$eventh cents! Merchants want new tax to keep avenue clean

for The Brooklyn Paper
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Seventh Avenue business owners are moving ahead with a plan to levy a new tax to clean up Park Slope’s main shopping strip after city officials failed to properly do the job.

Dozens of business owners will set up a Business Improvement District board this week — the first step in creating such a district to impose a tax on building owners to supplement declining city services such as trash pick-ups and, possibly, security.

After the board is formed, half of all building owners along a yet-to-be determined geographical stretch between Flatbush and Prospect avenues must agree to a tax levy of roughly $300 per storefront per year.

Those who object can fill out a city form and file it with the city clerk, but few business owners in Park Slope are expected to do so.

“There’s a lot to gain from the pooling of resources and the amount of money it generates,” said Mitch Szpicek of the Park Slope Chamber of Commerce, which will meet to form the BID board.

The push comes five months after elected officials chose not to renew a contract with a non-profit that hires homeless men to collect street trash. Critics say that the existence of such a program revealed the dirty secret of city services: their quality is declining.

Indeed, city trash collection has not proven to be frequent enough to keep the restaurant- and retail-lined street clean — and trashcans have been overflowing.

Since business improvement districts became legal in the early 1980s, more than five dozen BIDs have been created in middle- to upper-middle-class neighborhoods all over the city. They generate $100 million in supplemental taxes — money that is not subject to the same public review as other taxes.

Generally, such funds provide marketing, street improvements such as lighting and extra sanitation efforts.

Once a BID is formed, owners of all the 350 storefronts along Seventh Avenue in Park Slope would need to pay the tax — a rule that was controversial in Fort Greene, where some merchants claim they don’t get enough bang for their buck.

A business improvement district along Park Slope’s Fifth Avenue was less controversial.

Jason Daniels, president of the Park Slope Chamber of Commerce, did not return calls seeking comment on Monday — but former president Szpicek noted landlords have plenty to gain from a cleaner and more vibrant neighborhood.

“It just makes sense,” he said.

The Seventh Avenue BID proposal was floated in 2010. Park Slope already has a Chamber of Commerce and a Civic Council, both of which survive on contributions from the neighborhood.

Reach reporter Natalie O'Neill at or by calling her at (718) 260-4505.

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Reader Feedback

Not Goish from Prospect Heights says:
Finally, some common sense. The 5th Avenue BID seems to work well to this casual observer. The streets are clean.
10 years overdue, but the merchants on 7th Avenue are finally getting their act together.
Nov. 15, 2011, 8:06 am
ChickenUnderwear from Park Slope says:
This should come out of the pockets of the Property Owners. The rents are high enough.
Nov. 15, 2011, 10:57 am
ty from pps says:
I still don't get why the Dept of Sanitation isn't searching household garbage bags and levying fines. I mean, they scatter fines for not shoveling like it's fairy dust, but can't seem to figure out how to keep mounds of garbage from forming on the street corners!

Ticket the buildings.

So, basically... what is happening here is that the building owners aren't providing proper receptacles and/or enforcing the trash and recycling. So they have decided to form a "BID" so they can charge their commercial tenants a "tax" so they can get someone else to do what they should have been doing all along? Uggh.
Nov. 15, 2011, 11:01 am
tee from sunset says:
After decades of having BIDs people (including elected officials & newspaper reporters) still don't know what a BID is. The funding for a BID will come from the property owners, who in turn will pass it along (in most cases) to the shopkeepers.
The creation of the BID will depend on a vote by the property owners, not the shopkeepers.
It will take 2 years or more for the 7th avenue bid to be created. i formed the 5th avenue park slope bid and the sunset park 5th avenue bid...both were extremely controversial, as will be the 7th avenue.
Nov. 15, 2011, 11:28 am
ty from pps says:
tee -- and that was my exact point. The *owners* get to say, "Yippee, this is a great idea! I have an excuse to charge my commercial tenants something extra for things I should have been doing all along! What a great idea!"

I'm not saying the BID won't be great for business and the residents of the neighborhood... just saying that the owners of the buildings (i.e., the apartments above the shops) are lazy, greedy, etc. Why is the garbage piling up on the street? (see photo) Why does that have *anything* to do with the sanitation department? Buildings with proper trash and recycling facilities have absolutely no problems like this. Instead the solution is to "pool resources" by charging the commercial tenants to pay for a band-aid. Ya know, instead of simply making the building owners do what they're supposed to.
Nov. 15, 2011, 12:27 pm
al pankin from downtown says:
the metrotech bid does a great job...the city will never do what has to be done on an hourly basis..
Nov. 15, 2011, 2:04 pm
lisa from ps says:

You have completely missed the point. This isn't some quiet side street, it's a bustling commercial thoroughfare where people crowd the streets on weekends for shopping, the Park Slope Flea Market, picture taking and other things and make more trash than the street cans can accommodate. The city picked up trash more regularly but because of budget cuts, the street is having trash picked up less often than before and the amount of trash generated is simply too much for the number of times the city picks of trash. You can't blame the landlords for 1000 people coming to the Park Slope Flea and dumping their coffee cups at random trash cans along 7th Avenue. That is not the individual responsibility, but is the collective responsibility of the entire avenue to make sure it's a clean and nice place for everyone.

Your argument is too simplistic and doesn't really even cover the issue here which is that there's too much trash and not enough collection. We are a city without alleys and each building can not be required to store trash inside that their neither their tenants generated.
Nov. 15, 2011, 3:47 pm
ty from pps says:
"We are a city without alleys and each building can not be required to store trash inside that their neither their tenants generated."

NO -- But we can require a building to store trash inside that their tenants actually do generate. If you could tell me that the baskets weren't 1/2 full of household garbage, household garbage wasn't piled next to the baskets on non-collection days, and recycling was actually happening properly.... then YES, you have a point.

But as it is, most of the coffee cups and flea market tid bits are finding baskets full of unsorted household trash. Fix that, then you can tell me how "simplistic" I'm being.
Nov. 15, 2011, 4:45 pm
lisa from ps says:
You have no proof that the street cans are filled with household garbage, you are just making it up because you're angry. I know your style and you make aggressive comments all over brownstoner too. Always shoot your mouth off about things where you don't even live. I LIVE in Park Slope ON 7th Avenue and the MAJORITY of the trash in the cans are from people walking on the street shopping and eating, NOT from households who live there. We all have our own areas for trash and while there might be a stray person leaving trash around, it is certainly not the cause or root of the problem.
Nov. 15, 2011, 4:51 pm
ty from pps says:
Lisa -- You say I have no proof. but then your retort is just as baseless as mine. Who's right?

I would bet you $5 that the blocks on which there are well-maintained trash areas within the buildings do not have problems with the baskets; the blocks with crappy landlords do. And if Sanitation enforced household trash rules and recycling rules, you'd see a HUGE improvement.

I dare you to actually look. It's a little harder than just dismissing me and saying I'm someone who is "aggressive" on brownstoner, but looking would actually give you actual evidence. I've looked. That's what I'm basing my comments on. You should try it.
Nov. 15, 2011, 5:18 pm
lisa from ps says:
I have proof because I LIVE on 7th Avenue and have for 20 years. You live where? You dare me to look at my own street? I live here, raised kids here, had a store here for 10 years, give me a break.

I don't bet with pipsqueaks who talk out of their a$$ses.
Nov. 15, 2011, 5:28 pm
ty from pps says:
No, you have proof because you you've look IN the litter baskets. Not at your street. Your street is covered with garbage... we've already settled that part.
Nov. 15, 2011, 5:35 pm
ty from pps says:
...because you've looked IN the...
Nov. 15, 2011, 5:35 pm
jj from brooklyn says:
whether or not the bid's a good idea, fact is the trash cans mostly but not always overflow because they ARE filled w/ household trash (including stuff like unbroken-up boxes that unnecessarily take up space in the cans).
Nov. 15, 2011, 5:39 pm
Or from Yellow Hook says:
If the old tax didn't keep it clean, why would a new tax do it?

Why not demand you get your money's worth from your taxes before they get a dime more to waste?
Nov. 15, 2011, 7:46 pm
Janice from Park slope says:
I am part of the committee to form the BID. You are all talking about trash, important of course, but from a business owners perspective, we are doing this to keep small business vibrant on the avenue, and not allow 7th Ave to continue to spiral downwards into an urban strip mall of chain stores.
Nov. 18, 2011, 11:17 am
charlie brown from park slop says:
The group only wants a BID to get power for themselves. If they really want small business to thrive, get the city to stop raising taxes on the owners, who in turn pass it onto the shop keepers. What a concept, blame the city, not the Landlord.
Will never happen in Park Slop.
Dec. 13, 2011, 2:40 pm

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