Welcome to Racially Charged Fishtown?

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Sarah Glover
    Ronald and Lisa Taylor photographed near one of their six vandalized windows.

    Fishtown residents Ronald and Lisa Taylor believe they've been targeted because of their race.  

    On March 30, the morning after receiving the keys to their brand new home, the couple discovered six of their first floor windows damaged.

    "I'd be lying if I don't see racial lines in Philly," said Lisa Taylor. "No one really wants to talk about it. Something is going on. There's something about us being black in Fishtown."

    On Wednesday, tape covered the damaged windows which the African American couple believes were damaged by a screwdriver and/or hammer. One neighbor suggested it could have even been a BB gun.

    A few days later, on April 5, the Taylors were doing errands when their security company called to inform them that an intruder had tried to break into their home on the 2100 block of E. Susquehanna Avenue via the backdoor. The couple called police and filed a report. 

    "I'm shocked this would happen so blatantly and to maim our property," said Ronald Taylor. "Someone is trying to intimidate you and scare you." 

    The Taylors say they are the only black couple on their block. Neighbors said there is a mixed race couple in the same block and there has been at least one other mixed race couple that has lived in the neighborhood.

    The vandalism continued and on April 6, they discovered that both of their cars, parked blocks apart, had a total of 8 windows smashed.

    "It messes with your sleep. We haven't been here long enough to make enemies," said Ronald Taylor. "This is not a bad neighborhood. It's one person."

    Since they couldn't find a window shop open on a Sunday, their cars sat for 24 hours with the damage visible for the entire neighborhood to see. 

    Support has come following the incidents from family, friends and also neighbors. 

    Charlie Patierno lives across the street and while he first thought the vandalism was due to the Taylor's skin color, he said he thought again and was not so sure.

    "They were obviously targeted," Patierno said, adding the new construction in the neighborhood has caused some issues between the different construction companies doing work. He hypothesizes that could be the reason or class tensions.

    "It makes it look like that (racism). But I don't believe it, not here," said John Batzig, a neighbor on Martha Street. "Whoever did it was picking on them. I didn't hear anything and imagine how they feel."

    Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations Executive Director Rue Landau confirms to NBC10.com that there is an open case and that the commission is investigating the incidents.

    "This is not the welcome mat we want to roll out in Philadelphia. We have to find other ways to resolve conflicts," she said. 

    Construction is in progress throughout Fishtown. Gentrification is visible-- new construction and rehabbing of old homes has resulted in a mix of old and new neighbors in the predominately white neighborhood.

    Workers balanced on scaffolding across the street while Batzig, his wife Florence and longtime neighbor Ginny Coleman sat under an awning on their front steps. 

    Block parties, kids playing in the street and neighbors looking out for each other is the Fishtown neighborhood Florence Batzig remembers.

    She lives in the same house she was born in, nearly 70 years ago.

    "Nobody bothers anybody in this neighborhood. It's rotten what's happened," she said.  

    Today, a police car sat on the corner while Ken Johnston cleared his driveway to make room for the family pool and barbecue. His toddler grandson played on the sidewalk with their dog. Johnston described the neighborhood he's lived in for the past 30 years as open, tolerant and not racist. "I find it hard to believe honestly. I find it insane. We are not that way here," he said.  

    A new superintendent job in the Willingboro school district brought the Taylors to Philadelphia two years ago. They nestled in Northern Liberties, enjoying their daily routine, which included a attending a nearby neighborhood gym, bars and grocery store.

    The couple decided to look for a new home three months ago. Lisa scoured Craigslist looking for the perfect match that included more room and a backyard. 

    When she saw the Fishtown listing, she had a good feeling, describing the neighborhood as cool with an eclectic mix of young artists and urban farmers. 

    "I'm not going to put my tail between my legs and run away," said Lisa. "We are not going to give up for someone who doesn't like the color of our skin."

    Despite the vandalism, Ronald Taylor embraced the neighborhood he's lived in for the past two weeks as his neighborhood too.

    "We are here now. We are invested," he said.