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BID-ing war on Fulton Street

Atchudta Barkr, owner of Sisters Community Hardware at the corner of Fulton Street and Washington Avenue, says she doesn’t need a business improvement district to do her sweeping.
The Brooklyn Paper / Allyse Pulliam

A band of Fulton Street merchants is trying to fend off the formation of a business improvement district along their Fort Greene and Clinton Hill corridor, claiming that they won’t get enough bang for their buck from the mandatory dues they will have to contribute.

Opponents of a future Fulton Street BID, whose $300,000 annual budget would be paid by the more than 200 property owners between Rockwell Place and Classon Avenue, say it will merely repeat duties that shopkeepers already handle. Most property owners pass the assessment along to their tenants.

The commercial stretch in Fort Greene, roughly between Rockwell Place and S. Oxford Street, seems to be thriving with many new businesses, but it’s in the underperforming Clinton Hill area east of Vanderbilt Avenue where there’s an outcry against the BID.

“What does it really do? They say street cleaning and security, but we still have to sweep in front of our stores. And as for security, are they going to do more than what we do already — call the cops?” asked Atchudta Barkr, owner of Sisters Community Hardware near the corner of Washington Avenue. “We pay taxes; where are they going?”

But proponents of the BID say that a unified business group will do a better job of improving rubbish removal and bolstering security — as well as marketing the strip as a shopping destination — than individual merchants can do

“We have a big sanitation problem and property owners always get ticketed for things that aren’t necessarily their fault,” said Gary Kon, co-owner of Outpost, a cafe near the corner of Downing Street and a member of the BID’s steering committee.

There are also storeowners who don’t tidy up, which makes the area look worse. By pooling their resources at the rate of $80 per month for every 20 feet of frontage on Fulton Street, Kon says the organization picks up the slack. “Everyone benefits from it.”

Affected landholders have until Dec. 13 to vote. There’s been a late surge to reject it, but the tide appears strongly behind the advocates for a business improvement district.

Business shriveled up for many stores during three years of street reconstruction between Clinton and Bedford avenues, and now, some of the survivors do not want to cough up any revenue.

“Taxing us more is not right. I can’t afford it. The city closed the street for years — it should be helping us,” said Hamood Elturkaa, owner of Prince Super Deli and Grocery, at the corner of Cambridge Place,

The Pratt Area Community Council, a nonprofit community-organizing group that spearheaded the BID drive, said the fees will help to boost Fulton Street’s appeal.

“Right now, we don’t have holiday lighting [on Fulton Street],” said Dale Charles, a program manager at Pratt Area Community Council. She’s also a candidate to become the paid manager of the BID if it’s founded. “In order to things like that in the past, we have had to go door to door ad hock and ask for contributions. But you can’t have 200 businesses and have only 50 paying.”

The city says it is almost done with the road portion of the repairs to Fulton Street in Clinton Hill, but the final phase of the project — sidewalks! — won’t be done until the spring, more than a year late.
The Brooklyn Paper / Allyse Pulliam

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