Chinatown BID approved despite opposition

Due to active opposition, the Council held first-ever oversight hearing on a proposed BID. On September 21, 2011, the City Council approved the establishment of the Chinatown Business Improvement District for more than 6,000 businesses in Manhattan. The BID comprises 50 blocks generally bounded by Broome Street to the north, Worth and Madison Streets to the south, Allen Street to the east, and Broadway to the west. The first-year budget will be $1,300,000.

At the City Planning Commission’s January 2011 hearing, while no one testified in opposition to the BID, following the hearing, the Commission received letters from property owners opposed to the BID’s assessment formula. 8 City- Land 42 (April 15, 2011). 

BID opponents also registered their concerns at an over-capacity public hearing before the Council’s Finance Committee in May 2011. Local Council Member Margaret Chin expressed her support for the BID, while opponents claimed that the assessments would be overly burdensome. Jan Lee, a local property owner, claimed that 75 other property owners opposed to the BID had been turned away after being told the hearing room was full. The hearing triggered the mandatory 30-day period for affected property owners to file objections to the BID. 8 CityLand 72 (June 15, 2011).

The Council is prohibited from approving a BID if more than 51 percent of property owners within the plan’s boundaries, or the owners of 51 percent of the BID’s assessed valuation, object to the proposal. During the objection period, 388 of 1,890 property owners within the BID’s boundaries filed valid objections. Although the number of objections failed to reach the 51 percent threshold, the Finance Committee scheduled an oversight hearing to further consider the BID.

At the September 7, 2011 oversight hearing over 100 people signed up to testify. Council Member Chin reiterated her support, while acknowledging that there had not been enough space at the May hearing for all affected property owners to participate in the process. Eddy Eng of the Department of Small Business Services described the BID’s property assessments. According to Eng, 78 percent of commercial property owners would pay less than $1,000 a year and 786 residential property owners would only pay $1 a year. Eng pointed out that the proposal was formed over a period of five years with 27 public meetings.

Opponents focused their criticism on the economic impact of the BID’s assessment formula. Bethany Li, of the Coalition to Protect Chinatown, noted the unprecedented number of objections to the BID, and argued that imposing additional costs on property owners would lead to small businesses and working class residents being priced out of Chinatown.

The Finance Committee met two weeks later to vote on the BID. Chair Domenic Recchia Jr. announced that SBS would ensure that morning garbage collection would occur prior to 8 a.m., increase accessibility to the minutes of the BID’s board, and make objection forms for future BIDs available online as well as at the City Clerk’s Office. Council Member Chin expressed her gratitude for the strong community response to the BID and her hope to continue to work together with its residents to make Chinatown a destination once again.

The Committee and full Council unanimously approved the establishment of the BID.

Council: Chinatown BID (Sept. 21, 2011).

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