Westchester Square property owners recently held the first of two public hearings to establish a business improvement district, and so far it’s nearly a unanimous support for the effort.
About 20 business owners and landlords came to the hearing, which was held on Tuesday, November 16. While some raised concerns about the budgeting process and how the district raises funds, nearly all were in favor of the BID, and many cast ballots after the meeting supporting setting up the district
“This is a no-brainer as far as I’m concerned,” said John Bonizio, a Westchester Square Merchants Association member who is leading the steering committee. “That’s probably why there’s more than 90 percent approval with the votes so far.”
According to Bonizio, 92 percent of ballots cast so far are in favor of the BID. About forty-six percent of the eligible stake holders have already voted. The BID requires less than 50 percent opposition to move forward.
For the BID to move forward, property owners must vote on its formation. They have until after the second, and final public hearing, to do so. At the Tuesday hearing, the main concern voiced by business and property owners was about the BID’s budget and assessment needs.
According to the BID proposal, the district will run on a $320,000 annual budget with the majority of the funds going towards maintenance, marketing and the BID director’s salary. Assessments are determined based on the size of the storefront, and cannot be raised without notice from the BID board of directors and public hearings.
The board of directors will be mostly property owners from within the district, so the needs of the square will be heard during budgeting, Bonizio said.
Pat Lifrieri, who owns 2704 East Tremont and is on the BID steering committee, said he is confident the budgeting process will take local business needs into consideration.
“People are concerned about the money,” he said. “But it’s not easy to increase an assessment. It’s not like we can just double or triple it in a year. It’s a regulated process.”
If established, the district would run along East Tremont, from Lurting Avenue to Westchester Square Avenue, along Wiliamsbridge Road, from Silver street to Westchester Avenue. It will focus on government advocacy for the square, streetand sidewalk cleaning service, enhancing security and lighting, promoting businesses, lowering vacancy rates and increasing foot-traffic.
“There seems to be a lot of support from all the people that I know,” Lifrieri said. “There are a few BIDs in the Bronx. They’ve all shown positive results.”
The next public hearing will be Wednesday, December 1, at the Hutchinson Metro Center.