good things. We do cookouts. Everyone’s like a family to each other. Everybody enjoys themselves.”
Nasir Johnson said that he has been staying with his grandmother off-and-on for five years on the corner of Pike Street and Park Avenue. Just outside the house sat a memorial for the 47-year-old man shot on March 21.
Johnson said that he liked the neighborhood. “I get to play with my cousins,” he explained.
Marc Williams said that he has lived on, “Park Avenue Pike,” for 24 years, give or take a few.
Williams agreed that Pike Street is an older block, with a majority of adults more than 30. He said that most of the same people have lived on the block for a while, and everyone knows each other.
Although similar to citywide trends, the percent of individuals in Hunting Park who bought their houses before 1990 is higher than the percentage for the city, according to the American Community Survey. The percentage of homebuyers who moved in from 2000 to after 2005 spiked in Hunting Park, but still remained lower than the citywide percentage, showing that many have owned property in the neighborhood for longer periods of time compared to the whole of Philadelphia.
“No place like home, so I love it,” Williams said, describing why he stayed in the neighborhood into adulthood.
“We get in tune with our neighbors. Our neighbors love us and we love them,” Williams said, “Without our neighbors, we wouldn’t really have help out here.”
Williams knew the 47-year-old man shot on March 21. “That was a good man,” he nodded. “Nothing bad about him.
“The ups are the memories–what you have with your friends,” Williams said, “The downs are street life.”
“Because of the shootings”
Despite the frequency in shootings throughout March, residents pointed out that violence is not the norm on Pike Street.
Shafeeq Simon said that he is new to the block—he just moved to Pike Street in the past year from a few blocks away. Simon explained that his family chose to stay in the neighborhood to be close to his grandmother.
Simon knew the man shot on March 21 since he was a child, he said.
“Over there–there’s a lot of shooting over there,” Simon said, gesturing to the corner of Pike Street and Park Avenue. “I don’t like living over here.”
Because of the concentrated violence, residents will consider fleeing, Simon said. But he also pointed out that besides the shootings in March, the neighborhood does not experience much violence.
“That’s the only thing people will be moving off this block for—because of the shootings.”
He pointed across the street and explained that two people usually lived there, but had been absent since last April.
“I was talking to my mom into moving out of here, but they are still trying to live here,” he said.
Simon said he wants to move anywhere that doesn’t have violence.
“A peaceful block,” he added.
Simon stopped talking for a moment. “That’s my friend right there,” he said with a smile, yelling for his cousin to come outside. Moments later, six boys organized a game of football. Feet from the memorial, the boys yelled and threw wide passes, narrowly avoiding parked cars and the old, paper-white trees lining the street.
Signs from Philadelphia CeaseFire were stapled to every tree and pole.
Written on the signs were three impassioned words–a warning to those committing and allowing violence in homes and communities.
“STOP. SHOOTING. PEOPLE.”
by By Christine Killion and Taylor Knight