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Business Owners Protest Proposed BID Expansion After Activists Endorse Plan

By Katie Honan | March 18, 2015 11:02am
 Queens Neighborhoods United organized the protest on 82nd Street on Monday.
Groups Protest Against Proposed BID After Community Agreement Announced
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JACKSON HEIGHTS — Business owners and activists rallied Monday against a plan to expand a business improvement district even after another prominent activist organization finally endorsed it last week.

About two dozen people chanted and beat drums outside a going-out-of-business sale at Fever on 82nd Street and 37th Avenue, a fate they feared would befall other nearby shops under the plan, which they said does little to curb rising rents.

"If the rents keep going up, then I'm going to have to pass that down to the consumers," said Sergio Ruiz, 55, who owns nearby Mi Estrella Bakery, where he got his first job after emigrating from Mexico in 1985.

The proposal by the 82nd Street Partnership would expand the 82nd Street BID, which stretches two blocks from 37th Street to Baxter Avenue, to incorporate about a mile of businesses from 82nd to 104th streets on Roosevelt Avenue, officials said.

Activist group Make the Road had opposed the BID last summer, but struck a deal last week with the 82nd Street Partnership to include more members on its board, including representatives from the youth and LGBT communities.

Protesters wanted to make clear there was still opposition to the plan and that Make the Road didn't speak for everyone.

"We're here today to show there's still a lot of opposition," said Jorge Cabanillas, an organizer with Queens Neighborhoods United.

The expansion has yet to be approved and the partnership is still collecting ballots from residents and shop owners in the affected area, officials said. It's unclear when all the votes will be counted.

But if passed, the BID would pay for events, small business assistance and street cleanup, all of which will be funded by fees paid by business owners and landlords, officials said.

This annual fee would add another cost to the rising rents and taxes, which are supposed to take care of things like street cleanup, protesters said.

Protesters also took issue with what they say is a murky approval process for the BID. Some business are still not aware of the proposal and there's no deadline for the collection of the ballots.

"We still consider it an undemocratic process because they still haven't taken the time to talk to all the businesses," Cabanillas said.

Leslie Ramos, the director of the 82nd Street Partnership, met with some protesters and business owners who oppose the plan Monday and found the two sides shared some common ground.

"They want more services and direct assistance that a business improvement district is able to provide," she said.

She hoped this would allow the two sides to clear the impasse they've reached over the BID.

"One thing we all agreed on was that we cannot sit, arms-crossed and let small businesses fail. Now, more than ever, with the community involved, we should move forward as a unit and take action," she said.