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To the Editor:
Re: Support the Chinatown B.I.D. (Downtown Express editorial, July 20) and This B.I.D. could be BAD (Downtown Express letter to the editor, Sept. 14)
The Chinatown B.I.D.’s motto is “Let us help ourselves.” We think: Yes, they want to help themselves — to our money — in the form of tax assessments on properties and fees for businesses. The result will be higher rents, as well as higher costs for goods and services for the residents, shoppers, and visitors. Affordable groceries will be a thing of the past for those living under the poverty line in Chinatown.
Chinatown Partnership Local Development Corporation spent over $5 million in taxpayer-funded Lower Manhattan Development Corporation grants with the concept that clean streets was the way to rebuild Chinatown after 9/11. However, the continuous storefront vacancies in the core of Chinatown are evidence that extra sanitation did not help Chinatown’s recovery. There are no numbers to show that the spent grant money yielded any gains in the Chinatown economy.
Yet, Chinatown Partnership L.D.C. wants to reincarnate itself as the Chinatown B.I.D. to continue to “clean up” with the formation of a permanent, annual, spending-our-tax-money bureaucracy; despite the real possibility of becoming a catalyst for foreclosures, business casualties, and unemployment in Chinatown during very tough economic times.
This scenario will open the floodgates for real estate developers to take over in a community that has spawned generations of small, unique and culturally diverse businesses for those who live, work and shop there. What has made Chinatown a major tourist attraction is the affordability of many of their meals, foods, goods and services in a concentrated, easily walkable area. Some sections even appear to be transplanted in whole from Asia. The additional burden of the B.I.D. tax will bring about the replacement of Chinatown’s eclectic, unusual and authentic ambiance with a big-box store environment.
In the fine print, the B.I.D. could borrow money once formed — then, to satisfy the debt, revise the budget itemizations or forego non-debt service expenditures. The B.I.D. can raise the yearly assessment as high as 20 percent of the owner’s property taxes, and the cost for B.I.D. improvements can go up to $6.5 million! Many properties in Chinatown are small and family-owned. There is reason to be skeptical when told that these stated provisions won’t be likely because the City Council would have to vote on it. For example, based on the law, our mayor was limited to two terms, but after much debate, the City Council ended up voting to permit a third term for Mayor Bloomberg!
There are ample reasons not to trust the Chinatown B.I.D. promoters. They skewed data claiming overwhelming support (it turned out to be 550 out of 2300). They ignored the community board’s resolution to remove Columbus Park from the B.I.D., thereby leaving open the possibility of the use of public space for private ventures in the future. Their website has Chinese translation, but they deliberately did not translate into Chinese any information about how to go about objecting to the B.I.D. They orchestrated a lockout of the objecting property owners at the critical May 26 finance committee hearing. Our Councilmember, Margaret Chin, held a Town Hall for the SoHo B.I.D. but did not bother to schedule one for Chinatown. In spite of all these obstacles, the Chinatown B.I.D. got the most verified, notarized objections ever filed against a B.I.D. in NYC.
The Chinatown B.I.D. is a BAD idea and not in the best interest of the public. It will be a bureaucracy that will further the political and economic gain of a few under the pretense of “cleaning up”.