EDITORIAL: Casting the first chunk of asphalt

York Dispatch

Last week's headlines demonstrate the dichotomy of York City as it's taken by an undeniable momentum toward revitalization.

On one side, groups of community do-gooders and some inspired developers are putting their money — and more importantly, their presence — into the city, challenging the old stereotypes and fears that have for decades caused suburban moms to tell their kids to "quick, lock the doors" as they drove across city lines.

It's a fear much older than the times when people actually had to manually lock their car doors.

Millennials embrace cities. Research into the preferences of this generation demonstrates what anyone would glean from the influx of millennials on Beaver or King streets on a First Friday. They like it.

At no other time since its heyday can we remember it being so hip to embrace York City — to buy local, to walk to places, and to buy just about anything from an independent store instead of some mammoth chain.

Yet there's never a shortage of examples — read homicides, assaults and other crime — to show the city can be a dangerous place. At least among those who, we can rationalize, choose to live a dangerous lifestyle.

What shakes us up more is when someone "just like us" becomes a victim.

And that happened to City Councilman Mike Helfrich last week, when he said a group of "kids" pursued him, swearing and chucking chunks of asphalt at him.

He was lucky they didn't have a gun, though judging by their trajectory, it's only a matter of time until they do.

Because that's the crime progression that will continue despite the number of hip new coffee shops, art galleries, or unique gift stores we welcome.

They who cast the first chunks of asphalt shatter the walls of their own home, but it's doubtful they realize or care about the consequences of their self-destructive behavior.

The daily reality for those asphalt-chucking teens is probably a lot different from the suburban hipsters who choose the city as their recreation place.

They and many other York City residents probably feel they would be rejected at the city galleries, restaurants, and stores that have bolstered the city's redevelopment.

That's not to say anyone has intentionally made them feel rejected. It's just that nobody seems to be targeting young people, especially black and Hispanic youth, with any significant development project with which they can identify. Something in which they can take pride.

Walk into many First Friday venues and you'll notice the attendance demographic doesn't match the 58 percent of the city that, according to the Census Bureau, is black and/or Hispanic.

Maybe these city residents just aren't interested.

But if that is the case, we need to find a way make them be.

Otherwise, many of these redevelopment efforts are not sustainable because we have overlooked a large segment of people who live in the city and ultimately determine its future.

We can't reinvent this city without them.