Thursday, July 28, 2011

Comments from SoHo and Chinatown - Councilmember Chin in the Hot Seat

Several people have commented following the publishing of a Letter To The Editor - responding to comments made by Councilmember Margaret Chin in an article published on July 20th 2011 - Last Ditch Effort To Stop Chinatown BID - by Aline Reynolds.
Here are some of the comments:
Downtown Express - commenter: "Lives Here" says:
When the NYS / NYC BID laws were enacted in NYS / NYC 30 years ago the world was different and a BID was offered as a way to bolster stagnant commercial areas.  The way this BID law is now being used to divide NYC into fiefdoms is NOT what was intended.

Councilmember Chin has stooped to a low bow before the BID proponents.  She is claiming that those is opposition to the BID are doing so through intimidation, but that is far from the truth and a low blow unbecoming an elected representative.  But Chin seems to care little for facts or the truth when it comes to BIDs in her district.  Instead she sides with powerful real estate interests promoting these new BIDs, few of whom reside in her district, over her constituents who have spoken out loudly and clearly against BID plans and expansions.

If Councilmember Chin truly cared as she claims she does about small property owners, businesses and residents in these BID districts then why did she fail to get any protective language regarding budgets or assessments or expansions written into the BID District Plans?  Her word means little when the law grants power to those monied few who run a BID.  And when Chin is out of office then her assurances, promises and empty declarations will mean nothing.

As Chin herself has noted in regard to BID assessments, "an annual assessment would be double taxation."  Elected officials should stand up and reject these proposals, which will levy unnecessary taxes on small businesses and property owners.
Stop the Chinatown BID
Stop the SoHo BID
Stop the Expansion of the LES BID

commenter: Ingrid W.
The disgraceful response from Chin and her corporate supporters underlines why the Chinatown BID has to be defeated!

commenter: Lotus bud
If it is true that Wellington said, at the 6/23/10 BID meeting, that the BID petition should "target non profits [since they are exempt from the assessment fee] and $1.00 private residential owners" then there's a serious scandal that the news ought to cover.

A BID purports to justify itself as representative. If it targeted its petition, then it is not representative at all, but working as an advocate, and the public should know whom they are advocating for at the expense of the local community voice. Why wouldn't the BID trust the voices of all the local interests?

Margaret ought to be in the forefront of questioning the BID's methods. If not, she abrogates her sacred public trust.

commenter: Lora Tanenbaum
Kudo's to Jan Lee and his courageous group for revealing that the Emperor has no clothes. Chin should be ashamed, as should the Mayor's Office.   At all the community board meetings the board members were told that there had been a 95% return on the mailings and that 97 % of those returns had been in favor.  But the fact is only  24% of those who supposedly received ballots sent them in.  And even less said yes.  No proof of distribution of the ballots to all potential voters is necessary and no care need be taken that the respondent is entitled to cast the ballot. We know from the SoHo BID that many property owners never get ballots.  In sharp contrast, objectors must wait until the BID proposal passes council committee before they can file  formal objections, each of which must be notarized and contain a copy of the title deed to show proof of ownership.  Fair ?  Equal?  A resounding no.  The system is stacked in favor of BIDs.

Keep in mind that this isn't only about money.  Its about political power.  The Council Member, the Borough President, the Mayors Office and the Finance Department all have seats on the BID Boards.  The whole process basically privatizes public space, giving BID boards unequal control over what happens in the community.  Which is probably why non-resident, Steering Committee Member  Michael Salzhauer, whose Benjamin Partners real estate company owns real estate in the district, is so pro-BID.  His record of regularly mading political donations to Michelle Bachman, Allen West and the  Club for Growth PAC created by Pat Toomey clearly show a likely preference for privatization. 

But that begs the question of why does Margaret Chin?   

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Chinatown Property Owners respond to accusations made by Councilmember Chin

The Downtown Express Newspaper, on July 20th 2011, printed an article about property owners in Chinatown making a "last ditch effort" to stop a Business Improvement District from forming in Chinatown. Local Councilmember Margaret Chin made strong accusations about opponents to the BID in the article including
"“They’re spreading a lot of misinformation about the B.I.D.,” said Chin, who adamantly supports the initiative. “When you give people correct, accurate information, they understand the value of this project, and there’s overwhelming support for it,” she said, pointing out that ninety-two percent of property owners who previously cast a ballot for the B.I.D. voted in favor of it. and
"“The biggest problem here is, we have a very articulate opponent with no regard for the truth. It’s a very powerful enemy, and it’s very hard to combat,” said B.I.D. spokesperson Pat Smith. “If someone comes up to you and says, ‘the B.I.D. is going to raise your taxes,’ and they say, ‘sign this’… the easiest thing to do is sign it.” - Rubenstein PR firm on behalf of The Chinatown Partnership LDC

It is rare for any Council Member to label those who oppose her views as liars, enemies, and combatants, but this one has made it clear she is battle ready and has played fast and lose with some numbers to make it seem as though 92% of all of Chinatown wants the BID, which is simply not true.

Furthermore , she says that it 90 objection forms were submitted to the City Clerk by condo owners who would be paying $1.00 a year towards the BID. Through a FOIA request we have found that in a June 23rd 2010 Meeting of the Chinatown BID steering Committee is was Executive Director Wellington Chen who said that the Steering Committee should, in order to get MORE BALLOTS "target non-profit organizations (since they are exempt from the assessment fee) ; the $1.00 private residential owners and the $200.00 doctor offices" -

Margaret Chin and Wellington Chen conspired to bolster their ballot count by TARGETING residential condo owners who would be paying $1.00 a year into a BID. So before Chin starts pointing fingers and crying foul, perhaps some introspection is in order about how those ballots were obtained in the first place. That is, those ballots which have never been vetted through any neutral party.

According to Aline Reynolds of the Downtown Express: "Contrary to opponents’ claims, the annual assessment fee does not rise with real estate taxes, B.I.D. proponents said. The fees would only change with a majority vote from the B.I.D. board of directors and a final stamp of approval by City Council.
“It’s the single biggest lie the B.I.D. opponents have been telling. Assessments stay [the same] no matter what happens to your property taxes,” said Smith.

Pat Smith of Rubenstein PR may be an expert at "spin" but is not an expert with BID fees !
One only has tolook at the BID fee formula to calculate the assessment tax from the public hearing notice. it's in black & white that the assessment is included into the formula for the Class A calculation. 

If there is one variable in the formula changes, the answer will change. This means that the BID assessment tax will vary from year to year.  

Property owners know that assessment rates will be subject to change from year to year. Ask them to explain how that number will not change if it is included into the formula. Any sample copy of a property owner's property tax billing notice (can use any block & lot found online at the finance website) will prove this example.   Rates have continued to increase and not decrease over the years. 

Property owners who oppose the BID responded with a letter to the Editor of the Downtown Express:

To the editor:
Re: “Last-ditch attempt to stop Chinatown B.I.D.” (news article by Aline Reynolds, July 20)
Owners of 562 Chinatown small properties filed the required notarized statements and deeds within the mere 30 days allotted to organize and express their written opposition to Councilmember Margaret Chin’s fierce advocacy to form a Chinatown Business Improvement District. The large number of objections to the B.I.D. was historic according to the City Clerk’s office.
Yet Chin says we have used “intimidation tactics” to garner support. This is an insult to the intelligence of these property owners who are adamantly opposed to a Chinatown B.I.D. If anything, we took the time to educate property owners as to the true implications of a B.I.D. We even translated into Chinese the actual objection form, which no one else had done.
Only 550 property owners cast a ballot for the B.I.D. out of a total of 2,300 benefited properties that exist within the proposed district. Despite the poor outreach, Chin and her group have been trumpeting a 97 percent approval rate based on this small ratio (the 97 percent is out of 550 respondents, not out of the overall number of properties). While B.I.D. objections could only be filed by vetted property owners, no standard of official verification was applied to those who supported the B.I.D. Where’s the fairness here? Your paper failed to mention these two very important facts. 76% of those surveyed about the B.I.D.never responded (this information was edited out of the letter by The Downtown Express)
Pat Smith of Rubenstein Associates Public Relations firm, (who is also the official spokesman for the proposed Soho B.I.D.) along with Margaret Chin and Wellington Chen have launched a campaign in the past few weeks defaming us and calling us liars in both English and Chinese language media. If anything, this only demonstrates their desperation and disrespect for the very people who are preserving Chinatown’s small businesses. Chin has chosen to sugar coat the B.I.D. fees and disassociate it from a permanent tax.
The one-time $1.9 million government funds being withheld from the community and offered as an incentive only if a B.I.D. is formed is actually “bait” money that unfairly influences the process of B.I.D. formation. Once the B.I.D. is formed the taxes and fees shouldered by the property owners and businesses will, in essence, be permanent. Despite the B.I.D.s claim that their board can vote itself out of existence at any time, this is has no basis in reality. B.I.D.s in the past have never been dismantled because they are deliberately designed to make it virtually impossible to deconstruct.
Councilmember Chin founded the Chinatown Partnership, garnered campaign funds from its members and lobbied for its transition to a B.I.D. for years. Why is Margaret Chin dismissing and disparaging the concerns of the immigrant community that elected her by accusing opponents of her B.I.D. of intimidation and lies? Is she now the official mouthpiece for real estate developers in Chinatown and Soho? With having used all these resources, including her influence on the City Council, who has she really been intimidating?
Jan Lee, 917-710-7503
The Coalition Against the Chinatown BID

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Chinatown B.I.D. will tax Property Owners and Businesses to clean up The City's Property !!!!

" The BID will clean the sidewalks in front of the parks, as it will clean all the sidewalks, including those in front of schools, churches, government buildings and your home and place of business."  - David J. Louie, Chinatown BID steering committee - Chairman Chinatown Chamber of Commerce

Hundreds of hours will be billed to Chinatown property owners and businesses to clean up NYC's government and public spaces if a Chinatown B.I.D. is passed in City Council.

  • The CPLDC has quietly, very quietly added these properties to their service area. Not one piece of 56,0000 mailed "outreach" materials explains that Chinatown Businesses will be paying to keep City property clear of litter. Talk about triple taxation. 
  • How many hours will BID workers spend cleaning in front of government owned property? 
  • Non Profit organizations don't own brooms and dustpans? Aren't BIDs supposed to be failsafes against free loaders? Last we checked NYC school budgets come from NYC Taxes - so does the school janitor's salary.
  • Why arent' the public buildings cleaned by the BID pointed out in the BID literature?

Since they don't tell you all facts associated with the Chinatown BID, we will:

There's quite a number of city-owned government properties that the community will have to pay to maintain the blocks. They include:

  • Columbus Park (which was promised to be removed by CPLDC, yet remains in the BID)
  • Roosevelt Park
  • DCAS building at 125 Walker Street (between Centre & Baxter Street)
  • Former school at 70 Mulberry Street
  • Police Department at 19 Elizabeth Street
  • Federal parking garage at 137-145 Lafayette Street
  • School at 145 Baxter Street
  • School at 137 Baxter Street
  • DEP at 57 Monroe Street
  • DEP at 144 Madison Street
  • DOT at 127 Madison Street
  • Sanitation at 72 Henry Street
  • DEP at 141 Madison Street
  • School playground at 34 Catherine Street
  • School at 2 Henry Street
  • New York Public Library at 33 East Broadway
  • Park at 10 Market Street
  • DOT at 87 East Broadway
  • DOT at 85 East Broadway
  • City of NY Building at 88 East Broadway
  • Post Office at 128 East Broadway
  • Fire Department at 75-79 Canal Street
  • IS 131 at 36 Forsyth Street
  • NYCHA housing (Seward Park Extension) at 45 Allen Street
  • DCAS at 117 Chrystie Street
  • Fire Department at 363 Broome Street
  • DEP at 142-148 Grand Street
  • And finally the Louis J. Lefkowitz Building at 141 Worth St. (the ENTIRE SQUARE BLOCK!) which is now the City's marriage Bureau, formerly the motor vehicles building.
City owned properties and all houses of worship are BID tax exempt. Also Asian Americans For Equality's office at 109 Division Street is BID tax exempt. Asian Americans For Equality is lead agency in support and creation of a Chinatown B.I.D. for well over a decade. Councilmember Margaret Chin is a principal at Asian Americans For Equality as a founding member. According to The Chinatown Partnership Local Development Corp. (also founded by Councilmember Margaret Chin) IRS 990 filings for fiscal year 7/1/06 to 6/30/07  $71,508.00 was paid to Asian Americans For Equality from The Chinatown Partnership LDC.