EDITORIAL: York City's great divide

York Dispatch

When it comes to living in York City, there's one factor that stands out far above any other.


Basically, if you have enough money to live in one of the better areas of the city, you've chosen to live there and you like it.

If you live in one of the worse areas, you're not living there by choice and you're trying to get out.

For the people who can afford homes in The Avenues, in Springdale, the city offers such amenities as an array of nonchain restaurants, unique shops and art galleries and lots of parks and open spaces, often within walking distance. The wide streets and huge trees in those areas won't be replicated in the latest housing development in East Manchester Township.

Houses in the city tend to be older and cost much less to buy than their counterparts in the suburbs. In some neighborhoods, they often have interesting architectural features, large yards, high ceilings and hardwood floors. Of course they also have by far the highest property tax rates in York County, but you already know that.

Residents also get that indefinable sense that you're in a city, that if you came home at 1 a.m., yours would not be the only car on the streets. York is not a city that never sleeps, but it is one that has both a late bedtime and an early morning.

And if you have the money to buy the house in the better neighborhoods, you might also be able to send your kids to one of the private schools in the area, York Catholic or York Country Day, or barring that, choose one of the many charter schools available. There are even options to home-school or enroll in cyber school, as long as there's a parent available to stay home.

But that's where you start to see the dark side of York City, when you start looking at the schools and their consistently abysmal test scores. The new PSSAs did no favors to York City, where only 12 percent of students in grades three through eight scored proficient or higher in math and only 21 percent did so in English.

Parents of children in those schools aren't in the city because they want to be. They're there because they have nowhere else to go.

Longtime residents of areas such as West Princess Street, Wallace Street and Parkway Boulevard say they are scared of what their neighborhoods have become. The violence, the drug deals, the gunfire, all combine for a toxic mix that people want to get away from but can't.

More than 37 percent of people living in York City have incomes below the poverty level, according to the U.S. Census. Only 42.5 percent own their home. The per capita income, $14,905, is slightly more than half the average for Pennsylvania.

There are people like Avenues homeowner Aaron Anderson who are willing to look past those numbers and see the diversity and potential for a good life in York City. Anderson told reporter Julia Scheib, "The best thing we did for our kids was to move into the city."

"There are people who are willing to look past everything and make it better," said Kyle Carter, a resident of North Penn Street. "This area has a lot of people who are trying to make it better."

Those who are willing to make a new, better life in the city need to make their presence known by frequenting the local stores, becoming involved in the schools and the neighborhoods. Only then will York City start to see the crucial mixing between the groups that will allow new perspectives for some and new opportunities for all.