Today’s news:

Another BID bid — this time on Atlantic Avenue

The Brooklyn Paper

A group of merchants along Atlantic Avenue has begun the movement toward creating a business improvement district — but opponents say that this is the worst time to impose a new tax.

The proposed Atlantic Avenue BID, stretching from Fourth Avenue to the East River, along with properties within State and Pacific streets, would become the latest of scores of such quasi-public, self-taxing entities operating with limited oversight in an effort to supplement city services.

“We have to be competitive with the other commercial strips that have BIDs,” said Frances Caroll, the owner of Silk Road Antiques, which is between Hoyt and Smith streets. “We would be able to do things like a shopping guide, make grant proposals, buy tree guards and other types of beautification.”

Another business owner echoed Caroll’s excitement over the possibility of new services for merchants.

“For years, I was not in favor of a BID,” said Charlie Sahadi, the owner of the beloved Middle Eastern grocery store that bears his name. “The situation on Atlantic Avenue has changed. The street has more character than it had before and needs more help.”

But others say that, during a deep recession, business owners simply can’t afford the new tax, which would charge landlords $23 per front-foot of the building.

“Did they ask anyone, ‘How is your business doing?’ ” pleaded Mohamed B. Mohamed, a real-estate broker who has handled many properties on Atlantic Avenue. “Business are literally dying on Atlantic — and this is the right time to raise taxes?”

Mohamed also scoffed at the notion of hiring a private company to handle sanitation, as is done on the Fulton Mall and numerous other commercial strips.

“Those guys cleaning Fulton Avenue are the laziest people ever!” Mohamed said, adding that he thought the current arrangement was fine.

“It’s the landlord and the tenants’ responsibility to clean the sidewalk,” said Mohamed. “Most businesses are OK with that.”

Some merchants shared Mohamed’s skepticism.

“On the face of things, I wouldn’t be in favor of the BID,” said John McGill, owner of Two For the Pot, a 37-year-old coffee and tea shop on Clinton Street just north of Atlantic Avenue. “I clean the area around my store. I don’t need to be paying more for someone else to do the same thing I do.”

But with an annual budget of $240,000, Caroll says that the BID will more than make up for the additional expense.

“The dues amount to $600 a year in additional costs for our shop,” Caroll said. “I look at that $600 as [extra] marketing, which I will more than realize through the benefits.”

Caroll pointed to the success of the Myrtle Avenue BID, which recently secured funding for street improvements and a pedestrian plaza project.

BID supporters say that they have secured the support of a vast majority of property owners in the district — adding that 88 percent of them have signed a letter of support. But that doesn’t mean smooth sailing. An effort to create a BID in Clinton Hill last year caused strife among local business owners, though it did win a majority and is operating smoothly, supporters say.

— with Lara Gross

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rachel from boerum hill says:
As someone who supports the Atlantic Avenue BID I attended the public meeting on Tuesday. The purpose of this meeting was to present the proposal to the public and answer questions. Mr Mohamed was called upon during the question and answer period at least half a dozen times. What he was not allowed to do was disrupt the meeting with statements, the chairperson gave him every oportunity to ask questions. It was his choice to ignore the rules which lead to his being told to save his speeches for the appropriate forum.
Feb. 25, 2010, 1 pm
tony giordano from sunset park says:
Your reporter may have come to this story with incorrect information. The reporter decries BID formation as "often polarizing" (as in two equally extreme positions). The media likes to latch onto "exciting" verbage sometimes. I don't think any BID has ever been formed when as many as 10 or 15% of the community was against it. Of course there are always some people against a BID's formation, but the numbers are usually very small. I was involved in the formation of the Sunset Park BID and out of hundreds of potential voters, only about 8 voted no. And in the more recent Park Slope BID, which is much larger than Sunset Park, there were less than 20 no votes. In the overwhelming number of neighborhoods where BIDs were formed, the percent of "no" votes were below 5%.

One BID that I was involved in forming had a major property owner who was beside himself with angst over the thought of a BID being formed. He testified, at length, at the City Council hearing saying the most awful things about BIDs. But soon after the BID was formed he joined the board, later became president and fully supported BIDs in general.

Another of the reporter's statements - refers to BIDs haveing "limited oversight". I have yet to see a public or private entity with the amount of oversight that a BID has. Their meetings are open to the public, their budgets must be published annually with a detailed report, and in addition to local property owners, business owners and residents being on the board, the mayor, boro president, city comptroller, community board and all local elected officials have a seat on the board.

And finally, to say that BIDs are formed to make up for declining city services is wrong. BIDs are organizations that bring a voice to a business district. They create an open governing body to make possible numerous programs and projects that a merchant's association cannot accomplish. They spread the funding responsibility in a very fair, public and equitable manner. It is up to each BID to create their own funding formula, but usually it is based on the value of the member properties. BIDs are not an attempt to replace "declining" city services. (I will concede that the concept of BIDs in NYC was historically motivated by declining city services, but overwhelmingly BIDs are now, and for well over a decade, created to empower communities.)

I would be more than happy to speak with this reporter or any of your reporters about BIDs to clear up these and other public misconceptions about BIDs. For example, "Do BIDs tax members?", "Do BIDs take over the city's responsiblity for providing services?" and "How are decisions made in a BID?".
Feb. 25, 2010, 1:43 pm

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