Op/Ed: Our Children Want a Better Chinatown

The following op/ed was submitted by Patrick Y. Yau and David J. Louie, Chinatown businessmen and leaders of the effort to establish a Business Improvement District in Chinatown:

When 500 children at the Transfiguration School participated in a poster contest last year, they chose as a theme litter and dirt in Chinatown.  Some of their messages were:

“It’s Chinatown, Not Litter Town”

“A Cleaner Chinatown Depends on You and Me”

“Keep Chinatown Clean”

“Please Do It For Us.”

This is what’s important to our children, a cleaner community.  We must hear their calls and do everything we can to make Chinatown a better place for them – and for all of us, residents, property owners, business owners, for the people who live here, do business here and visit here.

And this is why we’ve joined with other leaders in our community, dedicating much time and effort to the formation of a Business Improvement District (a BID).  In 65 communities around this city, and 1,800 communities around the world, people have found that forming a BID is the best way to improve the neighborhood.

Now, it’s our turn, Chinatown’s turn, to help ourselves and to do what the people in our community want to improve their neighborhood.  A BID will have an elected Board of Directors, representing everyone in the community.  This board will decide the budget, decide what dues property owners will pay and decide how to spend that money to clean our sidewalks and remove graffiti, to decorate our neighborhood for the holidays, to protect our small businesses and help them to grow, to create more employment opportunities in our community.

We know our small businesses are struggling and we’ve set a very modest $1.3 million budget for the first year of the BID.  Our dues are among the lowest – if not the lowest – of any BID in the city:

  • Residential tenants will pay NOTHING;
  • Residential condo owners will pay $1 per year;
  • 35 percent of our property owners will pay $200 per year – the cost of two summonses for a dirty sidewalk;
  • 74 percent of our property owners will pay less than $1,000 per year;
  • About 40 property owners will pay the maximum dues, $5,000 per year, and most of those owners support the BID.

In fact most of the property owners in Chinatown, the people who will pay for the BID, support this effort.  Community Boards 1, 2, and 3 and the New York City Planning Commission all have voted unanimously to support this BID.  These dedicated community leaders and public officials believe this is the best way to improve Chinatown.

Our dedicated City Council member, Margaret Chin, who works tirelessly for our community, is a strong supporter of the BID and has introduced legislation in the City Council to allow our BID to go forward.  We expect final City Council approval in the next few weeks and then we will work quickly to get the BID up and running.

We want our children to know that we are listening and working to make this community better for them, for you, for everyone.

We urge you to join us.  Don’t be misled by misinformation from those who oppose the effort.  Check the facts.  Click on chinatownbidnow.org or call us at (212) 346-9288.

Patrick Y. Yau and David J. Louie are Chinatown businessmen and leaders of the BID effort.

Note: We invited Jan Lee, a representative of the Coalition Against the Chinatown BID, to submit an opinion piece, as well.  He declined, saying the organization was “taking the action to the streets.”  The coalition is holding a press conference and rally in Chatham Square this morning at 11. Here’s an excerpt from their press advisory:

Chinatown small business and property owners, residents, and workers oppose the proposed Chinatown Business Improvement District (BID) because it will destroy existing small businesses and affordable housing. While ignoring all opposition to the Chinatown BID, City Councilmember Margaret Chin is promoting her political agenda. She has promoted only the B.I.D. and ignored all other options. The Chinatown BID is not in the public’s interest and primarily serves to promote outside developers’ interests in encouraging luxury, high-rise development along Canal Street and throughout Chinatown.