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City Reverses Course on Fees Charged to Chinatown Property Owners

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Bethany Li of AALDF with Jan Lee and other property owners.

The city has decided to credit property owners who were prematurely assessed fees for the newly created Chinatown Business Improvement District.  Yesterday, neighborhood activist and building owner Jan Lee, other property owners and the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund held a news conference on Mott Street to celebrate what they called a significant victory.  They said the city only acted after they threatened legal action.

The city began charging for the BID last October even though the State Comptroller did not approve the new organization until January.  Meredith Weber of the Department of Small Business Services told us yesterday:

BID billing has been adjusted, and began as of February, 2012. The amount to be charged for the fiscal year will be approximately $500K instead of $900K. Any property owner who has already paid the billed charges in full will receive a 4 month credit on their bill.  Property owners in Chinatown will be notified of the assessment being charged and how the credit will be applied.

City officials and BID staff members say the error was simply a clerical mistake.  But the property owners gathered yesterday – who opposed the creation of the business improvement district in the first place – argued it’s proof the BID can’t be trusted. Lee said the situation amounts to a “betrayal,” showing local elected officials, including City Council member Margaret Chin (a BID supporter) were failing in their “oversight” responsibilities.

Chin’s office released a statement, saying the city is addressing the issue and that she takes her role as a member of the BID board, seriously:

Like other elected officials, including the Mayor, I have a mandated seat on the BID Board. As a Board member, I will continue to represent the needs of small business owners and residents while supporting the BID in their efforts to improve the Chinatown community.

Property owners will receive their next statement in July.  According to Wellington Chen, who’s handling day-to-day operations for the BID, the group won’t actually receive funding from the city until June.  For now, the conflict seems to be resolved. But the episode makes it very clear the fledgling business improvement district has a watchdog — a group of property owners keeping an eye on its every move.

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  1. The watchdog for Chinatown was supposed to be Councilmember Margaret Chin.  Fat chance!!  Margaret Chin pushed this BID through the City Council in spite of the fact the Chinatown Business Improvement District proposal had the most verified objections EVER filed against any BID in NYC BID history!  Most Chinatown property owners did NOT want the BID to go forward and now you know why.  This was NOT an accounting error or a “technicality”, as claimed by Wellington Chen, it was a conscious attempt by the BID to collect money illegally.  Wellington has stated publicly that “it’s okay” to charge these types of retroactive unlawful charges even though the BID was not officially running.   Margaret Chin is history for letting this happen to Chinatown.  

  2. We do not believe them. There was no clerical error, just an attempt to steal from the Property Owners.  How easily the excuses roll off their tongues. NYC Finance said they do not calculate any of the BID taxes; The Chinatown BID does that themselves and then have NYC Finance include it in our Tax Statements. The orders came directly from Chinatown BID offices.


    And a word to Margaret Chin: do an investigation and fire the persons responsible.  That is your responsibility, to protect your constituents.
    Totally Disgusted Chinatown Property Owner.

  3. Chinatown BID Errors or Irregularities?  Legal Errors?  Accounting Errors?  Or Accounting Irregularities?Whether Either/Or/And, they have produced ill effects on Chinatown: –          Burdened to prove that we were wrongfully taxed for four months.-          Burdened to pay taxes without representation or accountability.-          Stressed and feared, knowing that a selected few has been given the right/license to extort money from Chinatown.-          Stressed and feared, knowing that there are some who could not afford this BID, and may eventually face the closing of their business or foreclosure on their property some day.-          When shit hits the fan, there is no straight answer.  THERE IS NO SOUND EXPLANATION AND APOLOGY;   only lame, pretentious, or meaningless responses are given.  *** The Chinatown BID has taken Chinatown to be a FOOL. 

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