Some of Brooklyn’s swankiest shopping strips are just not clean and inviting enough, say merchants who are banding together to compel the city to spruce them up even further.
A group of merchants in Cobble Hill and Carroll Gardens want to start a business improvement district, a coalition where business owners pay an extra tax to garner more extensive city services such as sanitation and holiday decoration, that would run along Court and Smith streets between Pacific Street and Hamilton Avenue. The neighborhoods have seen a boatload of chains arrive in the past five years and they need more foot traffic to invigorate the mom-and-pops, according to a local cheese-monger who has been working on the district’s application for a decade and does not think the legions of people currently strolling the area on a given sunny afternoon are enough to keep him afloat.
“What we need to do is solidify our district of shopping,” Stinky Bklyn owner Patrick Watson said. “We want to make this an area that you stop, park your car, dine, and so forth.”
About 50 to 60 business owners support the idea, according to Watson, who estimates that proprietors of businesses larger than a racquetball court would have to cough up a $750 fee annually for the privilege of membership. Watson is surveying merchants to see what benefits they hope to reap — sanitation and beautification are high on the list — and starting to work out a budget.
The creation of a business improvement district would help to make sure that small businesses can afford rising rents, Watson said.
“Once a landlord gets a taste of J. Crew or $15,000 in rent, it sort-of spirals from there — which is fine, but the district needs to support those rents,” he said.
The co-owner of D’Amico Foods, a 66-year-old coffee roaster on Court Street, supports the initiative but wondered aloud why the city does not keep the sidewalk nice on its own.
“Some things just should be done on a regular basis and I don’t understand why you have to take care of yourself,” said Joan D’Amico. “What are the city workers doing? What are we paying for?”
Another shopkeeper said he can fend for himself just fine.
“I am not interested to pay somebody to basically do my decorations throughout the year,” said Joseph Davidoff, owner of Joseph’s Shoe and Watch Repair. “Have you ever heard of the saying, ‘If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself?’ ”