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Westchester Square BID plan goes before CPC

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The Westchester Square BID steering committee offered testimony before the city Planning Commission, which moved the Busienss Improvement Districteffort one step closer to reality.

As part of the process in Westchester Square, BID steering committee members John Bonizio and Joseph Regina, and landlord representative Joseph Kelleher, presented testimony before the city Planning Commission on Wednesday, April 27.

A formal statement also was prepared and submitted, culled from four years of ingestive planning for the BID.

It spoke of the area’s rise to prominence as a major commercial hub in the 1920s with the construction of the elevated IRT train line, and its slow decline beginning in the late 1970s, precipitated bythe introduction of express bus service that pulled straphangers to new travel patterns, away from Westchester Square.

Now with an influx of money and interest from Simone Development, the owners of the Hutchinson Metro Center, properties in and around the Square, and a revitalized merchants association, the timing is right for an investment into the Square, BID steering committee leader John Bonizio said.

“There were three of us presenting on various aspects of the plan, and we were able to answer every question they asked us,” said Joseph Kelleher, who spoke on behalf of Simone and landlords who favor the creation of a BID.

The presentation appeared to go very well, Kelleher said, and Joseph Regina, program coordinator from the Westchester Square Merchants Association, who spoke of the outreach to merchants and landlords by the steering committee, said that he expects the CPC commission to give the BID a thumbs up when they vote in approximately two weeks.

“We are doing the same thing that we have done for the past four years, which has been very aggressive, passionate, and well-thought through,” Regina said.

“We feel that we have covered all bases and did our due diligence, and we feel fortunate that we have not hit any of the snags that have hampered other BID efforts, at this point.”

The Westchester Square BID is part of a four-point plan put forth by merchants.

The plan also includes the development of cultural attractions like those planned for Owen Dolen Park and the new Bronx Council on the Arts headquarters at 2700 E. Tremont Avenue; increased private commercial development like the establishment of a new anchor store for 34 Westchester Square; and overall economic development for the Square and its surrounding communities.

Community boards 10 and 11 have given their support to the Westchester Square BID. Councilman Jimmy Vacca first suggested the creation of a BID in 2006.

City Planning presented its findingsto CPC on Monday, April 25. According to Bonizio, if approved, the BID’s budget will be approximately $320,000, taken from increased real estate taxes, and will be used to hire a manager for the BID.

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CNG: Community Newspaper Group