Seventh Avenue merchants are picking up steam in a push to levy a new tax on landlords on the strip — but before they can start collecting dues they must win support from the property owners who will foot the bill.
Members of the Park Slope Chamber of Commerce want to form a Seventh Avenue Business Improvement District to help tidy up the commercial corridor and supplement existing city services such as trash pick-ups and street-sweeping, funded by an annual fee charged to building owners on a 22-block stretch of the avenue.
If more than half of landlords along Seventh Avenue between St. John’s Place and 16th Street agree to the tax — averaging between $700 and $900 for owners of commercial properties and just $1 for residential building landlords — the plan will advance to city council, where it will await a rubber stamp.
And once it becomes the law of the land, every property on the street must pay.
The fees would produce an estimated annual budget of $300,000 that the BID could spend to beautify Seventh Avenue with plantings or benches, promote shops through marketing, events, and festivals, increase safety by installing security cameras, and tidy the retail stretch with more trash pick-ups, according to a proposal by the merchants group.
Seventh Avenue certainly needs some help, according to BID backer and Chamber president Tammy Shaw.
“Seventh Avenue is not up to par with the other major commercial strips in our immediate area and it certainly does not reflect well on Park Slope as a historic community,” said Tammy Shaw, an owner of TB Shaw Realty Associates on the strip. “It’s not clean the way Fifth Avenue is.”
Ever since politicians didn’t renew a 2011 contract with a non-profit that hires homeless men to collect street trash, garbage has littered the stretch, merchants say.
Booming Fifth Avenue has had a BID since 2009 — and if that street is any indication, creating a similar tax will do wonders for Seventh Avenue, Shaw said.
“It has been good for Fifth Avenue and it will be good for us,” said Shaw.
Fifth Avenue is lined with boutiques and mom-and-pops, but Seventh Avenue has seen an influx of chains and national brands that don’t contribute cash to the Chamber’s $35,000 annual budget, which is supported by voluntary donations from 100 small businesses along the 350-storefront strip.
The establishment of a BID would force the national chains to pay up.
“With the corporate chain stores the money is going to shareholders and not back into the community in any way, so if the BID goes through they will have more of a say and be forced to contribute to the avenue,” said Mitch Szpicek, Chamber vice president and owner of the Little Things Toy Store.
“Mom-and-pop businesses return most of the money to the area they are in,” he said.
But small businesses might find themselves paying for the BID, if landlords choose to pass the fee along to their tenants in the form of rent hikes.
That doesn’t faze some merchants, who are looking at the big picture: a better business atmosphere.
“We are 100 percent for it,” said Ezra Goldstein, co-owner of neighborhood mainstay Community Bookstore, who said he has asked his landlord to revise his lease so that he will pay the new tax. “A BID could promote a richer mix of businesses and we could certainly use a richer mix on Seventh Avenue.”
Organizers delivered a “statement of support” two weeks ago to every property owner and merchant along Seventh Avenue that will serve as the ballot for the BID.
The first of several public informational meetings about the Seventh Avenue BID will be at Greenwood Baptist Church [461 Sixth St. near Seventh Avenue in Park Slope]. Feb. 28, 9:30–10:30 am.