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A new tax for Seventh Avenue?

The Brooklyn Paper
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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.

Updated 11:48 am, February 10, 2010
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Reasonable discourse

Sid from boerum hill says:
is the Brooklyn Paper now against all BIDS?
Feb. 10, 2010, 8:26 am
Jake from Boerum Hill says:
Generally, property owners don't actually "pay" the BID tax. Most commercial leases require tenants to pay additional taxes. So, essentially, merchants who are having a really hard time because of the economy are going to have to shell out more money to cover city services they've already [over]paid for. Brilliant!
Feb. 10, 2010, 11:35 am
Jerry Salinger from Park Slope says:
Sid, why do you think this story suggests a bias at the Brooklyn Paper? Isn't it appropriate for the newspaper to report on the BID effort?

I think the story is balanced.
Feb. 10, 2010, 12:19 pm
Gary from Carroll Gardens says:
This is a good idea. A well managed BID can be a tremendous boon to a commercial strip like 7th Avenue. The neighborhood benefits from a beautified streetscape, and the businesses benefit from increased commerce.
Feb. 10, 2010, 1:50 pm
jay from pslope says:
why don't you just call it what it is, a protection racket. Fools.
Feb. 10, 2010, 11:49 pm
john from downtown says:
This is a great idea for 7th avenue. BIDs provide services well above and beyond what the city can provide, and in a time like this when small businesses are struggling, this is just the kind of support they can use. get it done!
Feb. 11, 2010, 10:11 am
Charles from PS says:
The calling for 7th avenue to be a "Business Improvement District" is outrageous and against the spirit of BIDs. BID's are not for places such as Park Slope; they are for inherently depressed commercial zones in the city. To use the economic downturn as a reason to create a BID in the nicest and most prosperous neighborhood in Brooklyn should be seen as suspect.
Feb. 12, 2010, 12:15 pm
richie rich from parkslope says:
PS does not need it but other brooklyn neighborhoods like Red Hook and Bed Stuy can benefit from it. We need to get rid of the drug and crime infested bodegas and replace them with Starbucks. Also, lets get the Mayor and Ratner to fix.
Feb. 14, 2010, 9:49 pm

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