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Improvement district draws mixed opinions

A district to clean and secure the area near Main Campus was discussed last week. North Central Philadelphia residents met Jan. 25, in the Gesu School library at 17th and Thompson streets in response to City Council President Darrell Clarke’s proposed North Central Neighborhood Improvement District. The meeting, hosted by the Community Land Trust Corporation, gauged… Read more »

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SEAN CARLIN TTN State Rep. W. Curtis Thomas speaks to North Philadelphia residents about the proposed neighborhood improvement district that aims to improve the community landscape.

A district to clean and secure the area near Main Campus was discussed last week.

North Central Philadelphia residents met Jan. 25, in the Gesu School library at 17th and Thompson streets in response to City Council President Darrell Clarke’s proposed North Central Neighborhood Improvement District.

The meeting, hosted by the Community Land Trust Corporation, gauged the residents’ opinions on development projects before focusing Clarke’s proposal. The main point of contention for residents is a fee that would be imposed on property owners in the area to fund the district, along with an undisclosed amount of money from Temple.

Hillel Hoffmann, assistant director of university communications, said Temple would announce its contribution within the calendar year.

“Enough is enough, I mean when you are just taking everybody’s money,” Vivian VanStory, president and founder of the CLTC, said. “We have the Liberty Bell here, there’s no liberty.”

Speakers at the meeting included Maria Yuen and John Yuen of the Chinatown North section of the city. A similar bill was introduced in their neighborhood and was defeated as a result of pressure from residents, led by the Yuens.

“What’s unfair about this bill is that they sell this bill as cleaner neighborhoods…and green neighborhoods,” John Yuen said. “Who does not want that?”

The Yuens explained the process of how the improvement districts are implemented and how they were taxed on top of their real estate tax for the services from the district.

Maria Yuen expressed concern that such districts take away from the tradition of the neighborhoods.

“I never knew who these people were. They wanted my money. So they have to come to my neighborhood, tell me how to run my neighborhood, how to clean up my neighborhood,” Maria Yuen said. “So, what I’m saying to you is that people have to take charge of their own neighborhoods.”

Vanstory agreed with the Yuens and said the money needs to go to the neighborhoods, not to a third-party company.

“We need to make sure the block captains get the money, not their third party,” VanStory said. “We’re going to make them give it back to us.”

Though the plan has aroused discontent in some residents, proponents said there are misconceptions surrounding the plan that have caused anger in the community.

“We are not going to be imposing any assessment on residents,” Peter Crawford, a local developer and member of the executive committee of the Temple Area Property Association, said. “Anybody who is an owner occupant of their residence is exempt. The improvement district is simply for landlords, and landlords are footing the bill and the residents will be getting the benefit.”

Crawford added that some of the benefits of the district include additional safety patrols and litter pick-up.

“The real point I want to get across to the residents is that they are not going to have their taxes raised, they are not going to be subject to these assessments,” Crawford said.

The neighborhood improvement district was re-introduced to City Council on Thursday, Jan. 26, and Crawford said that as time goes on, there will be meetings with residents to discuss issues surrounding the district.

Crawford added that Temple students living in the area off of Main Campus will benefit from the community.

“I think it will have an effect on anybody who lives in the area because we would like to hire a service to clean up the sidewalks and the streets on a regular basis – and, by the way, we would like to provide jobs to local residents through that service,” Crawford said. “I think students and community members will benefit from that. I think that everybody that lives in the community whether they be a student or a resident benefits.”

Clarke’s office was unavailable for comment at time of press.

Sean Carlin can be reached at sean.carlin@temple.edu.

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