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Hudson Yards Business Improvement District Proposed for Far West Side

By Mathew Katz | April 2, 2013 7:44am

HELL'S KITCHEN — Work on Hudson Yards has barely begun, but there's already a movement to create a business improvement district for the neighborhood.

The plan would help raise cash to transform the industrial Far West Side into a more hospitable area even as much of it remains a construction site.

But it would also add an extra tax to properties in Hell's Kitchen and Chelsea.

The Hudson Yards Business Improvement District would levy an annual fee on commercial and residential property owners in an area slightly smaller than the space that was rezoned in 2005 as part of the effort to create Hudson Yards.

It would include properties from West 42nd Street to West 30th Street, roughly from Ninth Avenue to 11th Avenue. Officials behind the plan hope that it will be approved by the city by the fall, and will begin a series of informational meetings on it later this month.

Barbara Cohen, a consultant working on the project, admitted that there may be some challenges in convincing people outside of the Related Companies' Hudson Yards development to support the project.

"One of the things we're going to introduce to people is that the BID is more than the [Related] site — that's a reflection of the rezoning," she said.

"But with a BID, you have to get over the fact that it's not just for business."

Project representatives said they already have the backing of a slew of developers, property owners, commercial businesses and community leaders in the area, but the proposal has not yet come before Community Board 4.

The proposed final budget for the BID would be about $3 million a year. The proposal is in its initial stages, so it's not clear how much property owners would have to pay, but Cohen said there would be different classes of residential and commercial fees, each owing a different amount based on their property's assessed value and square footage.

The BID would have several responsibilities, including maintaining the yet-to-be-built Hudson Park, creating green space and other district-wide improvements, adding lights to now-dark pedestrian areas and even creating buy-local programs that tell thousands of new residents about existing local businesses.

"This effort is really to make it a fully-functioning, vibrant, mixed-used district like any other New York City neighborhood," Cohen said.

Cohen also admitted that it is unusual to set up a BID for a neighborhood that technically doesn't exist yet, but she said that the BID itself is meant to address evolving issues as the neighborhood grows. For example, it could help deal with issues that come up when a building is shuttered and slotted for development, but won't be torn down for months.

The amount of cash raised by the BID will also shift based on the district's size and overall development — for the first two years, it won't exceed $1.2 million and won't be able to reach the $3 million cap until five years after it's established.

"The budget will be what the district's needs are, what the development is at that time, and what the property owners can tolerate in terms on annual payment," she said.

The fee will be based on each year's targeted budget — so the more development there is and the more buildings that come online, Cohen said, the less each property owner will have to pay to hit that budget cap.

"The idea is to put it together now and be prepared," Cohen said. "To be ready, to act and to service the district."

The Hudson Yards Business Improvement District will hold informational meetings on April 23 at 6:30 p.m. at the Orion Condominium at 350 W. 42nd St., 31st Floor and on April 25 at 8:30 a.m. at Covenant House, 460 W. 41st St., Lounge A.