Saturday, August 20, 2011

Downtown Express Editors get an earful from Chinatown Property Owners regarding the B.I.D.

To the editor:

Re: “Last-ditch attempt to stop Chinatown B.I.D.” (news article by Aline Reynolds, July 20)
Chinatown B.I.D. proponents deliberately skewed their data when they touted that 97% of the ballots were in favor of it. However, they were referring only to the returned ballots. Of the 2300 surveys that were sent out, only 550 responded, so that means 1750 either did not respond or never received the survey. No one knows how many mailings were returned undelivered. The numbers strongly suggest that there was insufficient and unacceptable outreach.

Community Boards 1, 2, and 3 were persuaded to vote in favor of the Chinatown B.I.D. based on the 97% quote, when in fact only 23% (534 out of 2300) responded favorably. Even THOSE responses are highly questionable, because the respondents did not need to show proof of identity, nor their deeds for any property. In addition, the survey shows that the respondent could place a check mark to indicate whether they were a property owner, a business owner, or a resident. When more ballots were needed in June 2010, Chinatown B.I.D. targeted the non-profit organizations (exempt from any assessment fee), private residential owners (paying $1 fee), and doctor’s offices (paying $200 fee) because those groups would bear no or minimal financial burden for the B.I.D. Of course, it would be easy to vote yes when it will be someone else’s hard-earned money that will be spent. The survey results lumped all the 550 respondents into one group, and the breakdown regarding the category of any of the respondents continues to be muddled and changed, depending on what the Chinatown B.I.D. proponents wish the number to represent at any given moment.

They further reported that close to half of the property owners would only be paying $1, trying to downplay the cost that most property owners will have to bear. They were referring to the 784 residential owners in 47 residential condo buildings. However, the percentage for 784 out of 2,323 properties is not 50%, it is under 34%.

There are a number of non-profits which own sizable properties within the Chinatown B.I.D., as well as government-owned properties that will not have to pay any B.I.D. taxes or fees. Those groups will not only shift the costs onto the other property owners, but will be in positions to have a lot of control once the B.I.D. is formed.

Clearly, 550 is a low number of unverified and mixed respondents in such a densely populated community and cannot be deemed sufficient to claim the required strong community support for a Chinatown B.I.D. On the other hand, because only verified property owners with deeds were permitted to file objections to the B.I.D., the verified owners of 562 properties filed their objections with the City Clerk within the short 30-day limitation, the MOST verified objections ever against any NYC B.I.D.!

Having full knowledge of the inequities in standards as well as the high number of objections, Councilmember Margaret Chin should be ashamed that she is aggressively advocating for the Chinatown B.I.D. and trying to steamroll it through. Chinatown is still recovering from the 9/11 aftereffects, the closure of Park Row, and the removal of community-available parking. Now it is weathering the economy’s current downturn. Councilmember Chin has failed to grasp the potentially devastating impact of the B.I.D. assessments/fees upon the small property owners and businesses. Those “fees”, which are in fact permanent taxes, will in turn raise the costs for the visitors, workers, and residents in Chinatown. Chinatown cannot afford a B.I.D.!
Susan Parent

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