The proposed Jackson Heights-Corona Business Improvement District has been the subject of much controversy since it was announced in February as part of Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras’ (D-East Elmhurst) “New Deal” for Roosevelt Avenue.
With rallies and petitions against what the 82nd Street Partnership calls a “small business survival strategy,” supporters of the BID want to set the record straight.
“There have been rumors and other things said about the BID and its intentions for the past few months and we want to make sure that the correct information is getting out there,” said Seth Taylor, the executive director of the 82nd Street Partnership, who is also working with a team of business and property owners and others to create the Jackson Heights-Corona BID.
“We have plans to improve the area that can only be accomplished if the businesses in the area come together in an organized group,” he continued.
Resistance came almost immediately after the BID was proposed as business and property owners, residents and other members of the community claimed creating a BID would gentrify the area, weeding out the culture, restaurants and stores that make the shopping corridor along Roosevelt Avenue special.
“Residents find the businesses and surroundings familiar here,” Marty Kirchner, who has passionately worked with the Roosevelt Avenue Community Alliance against the BID proposal. “We’re not against development but this isn’t about development, this is about creating improvements in the interest of property owners and trying to compete with Long Island and Manhattan.”
Critics of the BID, including Kirchner, say that creating the group would cause property values to increase, which will result in an increase in rent that business owners may not be able to afford.
“This is about creating a cleaner, safer and more inviting commercial corridor that will improve quality of life and promote small business growth,” Taylor said. “It’s a small business survival strategy.”
Taylor also said the services to the business corridor can help reduce crime and allow for more events and activities in the plaza areas.
In May, a “taste of the BID” — a scaled-down version of the services businesses would receive from the actual BID — was launched. In addition, the proposal has undergone adjustments to accommodate budget concerns.
The original Jackson Heights-Corona BID would have run up Roosevelt Avenue from 81st to 114th streets and include parts of Junction Boulevard, requiring a budget of $1.75 million and serving almost 1,100 businesses.
Now, the budget has been shaved to $860,000 and the boundaries have shrunk to encompass 850 properties between 104th and 81st streets.
Perhaps the biggest concern that merchants have raised is the cost each property owner would have to pay. According to the recently updated plans, each would pay about $900, over $1,000 less than the original plan proposed.
“When we revisited the plan, we wanted to make sure this plan was viable,” Cheryl Tse, a project consultant said. “Typically these properties house two or three businesses at a time, which reduces the monthly fees by a significant amount. It could be divided among them.
“It’s a small investment for something that’s going to bring them a lot of returns.”
For now, the decision on the Jackson Heights-Corona BID is in the hands of the city Department of Small Business Services, the agency that oversees all of the BIDs in the city.
There is no set date for the decision to be made.