TAMARA SEPE and her husband, Bill Curran, have lived in the Callowhill area for the past seven years. They each have their own businesses and are raising their 10-month-old son there.
"We like the proximity to all the amenities of the city," Sepe said of the area, known as "the Loft District" to some and "Chinatown North" to others.
"We also like the architecture and history of the neighborhood. We like the community, and we like its social history of being a community of immigrants."
But what Sepe doesn't like are the piles of garbage, used cooking oil and other trash that she said is often "short-dumped" in the neighborhood, north of Vine Street, south of Spring Garden, and between 8th Street and Broad.
"On the corner of my street right now, there is a pile of burnt lumber with nails sticking out," Sepe said.
She said she's worried her son will grow up and ask why the area is so dirty.
"I don't want to have to explain to him why the adults in my community didn't do something about this."
So Sepe became a member of a steering committee to create a "neighborhood improvement district," which neighbors hope will hire workers to keep the neighborhood clean.
Unlike the Center City District, which hired uniformed workers to sweep the streets, Sepe said that the Callowhill NID expects to hire people with trucks to remove the drums of cooking oil, mattresses and other garbage.
But the push to create the "Callowhill Reading Viaduct Neighborhood Improvement District" - the plan will be debated at a City Council Rules Committee hearing at 10 a.m. today - has created a chasm within the small residential community.
There is tension over accusations that organizers haven't been clear about the purpose of the NID and how proceeds from a a proposed 7 percent additional property-tax assessment for that neighborhood would be used.
The stated purpose of the NID is to create a fund to have a "clean and safe" neighborhood, but opponents question whether the real purpose is to maintain a park proposed for the old Reading Viaduct that runs through the neighborhood.
"There was a lack of clarity and transparency in the process," said Andrew Toy, a former economic-development expert in the city's Commerce Department, who also is a board member of the Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corp. "Some people say the purpose is only about cleaning and safety, but from the name of the NID, it's apparent that the viaduct is a pretty important part of it.
Many residents of Chinatown north have been meeting to voice their opposition to the NID.
They want clean and safe streets, too, but they said they have questions about how quickly the proposed ordinance was introduced by Councilman Frank DiCicco, without significant input of long-established neighborhood groups, such as the Chinatown Development Corp.
Sarah McEneaney, an organizer of the NID and of the push to create the viaduct park, said there has been a lot of misinformation spread about the NID.
"It's only a preliminary proposal; it can be changed and modified," McEneaney said.