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

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