A part of Center City got cleaned up last week. According to one area resident, the new Center City District was so clean "it looks like a different city." The CCD is a section of Philadelphia in which property owners have agreed to pay a special tax to fund a municipal authority which provides extra services to the area. These services range from extra street cleaning to a special headquarters for police who have beats in the area. The residents of the mostly commercial district decided last year to support the tax, in order make the high-traffic area more conducive to shopping and tourism. The boundaries of the CCD include much of the commercial real estate in Center City, approximately stretching from 6th to 21st streets and from Vine to Locust streets. The creation of the authority was approved by City Council in October, and Urban Studies Professor Paul Levy was appointed director of the organization. · The CCD provides a wide range of services, including sidewalk sweeping and extra security patrols. Twenty-three Community Service Representatives function as liaisons between the Philadelphia Police and area pedestrians. Each of the uniformed CSRs has a particular beat to cover, and maintains radio contact with Philadelphia Police. According to police, the CSRs function as the departments extra "eyes and ears." Gerald Gushner, a member of the Board of Directors of the CCD and the president of Boyd's of Philadelphia clothing store, said the extra patrols have improved the feeling of security in the area. "If people feel Center City is dangerous, then more security will be favorable all over," Gushner said. Security plays a large role in the CCD. Besides the CSRs, it will have a Philadelphia Police sub-station with headquarters at 917 Filbert Street. The sub-station will house the 60 police officers who work in the CCD. Nancy Gold, a member of the CCD's Board of Directors and the president of King's Collar store, said that the presence of the CSRs improves the feeling of security among potential consumers. "The presence of someone on the street addressing security, or just having a uniformed person there that they can ask questions of is important," Gold said. · Another focus of the CCD is street cleaning. It has hired 100 workers for daily cleaning of the sidewalks and property owners are legally responsible for keeping their sidewalks clean and maintained. Gushner said the cleanup will help reshape an image of a litter-ridden Center City. "There is a need for more services in terms of keeping the area clean," Gushner said. "It always looks dirty. People think it's an ugly part of the city if they don't see it that often. The cleanup will create a different perspective." According to Sy Kasinetz, sanitation program coordinator, the city spent roughly $5 to $6 million for street cleaning last year. Kasinetz said that because the city is only responsible for cleaning commercial streets, the bulk of that money goes to Center City. But not everyone approves of the CCD. Some people have argued that taxpayers are making double payments for municipal services. "What are the general funds going for if the city isn't cleaning the streets?" Urban Studies Professor Felipe Gorostiza said. However, a feeling of resignation has taken Center City streets as people say they're willing to pay more if they could walk about clean sidewalks. Donald Newman, who lives on the CCD's southwest corner on Rittenhouse Square said that the District is a "great concept," but added that he hasn't seen much in results yet. "The fact that prices are too high [for services] . . . would be OK if we got something," Newman said. Similarly, CCD Director Gushner said that double payment may be necessary, since the area needs the extra services. "If they've already paid for security it's obviously not enough, and they've already paid for street cleaning and obviously that's not enough either," Gushner said. "It's a worthwhile effort." However, CCD directors have said that not all of the services are covered by the city. "There's a critical difference. The city doesn't ever clean the sidewalks, it's not the city's responsibility to do sidewalks," said CCD Director Gold. "It's the shop owners responsibility and the consumers responsibility to clean the sidewalks." The start of the CCD's programs will coincide with the beginning of the SWEEP program run by the Streets Department. The Streets and Walkways Education and Enforcement Program will officially start this spring. According to the Streets Department, civilian officers, assigned to beats, will speak with residents, business owners, landlords and other property managers about their responsibilities in terms of maintaining a clean sidewalk. In case of non-compliance, they will issue warnings and citations with the authority of the city's police department. · Some have argued that the Center City District is unfair, because it allows richer areas to pay for their own services, and leaves poorer areas out in the cold. "It's good for the district in which its happening," notes Urban Studies Professor Gorostiza. "Those who can take it into their own hands do, and those who can't have dirty streets." But Real Estate Professor Susan Wachter said she feels the program is the best solution to a difficult problem. "If the city could improve services across board this would be undesirable," Wachter said. "In the absense of this ability, this is a good response." Gold argues that the area benefits the whole city because of the large influence that Center City has in Philadelphia. "Everyone uses Center City -- rich, poor, tourists," Gold said. "It's critical that Center City always looks good. It benefits anyone who comes in from West Philly or North Philly, to go to a movie or something. They get the benefit."Comments powered by Disqus
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