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Groups Spar Over Proposed Business Improvement District

By Katie Honan | May 23, 2014 4:38pm | Updated on May 27, 2014 8:54am
 A stretch of Roosevelt Avenue that can be a part of a planned Business Improvement District. 
A stretch of Roosevelt Avenue that can be a part of a planned Business Improvement District. 
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Massey Knakal

CORONA — Two groups faced off over the proposed business improvement district along Roosevelt Avenue Thursday, arguing about whether the move would help small businesses along the thoroughfare or line the pockets of developers.

The fight came as officials announced that ballots for the proposal are set to go out next month.

Representatives from Queens Neighborhoods United, previously known as Roosevelt Avenue Community Alliance, presented their argument against the 82nd Street Partnership, which is working towards creating the Jackson Heights-Corona BID.

"We wanted to inform the community what a BID is," said Marty Kirchner, who helps run Queens Neighborhoods United and is studying business improvement districts at the CUNY Graduate Center.

He disputed the claim that the organizations help small businesses, instead only helping "real estate investors" and attracting new, wealthier shoppers and tourists to the area.

Kirchner also expressed concern about a $500,000 donation to the proposed BID by the group currently working on the Willets Point revitalization, the Queens Development Group, composed of developers Sterling and Related Cos.

"What kind of influence does that exert, that Related and Sterling...will actually be paying the BID all this money?" he asked. "And we're expected to believe that the BID is going to protect the interests of small businesses against the very thing it's getting money from?"

Seth Taylor from the 82nd Street Partnership, who is also in charge of the proposed Jackson Heights Corona BID plan, pointed to successes on 82nd Street — including street cleaning and storefront improvements — as an example of what could be carried out in more of the neighborhood.

They remove graffiti within 24-hours, have street cleaners on site, shovel snow and support festivals, such as Viva La Comida.

"A BID will create a cleaner and safer environment that supports and strengthens the diversity of this community," he said.

With a larger BID, they could work to improve lighting under the 7 train, work with the Parks Department to improve landscaping and continue to strengthen the business corridor.

Ballots for the plan, which was first announced last summer, are set to go out in June, Taylor said.

More than 1,000 business owners, residents and building owners will be able to vote yes or no to the plan — and then will be invited to two town hall meetings for further discussion.

Members of Community Board 3 volunteered to count the ballots, Taylor said.

In order for the proposal to pass, a majority can't oppose it, he added, but it's not clear the exact number of "yes" votes that are needed in order for the Department of Small Businesses Services to determine there is "overwhelming support."

Each BID formation effort is reviewed on a case by case basis by SBS," said Merideth Weber, a spokeswoman for the agency. "SBS expects to see widespread support across various stakeholders before submitting the district plan into the public approval process."