Saturday, May 22, 2010

Bosnia, Bin Laden, Genocide, race wars, and Martians........ and.... oh yeah, something about a B.I.D. in Chinatown

2010 map provided by the Chinatown Partnership LDC, Little Italy is clearly omitted.
"The BID claims that it includes Little Italy, yet their own map belies this assertion: three blocks of Mulbery Street have been removed at the insistence of the restaurant owners.
I've never seem a BID face such opposition. This duck is dead in the water." - Sean Sweeney SoHo Alliance

Sean Sweeney of the SoHo Alliance is crying "foul" because the Chinatown Partnership LDC and it's Business Improvement District Steering Committee ain't hearin' him. Actually one person is listening, Wellington Chen, the Partnership's Executive Director -- it's his responses that are puzzling.- $132,000.00 a year and these are Wellington's comments?
 Sean claims that the proposed Chinatown BID encroaches too far into SoHo, an area that he and others fought long and hard to preserve and they don't want Chinatown's BID committee dictating what happens there. Despite what it says in the article, Little Italy is not in the Chinatown BID proposal, another curious "inaccuracy" according to Sweeney and Little Italy merchants.

In answer to Sweeney's claims, Chen references Bosnia, Bin Laden and yes, Martians, why not? Perhaps the Martians know how $7 million was spent. Most, if not all non-profits (5013-c's), publish their yearly expenses on their websites. Not so curiously, The Chinatown Partnership LDC has never done so, transparency has never been their forte, despite neighborhood requests to reveal their spending.

From Downtown Express:

Soho Alliance says whoa to Chinatown BID
By Lincoln Anderson
A border war is flaring between Soho and Chinatown as two new initiatives are causing a leading activist and a property owner to ask: Who calls the shots?
Sean Sweeney, director of the Soho Alliance community group, is outraged that the Chinatown Working Group has the nerve to consider what he's calling a "rezoning" of a portion of the southeastern corner of the historic artists’ enclave. As part of its rezoning efforts, the working group is studying the area around Canal, Centre and Lafayette Sts. — parts of which were just included in the Landmarks Preservation Commission’s extension of the Soho Cast-Iron Historic District, which was designated May 11.
“Just because a Chinese person owns a business there, doesn’t mean it’s Chinatown,” Sweeney protested.
He added that the entire area the Chinatown Working Group is currently studying is very broad, based on the map that they are currently putting out: The study area stretches into other neighborhoods, not just Soho, he noted. He raised this with Jim Solomon, a co-chairperson of the working group.
“I looked at the map and it went all the way to 14th St. and Avenue C,” Sweeney said. “Jim said that’s because they’d rather have a large map and whittle it down, rather than have a small area, and have people say, like they did in Chinatown when they were doing the East Village/Lower East Side rezoning: ‘You didn’t include us.’”
Sweeney said it’s fine to do it that way — “but just get Soho out of there, because I don’t want to have a zoning fight.”
The bottom line, according to Sweeney, is that Soho residents have worked hard over the years, both to landmark their neighborhood, in 1973, and to carefully make selective zoning modifications. They don’t want someone else stepping in now and telling them what to do.
“If Soho zoning’s going to change, it’s got to come from inside the community,” he declared.
Solomon declined to comment for this article. However, he has previously stated that the study area is just that -- still just a study area, for now -- and that, when all is said and done, rezoning in certain spots within the study area may or may not be part of the equation.
In a double whammy for Sweeney and his Soho organization, a planned Chinatown Business Improvement District would also include part of the historic district extension area, as well as some blocks in Soho’s southeastern corner. (The BID effort has no direct connection to the Chinatown Working Group.)

Sweeney recently received an e-mail from Kurt Trenkman, whose family owns eight buildings on the block bounded by Broome, Grand, Centre and Lafayette Sts., expressing concern about the BID’s boundaries. “We wish to make known our opposition to inclusion of our block in the proposed Chinatown BID,”
Trenkman wrote. “First, our buildings are located in Soho, and not within the borders of Chinatown.

It is well established historically that we are part and parcel of the Soho district, as reflected in maps, the historic use to which our buildings were put, and the M1-5B light-manufacturing zoning of our buildings.” The property owner noted that the block was slated for inclusion in the Soho Historic District Extension.
Sweeney said he subsequently spoke with Trenkman on the phone.

“I love this quote,” Sweeney said. “He said, ‘I have no intention of being taxed to clean up Mott St.’”
Sweeney said he himself made similar comments to Wellington Chen — executive director of the Chinatown Partnership, the group spearheading the push for the BID — at a sit-down last week.
“This BID goes all the way to Rutgers St. It’s a huge BID,” Sweeney said he told Chen. “Why should I clean up under the Manhattan Bridge?”
Sweeney said Chen responded that the BID isn’t concerned about boundaries, adding that an astronaut looking back at Earth from the moon wouldn’t see any boundaries — which Sweeney said bowled him over.
The alliance director said Jo Hamilton, CB 2 chairperson, who was also at the meeting, tried to smooth things over and told Sweeney to take it easy.
Speaking to The Villager, Sweeney declared the Chinatown BID will never end up with a piece of Soho, and that Soho will win the fight, if it comes to that.

“Wellington was triumphant at Waterloo — but Soho’s going to be Wellington’s Waterloo,” he vowed.
In a telephone interview with The Villager, Chen reiterated, “We have never used the word ‘boundary.’ It seems as if it’s a turf issue.”

Chen said Chinatown needs the BID in order to keep the streets clean, for one thing. The Chinatown Partnership has been helping lead the sanitation effort since its founding in 2006, but a proper BID is needed, he stressed. Back in 2006, Chinatown was ranked as the city’s “fifth-dirtiest neighborhood,” he said.
“After 9/11, the Rebuild Chinatown Initiative interviewed people, and 85 percent of people — Asians and non-Asians alike — said what’s the number one issue? Sanitary conditions,” Chen said.
Everyone benefits from supplemental street sweeping and trash basket emptying, he said.
We cover Little Italy — does it mean we take over Little Italy? No,” Chen said. “We were struggling whether to call it Solita BID,” as in “South Little Italy,” he noted.

“Don’t go to the race issue,” Chen warned of Sweeney’s failure to embrace the credo of no boundaries. “I don’t want to play the race card. The Soho he’s defining is where the Chinatown Partnership started,” he said, noting it contains the Chinatown Holiday Inn and Maria’s Bakery, the latter there for four decades.
Veering from moon metaphors to ethnic warfare, Chen continued, “I always say, remember Bosnia from 1984. All you need is a couple of people raping and murdering and you’ve got genocide. … I’m not saying Sean is doing that. …

Bin Laden wants us to fail,” Chen added. But the partnership, through its efforts, has been helping foil the terror fiend’s goal, he said, noting, “For the last three years, we’ve been doing a great job.”
Chen said it all boils down to one basic fact: “We’re surrounded by BID’s. There are 64 BID’s in the city. It’s time Chinatown had its own self-cleaning area.”
Local business leaders have pitched in over the years to finance cleaning crews for Chinatown — Buddhist monks are even breaking out their brooms — but eventually people burn out, Chen said of why a permanent BID is needed.

For her part, CB 2 Chairperson Hamilton is taking things in stride — certainly in comparison to Sweeney.
“Deciding boundaries for any rezoning or BID effort is always the most difficult part of the process,” Hamilton said. “Remember, however, that the planning for both the Chinatown Working Group and the Chinatown BID are still in the early phases. Currently, they are doing their due diligence and engaging the community in conversations, as they should be.

“There are no specific proposals before our board at this time, so we do not know yet if there will be any issues,” she added. “When they come to us, we will want to hear from all those who might be affected, and will take very seriously any concerns they may have before taking a position.”
Perhaps when CB 2’s members do weigh in on the BID border issue, they’ll consider the observations of some “outside observers.”
“At the end of the day, we’re all human beings,” Chen said. “When the Martians look at us, we’re all human beings.”

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Chinatown Business Improvement District Plans Continue to be met With Resistence

From the Wall Street Journal

Chinatown has never had a reputation for being a tidy neighborhood. Next year, it might get even worse.
A $5.4 million grant that paid for extra street cleaning and garbage pickup is about to run out, reviving a call to bring a business improvement district to the neighborhood.
Mustafah Abdulaziz for The Wall Street Journal
Boxes from fruit stands line the curb along Forsyth Street in Chinatown on Friday. Chinatown's street cleanliness grade has improved since 2001, but is still below the city average.
For four years, the Chinatown Partnership Local Development Corp., a nonprofit business group, has relied on a grant from the Lower Manhattan Development Corp., a city-state agency that handed out federal aid after the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks.
"We don't know what we will do at the beginning of next year," Mr. Chen said.
Chinatown's street cleanliness grade issued by the mayor's Office of Operations has improved from 64.6% in 2001 to 88.5% in 2009, an improvement but still below the city average of 95.8%.
The Chinatown Partnership is taking the opportunity to renew a campaign to organize the neighborhood into a business improvement district to pay for the extra cleanup. But property owners have twice rejected BIDS since the 1990s, and opposition remains intense.
It takes a majority vote of property owners to create a BID, a public-private partnership where members pay assessment fees, said Wellington Chen, executive director of the Chinatown Partnership. He said a BID can take decades to pass, pointing to districts in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn and Flushing, Queens. Mayor Michael Bloomberg has been a strong champion of the districts; there are 64 now and a dozen more are proposed.
Some Chinatown businesses say that becoming a BID is not the right answer. They say it increases costs on small businesses and gives to strong a voice to absentee landlords. They also say that the reason for the problem is decades of neglect by the city.
Fees in Chinatown could run up to $5,000 annually per property—even if the property owners don't want to participate.
"A lot of those costs are going to be pushed down to the low-income small businesses," said Josephine Lee, an organizer with the Coalition to Protect Chinatown and Lower East Side.
Small businesses have been decimated in Chinatown since 9/11, said Paul Lee, a lifelong resident in Chinatown. An assessment would only exacerbate the situation, he said. "Ask any one of these small businesses if they are willing to pay an extra $1,000 a year," Mr. Lee said.
Jan Lee, a Chinatown resident whose family has owned property there since the 1920s, has been at the forefront of the opposition to a BID. "It is the most undemocratic, quasi-government agency every formed," he said.
Absentee property owners who would have a voice in running the BID don't know the concerns of the community, said Jan Lee, director of the Civic Center Residents Coalition.
Despite the criticisms, other property owners are supporting the proposed BID. They say that with the neighborhood being such a high-traffic, tourist area, cleanliness will always need extra attention.
"I think people forget what it was like" before the extra cleanup, said Michael Salzhauer of Benjamin Partners, which owns two commercial buildings in Chinatown. He has been doing business in Chinatown for about 25 years. "Prior to that, cleaning it was another obstacle to people enjoying it."
Write to Joseph De Avila at

Sean Sweeney said...

It's bad enough the directors of the BID are pursuing this in Chinatown proper.
But they are now extending it to parts of SoHo and TriBeCa, despite protests from SoHo property owners.

Mr. Chen claims that his Clean Chinatown campaign got $7.25 million from LMDC post 9/11 to clean up areas in SoHo. Yet by his own admission, his group abrogated that responsibility and left the SoHo Partnership - a charity - to do their dirty work, while Chen's group pocketed the taxpayers' money that was intended to clean SoHo!

Is this the shenanigans that we will expect from his BID?

The BID claims that it includes Little Italy, yet their own map belies this assertion: three blocks of Mulbery Street have been removed at the insistence of the restaurant owners.

I've never seem a BID face such opposition. This duck is dead in the water.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Chinatown Promoted in Connecticut

<b>ALONG THE ROUTE</b> | Shopping along Pell Street.<br><br><small>Photograph by Shane Yamane</small> Center Residents Coalition member Jan Lee is a contributing editor and columnist for Cottages and Gardens Publications which has magazines in Connecticut, Westchester, and The Hamptons.
Jan Lee was asked by the editors of Cottages and Gardens publications to do a story on Chinatown and this was the result. In a few short days sales for the vendors mentioned in the article have already been generated as a result of the article!
Conneticut Cottages and Gardens - May 10 Issue - <--- click this link !