An exposé on the anti-woman vile and intimidation that is the dirty work of OCF’s profit over people gentrification model.
Some have looked at the on-going conflict between the Point Breeze community and OCF Realty owner Ori Feibush with confusion. They see a neighborhood in need and a young entrepreneur with plans to “improve” the neighborhood. It’s such a perfect fit, they reason, that anyone against it should be dismissed.
The photo above, posted by a close OCF ally, Chris Sawyer, to the website he owns Philadelinquency, suggests something different about the nature of this conflict, and it points to something very different about Ori Feibush’s intentions.
The people of Point Breeze have a rich and vibrant history of standing up to build community and fighting for what’s right. Mamie Nichols, Al Brown, and Alice Shockley are but a few names that immediately come to mind.
Point Breeze residents have attempted to secure affordable housing, good schools and jobs, freedom from violence and incarceration, and build vibrant culture and arts. Most of all, as the “I am a Man” mural on 19th and Federal might suggest, we have fought and do fight to be treated with dignity as human beings, and to have the right to exercise political power over our lives. Political power is in fact the only way we will meet our needs.
There have always been obstacles to achieving our goals and OCF Realty and its owner Ori Feibush is but the latest obstruction.
Ori Feibush, who just announced an intention of running for City Council, stands to gain financially and politically from a more affluent class moving in and working-class and poor families moving out. OCF’s interests are what get hidden in all the rhetoric about improving the neighborhood.
We don’t have to speculate about Mr. Feibush’s intentions; we simply have to look at his actions. OCF and its allies use multiple attack platforms to push their agenda for the neighborhood. They push for policy and use legal threats; they intimidate, threaten people’s jobs and spread misinformation. And they have developed a blog and message board infrastructure designed to support their ability to do all these things. It’s designed in fact, to incubate hate and create a cost for anyone who might stand in their way.
Ms. Betty Beaufort is a proud woman who has lived in Point Breeze for 40 years. She’s been a leader of the Save the Libraries Coalition, involved in Townwatch, and now working to implement the Affordable Care Act against opposition.
The Inquirer printed a Point Breeze based story at the beginning of the year which ended with the line, “what Point Breeze really needs is more Betty Beauforts.”
A thread immediately appeared on the pro-gentrification blog, PhiladelphiaSpeaks. Mr. Feibush was the second comment, “I just threw up a little,” he wrote.
Ms. Betty, understands, “They attack me for standing up for my community and the things I believe in” she says.
Incubating hatred of Black women and framing the story.
Concerned Citizens of Point Breeze (CCPB) is a women-led organization. They watched working-class and poor African-American communities experience economic displacement in Graduate Hospital and across the city in Brewerytown. They continue to push hard against the same fate coming to Point Breeze.
One doesn’t have to agree with every policy they’ve advocated for or their methodology, yet that does not mean that they should not be treated with decency and respect as human beings.
NakedPhilly.com is a blog owned by OCF Realty. CCPB, initially with the support of then City Councilwoman, Anna Verna, proposed a one-year moratorium on three-story homes in order to study the effect these new homes would have on the neighborhood. OCF opposed their effort and posted a story about it.
The article tells the story of the conflict, framing the issue, in favor of OCF’s interests and discrediting CCPB. The telling part was the comments section. Theressa McCormick is a CCPB leader and featured prominently in the picture above. The comments mock Ms. McCormick and Feibush himself joins in, “Is that a rattle or a chicken leg?”
Someone then creates a fake account pretending to be, “Tiffany Green,” another leader of CCPB, and responds on the same thread, “That was chicken and it was good.”
The other commenters respond to the portrayal with glee and LOLs.
Cultivating and Incubating hate through blogs and message boards.
Feibush isn’t just like thousands of other Internet users – mean when on the Internet. He is a smart businessman doing something much more deliberate.
Feibush frequents the PhiladelphiaSpeaks message board and the Newbold Neighbors Facebook page. He also owns NakedPhilly.com, and a friend and close ally Chris Sawyer owns Philadelinquency. Sandy Smith, who talks openly about having Ori’s back, is an editor and writer for many real estate blogs. These are only some of the blogs that then incestuously reference each other, often deliberately misrepresenting the opinions of the few, portraying them as broad consensus.
OCF and its allies, operationalize this conglomeration of blogs, message boards, and Facebook pages in order to: 1) Shape news stories that OCF has interests in, 2) Recruit newcomers and cultivate a shared identity and ideology of those whom OCF calculates it needs as part of its coalition.
“I think it is cowardice, divisive, divide and conquer tactics” says Ms. Gertrude DeVose, a long time Point Breeze community member. “It encourages segregation. It fosters an ‘us versus them’ attitude and mentality. This does not make for good neighbors.”
However, to ensure its success in advancing OCF’s interests,this consciously developed ideology must have an “us” and “them.” In fact it must have an “other.”
It must cultivate the “welfare queen” imagery and produce disgust for the so-called ‘criminals’,‘parasites’ or ‘takers’ that make up the neighborhood. It promotes fear of long-term residents and validates blight as the central problem facing the neighborhood.
The ideology is dynamic but its common thread is the dehumanization of long-term African-American residents. The thrust of contempt for long-term residents is necessary because otherwise it’s hard to justify a business model that displaces them.
In that way, racism and sexism are convenient tools for OCF. That’s not to say the hate spewed isn’t genuine, it’s only to say, it also serves a broader purpose.
Further, the ideology must have an enemy. Feibush and his cohorts build on the right-wing narrative of small business owners up against the Government. OCF uses the media network to feed the idea that government can’t provide for you, all the while advancing political efforts to prevent government from providing for people.
The network of blogs and message boards is what breathes life into this ideology and so the legitimacy of the network is crucial to OCF’s ability to advance its interests. Mr. Feibush is ever active; sometimes spewing hate himself, but more often trying to seem above the fray. However, he’s always engaging and validating the conversation, and in the case of his own blog, directly incubating this hatred that is the necessary undercurrent of OCF’s profit-over-people gentrification model.
Cultivating and Incubating hatred to justify action.
“Sticks and stones may break my bones” the popular saying goes, “but words will never hurt me.” That’s why it’s important to recognize the network that Mr. Feibush utilizes is not designed to be just words, it’s designed to be a launchpad for other attacks. It is meant to give the order to swing the stick, and then defend the times they throw the stones. Its purpose is to create costs and consequences for members of the community who want to nothing more than democratically participate in decisions that will affect their life.
“I want for the people of Point Breeze to have a voice in the development of their community” says Ms. Haley Dervinis who moved to Point Breeze in 2006. “ In regards to development, I would like to see cultural and socioeconomic diversity, small business owners, and people first decisions.”
However, Haley’s vision of Point Breeze ran into opposition from OCF and Mr. Feibush. The dispute arose over a proposed OCF project on Annin St. OCF’s plans required zoning variances and thus they would need to present their plans at an RCO meeting before attending a zoning board hearing.
Haley, worked with her block captains to oppose the effort and she ran square up against OCF’s media strategy.
“In my case, the articles published on NakedPhilly after our community meeting and zoning hearing were one sided with some major details missing. I believe this was done on purpose to bolster support for the developer and to minimize our community’s valid concerns. To me that’s done by someone who is fearful; fearful that the community’s ability to make their own best decisions will stand in front of the developers desire to make more money by exploiting them. To make matters worse, when people on PhiladelphiaSpeaks were writing awful things about the situation and me, the developer fueled the fire by writing what I consider to be falsehoods to further escalate the already aggressive opinions.”
She passed a petition signed by 90% of her block, which stood in sharp contrast to the “support” for the project, Mr. Feibush had engineered, in part by using the network of blogs and message boards.
In order to intimidate her out of organizing her neighbors, Mr. Feibush called Haley’s boss to request a meeting with him and his lawyer to discuss her alleged use of a work computer to write critiques of him on the internet. Her employer’s legal team quickly dismissed the threat, but the message was clear: “Stand against me and I’ll get at you anyway I can.”
Feibush wasn’t just venting on the network of blogs he was cultivating a base of support. The screen shot below, which came later and was aimed at PBOC organizers, is an example of this type of threat from OCF supporters.
However, Feibush wasn’t done yet with Haley. His lawyer sent her a cease and desist letter, threatening to sue if she went ahead with her testimony at the Zoning hearing. Lawyers including those from the ACLU assured her she had done nothing libelous and that the letter didn’t have a legal basis; it was pure intimidation.
Notably, the cease and desist letter, cited two e-mails Haley had sent to reporters, those “reporters” from the Phillyliving blog had simply turned over the e-mails to Mr. Feibush for him to use as part of the attack.
Mr. Feibush received bad coverage for one of the first times as a result of sending the cease and desist letter. But his network would respond.
Philadelinquency immediately went into damage control, posting a story, “When you go Loco about a developer could that land you in court?” Philadelinquency wasn’t just posting sympathetically to OCF; it was playing its role as a soldier for OCF’s interests. It pushed back on the negative coverage that Feibush was experiencing by introducing different framing. It framed Haley as being “Loco” [crazy in Spanish] and that that was the reason she might end up in court. Its message was a warning to anyone who might wish to challenge OCF’s agenda; they could be sued and/or negatively targeted by Philadelinquency.
Longtime community activists, Ms. Betty Beaufort, Ms. Alice Shockley, and others along with PBOC joined Haley and her Annin St. neighbors to defeat OCF’s un-democratic attempt to build on their block. The un-democratic practices of Feibush are precisely what led PBOC to protest OCF at our march.
OCF and its allies during the lead up to the PBOC March.
“I would like to see redevelopment in the Point Breeze neighborhood that focuses on protecting the rights of long-term residents who want to continue to live in a neighborhood that is inclusive and affordable” said Ms. Gertrude who knew exactly why she was marching.
Ms. Gertrude also brought her neighbors with her. “Point Breeze is my home. I will not be driven out. I will not be marginalized.”
Feibush was furious that people would march on his business. He did everything in his power to squash our democratic rights. He attempted to get the 17th District Police to help him with a PR ploy based on previous donations. He got his media network to write stories denouncing the march, including blatantly false ones about PBOC and residents of Point Breeze. He fabricated a text message conversation with a white PBOC organizer where the organizer ‘threatens’ him and uses the n-word, and then showed it to other community members. The things OCF and its allies did during the lead up to the march could be an article by itself; it includes the Philadelinquency post at the front of this article.
However, perhaps the most appalling thing he did was designed to make PBOC organizer, Mindy Isser, fear for her physical safety.
An evening about a week before the march, Feibush pulled up to a home around 17th and Titan. PBOC organizer, Gary Broderick was standing outside. Feibush stopped the car in front of Gary’s home, he taunted “heyyyyy Gary heyyyy buddy.” He drove up the block, and spotted PBOC organizer, Mindy Isser, who was headed to meet Gary, and taunted in a similar fashion. So, here’s a guy who went out of his way to show a Philly Mag reporter that he carries a gun, and he’s showing up outside one of our organizer’s homes making taunts.
The next day Feibush posted what he believed to be Mindy’s address on the Newbold Neighbor’s Facebook page.
However, when it turned out that it was actually Gary’s address, and they were not a couple as Feibush assumed, the targeting of Mindy continued.
On the morning of the march, Chris Sawyer, acting as Feibush’s pit-bull, also drew attention for seemingly no reason to his familiarity with firearms; “It’s starting at 11:30am, earlier than I thought. Gonna have to do Ori first and gun range second.”
Later that night he tweeted Mindy, with the sole purpose of indicating, “I can get at you”
Philadelinquency’s owner, Chris Sawyer, also posted a story targeting Mindy and posted her personal financial records, along with plenty of misinformation. The PhiladelphiaSpeaks message boards after the march, fueled by Feibush’s own participation, were also full of hateful attacks against the march, particularly focusing on women. They called some of the women ugly, talked about their bodies, and about their weaves. One PBOC woman organizer the next day received a picture of a vagina as a text message.
It’s Ori Feibush’s world EXCEPT people are already living here.
Feibush is not as he presents himself. He wants you to think he is a developer trying to build a better Point Breeze who is hindered from doing so by an inept city government. While he may be trying to build a “better Point Breeze,” its not for the residents that currently reside here. He leads a political force that operates on many levels to attack working-class Point Breeze residents and those like us. This reactionary political force goes after the government in the same way as Republicans, whose actions led to a Government shutdown at the Federal level. Like those Republicans, Feibush’s political force targets government precisely because an effective and functioning government means that monied interests like OCF will be restrained by the political will of the majority.
Many critics of the Point Breeze Organizing Committee say racism is over. In fact they try to portray us as racist against white people for even raising anti-black racism. However, no credible sociologist or political scientist would make such a fundamentally flawed argument.
Let us remember, it was 2012, not the 1960s, when PA Republicans passed “Voter ID” legislation designed to suppress in particular the African-American vote. At the time, experts said over 30% of Philadelphians would be disenfranchised if it became law. It is in fact not possible to understand developments in Point Breeze independent of the historical racism that has burdened the country and continues to do so. The African-American community has constituted the majority of Point Breeze for decades and has a history that is not monolithic but is storied; escaping the Jim Crow South, traveling to Philadelphia as part of the Great Migration, then enduring through White Flight, the War on Drugs, and the de-industrialization of Philadelphia.
Republicans sought to disenfranchise this community, quite admittedly, because it wasn’t in their interest for African-Americans to have democracy. They were more likely to win elected office and advance profit-over-people policies if they could prevent African-Americans and Philadelphians from participating in political processes and voting.
Mr. Feibush’s profit-over-people business model is in effect designed in the same vein. It’s not in OCF’s interests for there to be wide and democratic participation in the Point Breeze neighborhood. Broad democratic decision-making would result in decisions that would not be as profitable for OCF. That’s why there have been so many attacks by OCF and its allies on anyone who stands up in support of a democratic and community-based development model.
Feibush fought against a city council bill initiated by Anna Verna and carried through by Kenyatta Johnson that empowered City Government to use vacant lots for affordable housing. NakedPhilly.com, the blog owned by Feibush, railed against Councilman Goode’s attempt to repeal the ten-year tax abatement, which would stop giveaways to the wealthy and raise needed money for schools and other public services. And Feibush funds political candidates as part of advancing his agenda.
Lest we think he’s not aware of the effects of his actions, OCF Coffee Shop’s opening party was called, “Let them eat cake” which is a famous quote from a French Aristocrat, before the French Revolution, when she found out the peasants had no bread.
Is this really somebody capable of being civic leader and representative of Point Breeze? Is this really somebody who should be treated as a serious contender for City Council? If Mr. Feibush is smart, he will run as a Democrat in a city where Republicans have very little chance of winning. However, make no mistake, his ideology and business practice are in line with Republicans who have devastated the country by representing the interests of the wealthy and targeting public services and infrastructure, public education, unions, women, African-Americans and immigrant communities.
The people of Point Breeze will not allow him to win. Ori Feibush and OCF are not good for Point Breeze. We, new and long-term residents of Point Breeze, deserve a better Point Breeze where we can live and thrive. Not one that is destroyed by a profits-over-people development model.