Westchester Square BID enters objection period

At hearing, concerns raised about whether public notice requirements were met for proposed BID. On October 17, 2011, the City Council’s Finance Committee held a public hearing on the Department of Small Business Services’ plan to create the Westchester Square Business Improvement District in the Bronx.

The BID would be within Bronx Community Boards 10 and 11 and extend along portions of East Tremont Avenue, Williamsbridge Road, and Westchester Avenue. The district would include 90 tax lots and 145 businesses that include local retail, neighborhood services, and national chain stores. The BID would allow an annual assessment on property owners in order to provide supplemental sanitation and security services, marketing and promotions, and special events. The BID’s first-year budget would be $320,000, with $120,000 going to sanitation services, $95,000 to administrative expenses, and $72,000 to marketing. The remaining budget would be allocated to special events, holiday lighting, and a reserve fund. The budget would come from an assessment on commercial properties of $57 per-linearfront- foot. Owners of corner-lot properties and properties with commercial uses above the ground floor would pay an additional $300. The owners of vacant mid-block properties would pay $300, and the owners of vacant corner properties would pay $600. Wholly residential property owners would pay a $1 assessment. Government and non-profit properties would pay nothing. 

At the City Planning Commission’s public hearing in April 2011, Joe Regina, a member of the Westchester Square BID Steering Committee, praised local Council Member James Vacca for recognizing the need to revitalize the community and for bringing together local merchants in 2007 to discuss forming the BID. Joseph Kelleher, chair of the Bronx Chamber of Commerce and president of the Hutchinson Metro Center located one mile north of Westchester Square, called the area a gateway to the Bronx because of its access to public transportation. Kelleher testified that improving Westchester Square would also revitalize the surrounding area. The Commission approved the proposal on May 25, 2011.

At the Council’s Finance Committee hearing, Chair Domenic M. Jr. Recchia raised concerns about whether the administrative code’s proposed BID public notice requirements had been fulfilled. According to SBS’s First Deputy Commissioner Andrew Schwartz, the BID Steering Committee had mailed a summary of the Council’s resolution with the district plan to property owners, but hand delivered the summary to merchants and residential tenants of buildings within the proposed district. Recchia pointed out that the law required that all summaries be delivered by mail. He acknowledged that hand delivery was probably much more effective than mail notification, but he wanted to avoid potential legal challenges. He noted that the Finance Committee would meet in late November to further consider the BID and discuss the public notice issue.

Council Member Vacca asked Schwartz whether the notification issue would impede the creation of the BID. Schwartz responded that SBS “did not expect it to, but we will work with this committee to make sure it doesn’t.” John Bonizio, chair of the BID Steering Committee, testified that every property owner had been notified through certified mail, and that only merchants and five residents had been notified through hand delivery. Recchia, however, reiterated that the law required that everyone be notified by mail.

Joe Regina testified that 56 percent of the affected property owners had participated in a vote on the BID, and according to Regina, 87 percent of the participants were in favor of forming the BID. No one spoke in opposition.

The hearing triggered a 30-day period for property owners to file objections to the BID with the City Clerk. The Westchester BID would be the City’s 67th if approved by the Council and the mayor.

Council: Westchester Square BID (Oct. 17, 2011)

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