Despite promises of reduced crime and a friendlier atmosphere, many Jackson Heights business owners and residents simply do not want the Jackson Heights-Corona Business Improvement District in their neighborhood.
In a town hall intended to create a line of communication between BID supporters and business owners, many people were not shy when it came to airing their issues last Thursday in Corona.
“They promise graffiti removal and garbage pickup, but isn’t that what 311 is for?” one resident asked, speaking entirely in Spanish. “We have the Department of Sanitation and we have a Police Department. Shouldn’t they be responsible for making this area safer and cleaner?”
The BID would be an expansion of the existing 82nd Street Partnership, an organization that has generally been praised by those who joined. It would include more than 300 properties with approximately 800 businesses, making the Jackson Heights-Corona BID one of the largest in the city.
The proposal is part of a bigger vision for Roosevelt Avenue, a major commercial corridor, much of which is ridden with trash and crime. Last year, Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras (D-Corona) introduced her New Deal for Roosevelt Avenue, a comprehensive plan to bring the area to a safer, cleaner and more desirable place to live and work.
The BID was part of that plan.
“I am a product of this community,” Ferreras said. “I was raised in Corona and I live in Jackson Heights, but I’m also a Council member, and as a Council member, I have heard your concerns. I am working diligently in bringing the best resources I can to this community, and when we talk about a BID that already exists and expand it all the way along Roosevelt Avenue to organize our community and small businesses, it is something I am very much in support of.”
A major concern is the gentrification of the area as evidenced in other neighborhoods, such as Williamsburg in Brooklyn and Chelsea in Manhattan.
Because the BID would have property owners, as opposed to business owners, on the board of trustees, there is a fear that rent and property values will skyrocket, forcing small mom-and-pop shops out and enticing larger chain stores to move in.
“I’m here speaking to you as a planner and I want to point out that the BID is not the only thing happening,” said Arturo Sanchez, a former urban planning professor at Cornell University and 30-year Queens resident. “This is connected to the Willets Point project, which is connected to the Economic Development Corp., which is creating a tennis stadium for the suburban population.”
The hearing went on for several hours and almost every speaker was outwardly against the BID. Eighty-second Street Partnership’s Director Seth Taylor, who would head the Jackson Heights-Corona BID, stayed silent during much of meeting.
Many criticized Ferreras, who departed shortly after speaking at the beginning of the meeting, for not being present and really listening to what her constituents had to say.
The councilwoman did have members of her staff and representatives from the Department of Small Business Services in her place.
“As you hear all the complaints, I want you to understand the complexities of this position,” she said in her opening statement. “I represent a diverse and beautiful community that has many issues, and we’re trying to bring solutions to a portion of the district, that we hope will reverberate throughout the community. If you’re here in opposition, I want you to know that your voice is also very important.”
When the BID was first announced, many people and agencies were supportive, but as word of steep dues got out, many began to change their mind. According to the Partnership, dues would be based on several factors, including the size and property value of the plot.
Most recently, Make the Road New York came out against the BID.