Lower East Side BID Holds Annual Meeting

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn with LES BID Executive Director Bob Zuckerman.

It seemed like most of the neighborhood was gathered inside Lina Frey, the bistro on East Houston Street, last night for the LES Business Improvement District’s annual meeting.

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn was the special guest speaker. She told BID members what they wanted to hear: that she was committed to advocating for property tax reform and that small businesses need more help dealing with New York’s maddening city bureaucracy. There was plenty of applause as Quinn criticized the city’s byzantine restaurant inspection system. “We want to find a way to move away from enforcement that isn’t about quality and public health and public safety but is really about generating money,” she said.

Another Chinatown BID Hearing Scheduled Next Week

It seems like we’ve been talking about the proposed Chinatown Business Improvement District for a very long time. The discussion is not over quite yet.  The City Council has decided to schedule a second public hearing to give anyone who’s interested an opportunity to speak out on the controversial plan.The hearing will take place next Wednesday, September 7th, at noon, at Emigrant Savings Bank, 49-51 Chambers.

Opponents of the BID were not at all happy with the way the first Finance Committee hearing was handled back in May. Quite a few people had trouble getting inside to speak. A number of them quarreled with security guards, who said the small meeting room could not accommodate everyone who wanted to attend.

In a letter to property owners who had filed objections, Chin (a BID backer) wrote, “we want to ensure that everyone has a chance to voice their opinion on the proposal.”

Opponents say they’re concerned a BID would add new and unnecessary financial burdens in a neighborhood that’s suffering economically. They’re also worried that the business district will quicken the pace of gentrification, forcing out independent business owners and longtime residents.

Chin is hopeful a vote on the BID can take place by the end of this month.

 

Chin: 20% of Chinatown Property Owners Oppose BID

For the past several months, supporters and opponents of the Chinatown Business Improvement District have argued bitterly about whether businesses, property owners and residents see a need for the proposed organization. As a City Council vote on the BID draws near, that dispute is growing even more heated.

Earlier this month, the coalition fighting against the business improvement district sent a letter to City Council members asserting that a record number of objection forms had been filed at City Hall against the proposal. Their letter stated, “Over five hundred properties in the proposed BID object to the formation of a Chinatown BID.”

Now City Councilwoman Margaret Chin, a key BID backer, has released the final numbers. According to her office, 562 objections were received from 388 property owners (or 20% of building owners). Ninety of the objection forms were received from residents, who would be assessed $1/year if the district is created. The objections are linked to properties representing 19% of the assessed land value in the BID catchment area.

In presentations before three downtown community boards last year, BID supporters said about half of the property owners within the proposed district had returned ballots and, of those responding, 97%, or about 550 property owners,  were in favor.

The official threshold for approving a BID proposal is 51%, but city and state officials generally like to see widespread support in a community before approving a new business district.  A City Council vote has not yet been scheduled.

Orchard St. Business Calls for Stepped Up Police Patrols

Merchants and business owners up and down Orchard are calling for more police protection in the wake of Tuesday's violent robbery.

As we reported yesterday, this week’s violent attempted robbery at the Pilgrim vintage clothing boutique has focused new attention on shoplifting and other incidents that have plagued Orchard Street for the past several months. Still recovering from injuries suffered in Tuesday’s bloody altercation, the shop’s co-owner, Brian Bennett said, the situation has “gotten totally out of hand and we can’t defend ourselves.”

Bennett is certainly not alone among Orchard Street business owners, in his belief that more needs to be done to curtail crime on the neighborhood’s main commercial strip. Yesterday afternoon, the management at M & M Environmental, the pest control company at 32 Orchard, reached out to us.  Timothy Wong, M & M’s director, said he’s been trying to get the police to pay more attention to incidents happening on lower Orchard (M & M is located between Canal and Hester streets) for several years.

Chinatown BID Opponents Rally in Chatham Square

Opponents of the ptoposed Chinatown Business Improvement District rallied in Chatham Square yesterday.

Opponents of the Chinatown Business Improvement District staged a rally in Chatham Square yesterday, urging members of the City Council to vote against the proposal. The Council’s Finance Committee heard testimony May 26th, but will not vote for a few more weeks.  The City Planning Commission has already signed off on the plan.

Among those attending yesterday’s rally: members of the Civic Center Residents’ Coalition (CCRC), the Coalition to Protect Chinatown and the Lower East Side and the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF). They argued that the BID would “destroy Chinatown” by creating a new tax district and by accelerating the pace of gentrification in a neighborhood already under siege.

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.

LES Business Improvement District Honors 7th Precinct Cops

Officers Kerion Mathison, Alexander Wong and Michael Wong with City Councilmember Margaret Chin, DA Cy Vance, BID Executive Director Bob Zuckerman and BID President Mark Miller.

Yesterday afternoon, we attended a new event sponsored by the LES Business Improvement District: the 7th Precinct Cops of the Year Awards Ceremony. It was held at Tammany Hall, the newish bar on Orchard Street (BID boss Bob Zuckerman got a few laughs as he welcomed the guests “back to Tammany Hall.”

“Third Thursdays” Coming to the LES March 17th

We’re excited to be the media sponsor of a great event coming to the Lower East Side this spring — Third Thursdays —  from the LES Business Improvement District. Beginning March 17th — many of the neighborhood’s best art galleries and the New Museum will be coming together to show off the neighborhood’s best cultural offerings. Home base for the event will be the LES Visitor Center at 54 Orchard, where you can pick up a guide full of information about galleries, restaurants and nightlife options. The galleries will stay open until 9pm and the New Museum will offer free admission. Third Thursdays will run each month through October. The Lo-Down will feature a different gallery every month and we’ll offer some other ideas for enjoying the neighborhood. In the meantime, check out the list of participating galleries on the BID’s web site.

Breaking: City Planning Commission Approves Chinatown BID

We just received word that the City Planning Commission has approved the creation of a business improvement district in Chinatown.  Next step: a public hearing before the New York City Council.

In a news release, City Councilmember Margaret Chin said, ““This is a great day for the Chinatown community. The BID is an opportunity for business owners, property owners, and residents to work together to improve their surroundings, quality of life and overall prosperity. The Chinatown community will now have an organization that can advocate for its diverse interests. With this BID in place, the future for Chinatown is bright.”

All three downtown community boards approved the proposed BID late last year. During the earlier hearings, opponents spoke out against the proposal, saying a BID in Chinatown would be a waste of money and amounted to a power play among the neighborhood’s established political and business leaders.

We’ll let you know when we hear more about the scheduling of the City Council hearing. Given Chin’s backing of the BID, approval by the Council is all but certain.

CB3 Approves Chinatown BID; City Planning is Next Stop

After more than two decades of frustration and false starts, Chinatown activists are closer than ever before to creating a business improvement district. Last night, Community Board 3 joined Community Boards 1 and 2, in voting to approve the proposal, which will now be considered by the Department of City Planning and the City Council.

Before the vote, supporters and opponents of the BID plan took turns at the microphone, in a sometimes contentious public speaking session.  People on both sides repeated arguments made at five previous community board hearings, held across the neighborhood in the past month.  Foes of the BID argued that annual assessments would place a heavy burden on struggling businesses and that the plan was really just a power grab by Chinatown’s political establishment.

Community Board 3 Votes on Chinatown BID Tonight; Opponents Sharpen Attacks

East Broadway merchants say they cannot afford a BID.

Supporters of a Chinatown Business Improvement District hope three is a charm.  Having already won the endorsements of Community Boards 1 and 2, they anticipate Community Board 3 will do the same this evening. In spite of this month’s victories, opponents are not giving up the fight. In the past several days, they’ve sharpened their attacks on the plan, as well as the BID’s chief backers.

On Friday, several merchants and property owners gathered in the offices of the Lin Zexu Foundation, in Chatham Square, to declare the battle is just beginning.  Members of the Chinatown Small Business Association said they could not afford to pay the assessments the BID wants to charge. They also criticized the group backing the BID, the Chinatown Partnership, which has declined to detail exactly how it spent a $5.4 million street cleaning grant from the Lower Manhattan Development Corp.

Two Community Boards Endorse Chinatown BID

A quick update on the campaign for a Chinatown Business Improvement District. Last night, Community Boards 1 and 2 gave their respective blessings to the proposal. The CB1 vote was unanimous, but the board was one short of a quorum (according to BID backers a quorum is not required). As expected, one member of CB2 (Soho activist Sean Sweeney) abstained. The resolution included language asking the BID steering committee to consider excluding the west side of Lafayette, between Grand and Broome, from the proposed business district.

Chinatown BID Supporters Look for Community Board “Clean Sweep”

It’s a big night ahead for supporters of a Chinatown Business Improvement District.  This evening, Community Boards 1 and 2 will decide whether to accept their committee-level recommendations to endorse the proposal.  If they vote “yes”  and Community Board 3 does the same at its monthly meeting next week, it will be a clean sweep in the first phase of the arduous approval process.

In their campaign, the steering committee has said street maintenance and cleaning would be the organization’s top priority. A multi-million dollar grant for this purpose from the Lower Manhattan Development Corp. runs out at the end of the year. This afternoon, BID backers said (if they win the support of all three boards) they will begin raising money for sanitation services for the first six months of the year.  Even under the best case scenario, the business district would not be functioning until the middle of 2011. 

A Year of Transition for the Lower East Side BID

LES BID President Mark Miller, former executive director Roberto Ragone. Photos courtesy: LES BID.

Earlier this week, the LES Business Improvement District held its annual meeting at Mason Dixon on Essex Street. The organization’s leaders looked back on what was really a transitional year — and looked forward to a busy 2011. They honored former executive director Roberto Ragone, who has gone on to run a BID in the Bronx. 

LES BID’s Annual Meeting Next Week

Members of the community are welcome to attend the LES Business Improvement District’s annual meeting next week.  If you’d like to take part, remember to RSVP by tomorrow!