A group of merchants is about to drop a bombshell on Park Slope’s Seventh Avenue — proposing a tax hike on building owners to supplement existing city services like sanitation and policing.
The proposed “Business Improvement District” would be one of scores of such quasi-public, self-taxing agencies operating with limited oversight citywide in an effort to make up for declining city services.
If more than half of the building owners between Flatbush and Prospect avenues agree to the tax, all property owners in the zone would be forced to pay it.
Typically, that will come to a few hundred dollars per storefront, raising an annual budget in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. The money would be dedicated solely to increasing commerce through aesthetic improvements, marketing, security and basic sanitation.
“Through the BID, we would be able to do familiar services like street cleaning, security, decorative lighting and more,” said Bob Kalb, the owner of the Park Slope Copy Center, who is pushing the BID bid. “But we’d also be able to do other, more-expensive things like a Web site, blogs, advertising and sponsorship of special events — things that promote local business.”
Some landlords and merchants will resist the controversial extra tax — especially in the current economy. An effort to create a BID in Fort Greene last year caused strife among local business owners, though it did win a majority and is operating smoothly, supporters say. A BID on Fifth Avenue in Park Slope was less controversial.
Supporters are ready for a fight.
“Nobody likes spending money,” admitted Ken Freeman, the president of the Park Slope Civic Council. “But the merchants would hopefully see is that for an extra few bucks, they would get a far more effective organization with clout throughout the city.”
Kalb said that the BID has roughly six landlords and 10 to 15 merchants on board already — enough to take the first step and present the proposal to the city.
Park Slope already has a Chamber of Commerce and a Civic Council, both of which survive on contributions from the neighborhood.
But Chamber of Commerce President Mitch Szpicek said that a business improvement district could actually result in a net gain, not a new tax burden, on some property owners.
“The fees might go up, but the [business’s] rent might go up [thanks to the BID] because their community is going to be more vibrant,” he said.