The second hearing on the NCNID featured many of the same voices, but more hearings will be held on it.
Philadelphia City Council held its second hearing on bill number 120020, the North Central Neighborhood Improvement District, yesterday, May 4, at City Hall, in what proved to be another tension-filled meeting.
During what was supposed to be the last hearing on the district, City Council President Darrell Clarke announced that more hearings would be held because some issues still had to be ironed out with residents.
“There are issues in that community that need to be fixed, need to be resolved,” Clarke said at the hearing.
Councilman William Greenlee added, “Just so everybody is clear, there will be another [hearing] where everybody will have the opportunity to speak.”
Clarke also spoke about student behavior during his opening remarks and said that the issues of students in the neighborhood need to be fixed.
“There are some short term issues that must be resolved today, because the stories that I’ve heard and witnessed about some of the behavior of individuals is going to stop, one way or another,” Clarke said. “People that have lived [in North Philadelphia] all of their lives, this is their community. We’re not going to have people disrespected, people who are supposed to be [there] are going to continue to be in that community. We’re going to make sure of that.”
The bill, which proposes increased security and cleanliness, among other things, through a donation from Temple and a tax equaling 7 to 10 percent of a landlord or business owner’s real estate tax, does not levy any additional assessment on owner-occupants, but has created many opponents in the community.
During the hearing, many of the same voices that testified at the first hearing on March 13, spoke again, including Temple Trustee James White, who reaffirmed his opposition to the bill.
“I have made a careful review of the adopted amendments to the plan,” White, the former managing director of Philadelphia, said. “But I remain convinced that this bill should not be passed by City Council.”
White’s affirmation was echoed by many of the residents and others who testified at the hearing, including State Sen. Shirley Kitchen.
“If this project is going to move forward, [there] has to be some equity in that community, it is not balanced, it is not fair,” Kitchen said. “I’m sick and tired of plans being developed and not letting me know as the state senator.”
Tensions flared at the hearing when Vivian VanStory, a resident and opponent of the bill spoke against the district.
“North Central NID is nothing more than Temple Area Property Association taking complete control of our neighborhoods,” VanStory, founder and president of the nonprofit Community Land Trust Corporation, said. “Darrell Clarke, I remember back in the day when you stood with us, you stood by your people. But now I can say this, you are a drum major for the real estate developers.”
Greenlee responded to VanStory after her testimony and said, “Obviously, everybody has a right to their opinion, but Ms. VanStory, I think your comments about Council President Clarke are out of line.”
Clarke also responded to VanStory and said he took issue with the personal comments made by VanStory.
“I don’t mind being criticized on anything I do, but when you start personalizing it, I feel like I need to respond,” Clarke said.
Sean Carlin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
[Updated 5/4 at 5:09 p.m.]