Worries of higher taxes and rents and concerns about gentrification abounded as Seth Taylor, executive director of the 82nd Street BID, gave the community a presentation on the benefits of extending the 82nd St. BID to include Roosevelt Ave. and Junction Blvd. in Jackson Heights and Corona.
The proposed BID would provide additional street and sidewalk cleaning services, landscaping and lighting improvements, storefront makeovers and neighborhood marketing through social media, special events and a website.
“The goal here is to improve the shopping environment, to make it cleaner, safer, more inviting and better for the small business community,” Taylor said.
The proposed yearly budget for the BID would be $860,000, which is paid for by property owners in the BID. Taylor said that the typical lot in the Jackson Heights/Corona BID area would pay $1,000 a year to the Department of Finance.
Local business owners and residents, however, did not seem welcoming to Taylor’s proposal, saying that they struggle as it is to keep their businesses running without the added financial burden of a BID.
Many locals got up and spoke in Spanish about the particular needs of a community that is made up predominantly of immigrant families. A number of individuals expressed fear that a BID would effectively push out members of their community who could not afford rent after the creation of a BID.
One Jackson Heights resident who voiced this concern was Inti Ossio, who was born and raised in the area and pointed out other “forgotten neighborhoods” like Bushwick, Bed-Stuy and Crown Heights.
“They’re now recognized. Now they care,” Ossio said. “Now they want to change things so that the same people that come in and push our people out because they can afford these higher rent prices can feel safe, can shop, and have every aesthetic resource they need.
“They want to increase taxes, take your money and eventually move you out,” she added. “Look at the people who are putting the BID together. Did they grow up here? Do they know how well the neighborhoods have flourished without their pretty plans?”
Ro Garrido, whose uncle owns a family business and is trying to make ends meet, voiced similar concerns.
“Economic development initiatives like the BID do not center on the needs or realities of working-class immigrant families,” Garrido said. “It has been shown over and over again in other neighborhoods across the city how the BID has pushed people of color out through gentrification, raised property values and rent increases. I know that our community and neighborhoods need support to be able to thrive and grow, but I do not believe that the BID is the way to do it.”
Others, like president of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Queens Alfonso Quiroz, said they thought that a BID would be a good investment for the neighborhood.
“If you get a good return on your investment, it is worth that investment,” Quiroz said. “We will have a group of people who will help make it a safe place for more visitors and more merchants to come in, more people to come and shop. I think that that’s important.”
While most of the people at the public meeting expressed deep concerns and a strong rejection of the proposed BID, Taylor said there was “overwhelming support” from local business owners, based on responses to ballots they sent out asking for locals’ opinions.
Those ballots are sent to the Department of Small Business Services (SBS), whose role it is to decide whether or not a BID is the right option for any given neighborhood and to assess whether or not there is strong community support for such an undertaking.
When asked about a breakdown of the ballots, Taylor said that they had not yet been calculated.
Marty Kirschner, an organizer for Queens Neighborhoods United and opponent of the BID, said that perhaps Taylor’s belief that there is strong support is because many of the “no” ballots have been sent directly to SBS, because they “do not trust [the 82nd Street Partnership] to accurately count those 'no' votes.”
“I have a huge stack of 'no' ballots that we’re going to be sending in very soon to the Department of Small Business Services,” Kirschner said.