Letter: City needs action plan to address quality of life, safety issues in the Bronx

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To the Editor, 

The following is an open letter to Mayor Bill de Blasio and City Council Speaker Corey Johnson printed at the request of the authors.
We write to you today [July 20] to express concern and urgency with quality of life and public safety matters in the Bronx’s oldest commercial district at 149th Street and Third Avenue in the HUB. Collectively, we represent more than 500 small businesses and 100 property owners that have faithfully served this community for generations. We are represented by one of the most active economic development organizations in the Bronx, Third Avenue Business Improvement District, which addresses barriers for district small- and micro-business owners and builds robust equitable economic development tools by demanding equitable city resources, safer and cleaner streets, and responsible, mission-driven development. Third Avenue BID has and continues to be a leader in public and private partnerships, and has driven millions of dollars in private resources to the neighborhood.

Sadly, this is not enough.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Third Avenue Business Improvement District was one of the only organizations that did not suspend services and was a leader in developing outer borough models for economic recovery. Unfortunately, the city has not responded with a complementary plan to appropriately address economic and neighborhood recovery – specifically quality of life and public safety matters in the community.

These matters include:
-Open drug use and drug sale continue to plague this community, triggering at least 3-5 overdoses daily in the district.
-Gang members harass and control streets and public places, with many attempting to exercise influence over small businesses.
-According to Special Narcotic Prosecutor Brennan, a drug cartel uses the HUB as a central distribution point for the flow of drugs into New York City.
-Umbrella Hotel, located on Elton Avenue, had the largest take down of fentanyl in New York City history and still operates allegedly as a front for drugs and prostitution.
-Homelessness runs rampant with not clear city policy to address the matter in an expedited, serious and meaningful way.
-Illegal vending has taken over sidewalks with limited to no real enforcement due to policies passed by the New York City Council.
-Violent crime continues to increase.
-And, substance use clinics and temporary housing continue to oversaturate the community with bad actor providers who cash in on services yet do not secure results.

These matters were not brought about by the pandemic, only exacerbated by it. They have always been in the HUB, which for generations has become the “dumping ground” for New York City’s challenges without any real connection to a plan to address it. As community members, business owners and property owners representing one of the most diverse and high need communities in New York City we demand that you create a tangible, action-driven plan to assist us in addressing these damning concerns immediately.

We have participated in coalitions, agency walking tours, councilmember visits, education programs, charettes and public meetings – all to no avail. We need to have a formal response and immediate action plan implemented by city government to address these concerns. Third Avenue Business Improvement District has tripled down on service provision, but the city has not. We need New York City to protect our neighborhoods and the small business lifeblood of our community.

A group of representatives from the area are ready to meet with you immediately to implement solutions so that our neighborhood might recover from COVID-19 and years of neglect by New York City. Please contact Michael Brady, CEO of Third Avenue Business Improvement District, to facilitate this discussion – mbrady@thirdavenuebid.org.

Members of the Third Avenue Business Improvement District

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