Support continues with second WS BID public hearing

The property owners have spoken and they are in favor of a business improvement district in Westchester Square.

On Wednesday, December 1, the BID steering committee held its second and final public hearing to discuss establishing the district. Most of the speakers, business owners and landlords said that a BID is a necessary step in revitalizing the business district in the Square.

“We’re starting to see the beginnings of a turn around in the Square and we need your help,” Councilman Jimmy Vacca said at the hearing, encouraging those in attendance to cast their ballots in support of the BID. “I think the BID will be a culmination of the efforts that have been ongoing in the Square.”

The BID will focus on keeping the district clean, improving government advocacy for the square, enhancing lighting and safety, lowering vacancy rates and increasing foot traffic, increasing property values, boosting sales through group marketing campaigns and bringing more cultural events and resources to the square. The budget for the proposed BID is $320,000.

John Bonizio, who is leading the BID Steering Committee, said, “We will have a paid employee dedicated to improving our business area.”

While all at the meeting expressed their support for the BID, some attendees did raise concerns – mostly about the budget and assessments.

The BID raises money through assessments, which are charged to property owners based on the length of the storefront, Despite how a landlord votes, all properties in the proposed district will need to pay an assessment fee. Landlords will likely pass that fee onto their tenants, but some landlords are concerned about tenants that fail to make the payments.

Vincent Anzalone, part-owner of 2550 East Tremont, said he was concerned that the merchants will be the ones benefitting the most from the programs, while it is the landlords that will be paying the bills.

“The merchants are benefitting predominantly,” he said. “The property owners benefit, but only though the increased property values.”

Even though the assessments would mean more than $1,000 a year for Juan Clarke, owner of Clarke and Sons Signs, he said he is a strong supported of the BID.

“I would like to be a part of this and I want to see this move forward,” he said.

John Marano, chairman of Community Board 10, said his board is in favor of the BID, but he wanted to know if there were any negative aspects of establishing the district.

“I don’t see any cons,” said Vincent Valentino, executive director of the HUB 3rd Avenue BID, who spoke at the hearing. “The area is safe and they have a great repoire with the community boards.”

The only complaints the BID gets are during the large street closures when the BID hosts festivals, Valentino said. Some merchants complain that the celebrations – typically held three times a year – interrupt business for the day. After landlords cast their ballots, the steering committee will submit a proposal for the BID to the city Department of Planning.

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