Thursday, September 12, 2013

A Really Bad Bid

The Daily News is reporting that CM Ferreras is looking to create (expand) a Business Improvement District in Jackson Heights/Corona-and the store owners, as they should be, are not enthralled with the idea:
An ambitious proposal to create one of the city’s largest business improvement districts in mostly immigrant Jackson Heights and Corona would hasten gentrification and spoil the area’s Mom and Pop character, business owners charge.
The 82nd St. Partnership currently encompasses eight blocks and 125 businesses — but the proposed Jackson Heights Corona BID would cover Roosevelt Ave. from 82nd St. to 114th St. and include roughly 1,000 businesses, said Partrship executive director Seth Taylor.”
These BIDs were the brainchild of former Bronx assemblyman John Dearie, and they were designed to augment the declining city services that were so emblematic of the decades of the 1970s and 1980s. What they do, however, is to tax the store owners for those services that the city itself should be supplying-a double taxation at a time when small stores are under siege. In addition, the merchants are afraid that the effort will eventually lead to their displacement through gentrification:
That potential expansion has some immigrant merchants concerned they will be priced out of the neighborhood and the area will lose its trademark character.
“They are going to standardize Roosevelt Ave.,” crowed Freddy Castiblanco, owner of Terraza 7, a bar and jazz club. “They want to clean Roosevelt Ave. of that diversity.”Castiblanco and other local Hispanic entrepreneurs formed the Roosevelt Avenue Community Alliance to block the BID plan.”
But this all goes back to the issue of rising rents and the city’s record high levels of store closings and bankruptcies:
The group rallied Sunday against the sweeping overhaul — which would require each shop owner to pay a fee for sanitation, security and other services once provided exclusively by the city with regular tax money. “The commercial rents are extremely high,” said Ruben Pena, a liquor store owner and community activist. “The community is going to get hurt. They are fighting to make ends meet.”
CM Ferreras is pushing this deal, but should be careful of alienating those store owners who look to their Hispanic leadership to protect their interests. Her “New Deal” for the area could, like urban renewal, help real estate interests while hurting the store owners who truly represent the immigrant American Dream:
The BID expansion is a component of Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras’ “New Deal” for Roosevelt Ave., which focused on cleaning up the corridor, which cuts through several Queens neighborhoods. Ferreras cites safety issues, poor lighting and cleanliness as the top complaints among residents.
“The current problems on Roosevelt Ave. hurt everyone,” Ferreras said in a statement. “This is why I believe a business improvement district is a solution to this problem.”
The problems may be real, but the solution offered may be worse than the disease if it leads to the loss of these immigrant businesses. We have just concluded an election where Speaker Quinn got thrashed because she forgot her roots. Ferreras should view that as a cautionary tale.