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 joseph.deavila@wsj.com
Comment:

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.

2 comments:

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.

Nana said...

it's unfortunate they see this as a waste of money, keeping their own neighborhood clean. at the end of the day, the community is your own. yes, it cost 1000. but do they know what kind of imagine chinatown gives off to people outside of nyc and new yorkers themselves? i always dread going there, i used to go there for dentist, doctors, haircuts, dining out. now? forget about it. it's also the last place i'd bring my friends to. i don't see how investing this 1,000 a year can do them harm.