Don’t ‘Just say no’ to BID

By BRIAN STEINWURTZEL | The residents and business owners who serve on the BID Steering Committee ( and the other supporters of a business improvement district for Soho’s Broadway are very disturbed and disappointed with the editorial  “Soho BID needs work.”

The editorial calls on BID supporters to gather more support. In the specific BID service area — Broadway between Canal and Houston Sts. — the majority of property owners (residential and commercial) support the BID. Under New York’s BID law, created by our elected representatives, that’s what it takes to form a BID. Denying the people who live and work on Broadway the BID they want because of opposition outside the BID area flies in the face of the law and democratic principles. It cannot simply be a case where those who yell the loudest are right.

If BID advocates must win support of their neighbors outside the BID area, where do you draw the line?

The editorial recognizes the urgent need to implement solutions along Broadway, solutions that seek to manage the “success” of this major retailing destination; mitigate its negative impacts and bring to the forefront what makes historic Soho special. The editorial acknowledges that a BID is the workable alternative that provides the democratic decision-making structure and the necessary funding to bring focused, persistent attention to the challenges faced by Soho’s Broadway.

The BID Steering Committee has appreciated the reporting by The Villager and its sister paper Downtown Express on this important neighborhood planning issue since its public presentation in April 2010.

The initiative taken by Mr. Henry Buhl, resident of Soho and founder of ACE, was the start of the formation process of the proposed BID and it is still underway as the legislation awaits approval by the City Council. The BID Steering Committee, Community Board 2, the Department of City Planning and City Council all have followed the BID Law, and we look forward to the completion of this democratic, legislative process.

Yes, the clumsy, outdated legal name, “business improvement district” is misleading and does not define the intentions of this specific BID for Soho’s Broadway. This may be why so many wrongly assume that the BID plan intends to “promote only business, attracting more crowds, tourism, etc.”

The role of the BID Steering Committee as an initial planning group has succeeded in crafting a BID plan with services and improvements that reflect the areas of concern expressed by the many constituent groups served by the BID. The BID plan speaks of the same issues that: 1) the “Broadway Residents Coalition” has brought to the attention of city officials; 2) the BID area’s 800 businesses and 12,000 employees talk about; and 3) are experienced by residents and commercial property owners each and every day. The BID plan does not “need work.” It is at the best it can be, and will be better if given a chance to prove itself.

At every turn, the BID Steering Committee has made a genuine effort to address community concerns, and to reconcile Community Board 2’s resolution with the merits of the BID district plan. As demonstrated by the BID plan’s mission statement and by the commitment of BID area residents participating in BID committee meetings and by the encouragement of Councilmember Margaret Chin, it is clear that working together to improve the quality of life of a neighborhood “under siege” while seeking to strike a balance between resident and commercial interest is indeed possible. The BID Steering Committee remains committed to working with everyone, supporters and opponents alike.

You cite the case of 40 Mercer St. where five members of the condo board voted unanimously to commit all 40 condo units in support of the BID. That board vote is accepted common practice of condo boards everywhere and of the BID formation process. That vote happened more than a year ago and so far no condo owner in 40 Mercer St. has objected; and, in fact, the board will reaffirm its support along with other property owners who voted for the BID. Moreover, the total number of residential condo units at 40 Mercer St. is not significant enough to change results, since there remains an overwhelming majority of respondents in support of the BID. That being said, even if you removed 40 Mercer St. from the tally, 72 percent of property-owner respondents support the BID (versus 80 percent with 40 Mercer St.).

We regret that this doesn’t pass The Villager’s “smell test,” but those are the rules. We respectfully suggest you check the facts and take another sniff.

The BID structure provides certainty of annual funding, flexibility to respond to neighborhood issues, and a private-public partnership that succeeds because it reflects active, informed participants. The response of “just say no” is not a workable alternative to the special needs of Soho’s Broadway.

Steinwurtzel is chairperson, Broadway Soho Business Improvement District Steering Committee

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7 Responses to Don’t ‘Just say no’ to BID

  1. Mr. Steinwurtzel: u00a0Your claim of "72 percent of property-owner respondents" equals what number of total property owners within the BID boundary? u00a0BID proponents received "ballots' from only 1/3 of the total tax lots along Broadway, so 72% of that 1/3 comes out to less than 25% support. u00a0The majority of SoHo residents and business owners do NOT want your BID plan to be enacted. u00a0This is acknowledged by Assemblymember Deborah Glick, Senator Daniel Squadron, the local Community Board and many others in and around Broadway in SoHo. u00a0nnMr. Steinwurtzel: u00a0You recently sent out a letter in yet another desperate attempt to gather support for your bad BID plan and stated: "My family and the other commercial property owners are willing to pay for all the costs of this BID" — which indicates a willingness to cover the entire $550,000 initial BID budget. u00a0WHY have you failed to support ACE at half that cost, which would enable them to continue the sweeping of Broadway ? u00a0What is it that you are trying to buy with your additional $350,000 beyond the needed funds for ACE? u00a0nnThose of us who live in SoHo are doing more than just saying NO to the SoHo BID. u00a0It must be noted that at recent community meetings regarding vending, crowding and sanitation issues in SoHo that NOT ONE representative of the SoHo BID gang has bothered to attend. u00a0nnThe BS SoHo BID plan is an attempted power grab, an effort to marginalize long-time SoHo owners and residents who see this neighborhood as more than a retail mall. u00a0It is time for Margaret Chin to stand with her SoHo constituents — not the foreign investors in the condos and retail outlets — and REJECT the bad SoHo BID plan.nnRead More at the SoHo NO BID blog:n n

  2. As a longstanding resident of Broadway in SoHou00a0and an active opponent of the SoHo Bid proposal,u00a0 I confirm everything that Pete Davies has written in his reply to Brian Steinwurtzel. With his claim of willingness to pay for the entire BID plan, rather than support ACE or any community efforts to maintain SoHo, Mr. Steinwurtzel has completely shown his hand to anyone with eyes to see: he and the SoHo BID steering committee want a Broadway Soho Fiefdom, not a better SoHo.

  3. Pingback: It's Time to Embrace Off-Broadway Joe | Broadway Party

  4. Mr. Steinwurtzel–nnI find it striking that you surmize the opposition to the Broadway SoHo BID comes from "outside the BID area."u00a0 In fact, the opposition to the BID among residents (including myself) within the BID area is overwhelming.u00a0 Likewise, the proponents of the BID–those championing it by way of the BID steering committee are remarkable NOT from within the "service area".u00a0 Even Henry Buhel, who took the initiative in starting the BID formation is NOT a resident of the BID service area–he, like yourself, is an outsider.nnIf it indeed is quality of life that the property owners on the BID Steering Committee are interested in, why then are they the very property owners that do not keep their sidewalks clean (as mandated by city law)?u00a0 Why do we never see you or other BID Steering Committee members at community meetins focused on improving the quality of life here?u00a0 And why is it that you recently volunteered your family and other commercial property owners to "pay all the costs of this BID"?u00a0 nnYour deeds, Mr. Steinwurtzel, and those of the Steering Committee speak volumes that you omit in your written opinion.u00a0 You're interest is clearly NOT quality of life in the neighborhood but something more akin to creating a real estate fiefdomnnAnd to that, sir, we who live and work in the neighborhood say "No thank you."u00a0 n

  5. Mr. Steinwurtzel -n1.) We don't need you and your additional layer of bureaucracy between us and Community Board 2 and Margaret Chin — our elected representatives.n2.) You would be a self-perpetuating organization with no oversight and answerable to no one except yourselves. Subject to no recall and no control. And collecting fabulous administrative fees.n4.) The mega-corporations can easily peel off a few bucks to handsomely fund ACE.n5.) We don't need a BID covenant attached to all of our co-ops, proprietary leases, and condo agreements that will lower our real estate values and make our properties unsalable.nGo away.

  6. nnIt is unfortunate, but this letternclearly shows that this BID is pitting owner/businesses against the renters onnBroadway. And our elected leaders should not support anything that divides thendistrict like this when their job is to bring people together.nnWhy make it sound like residential tenants and live/work loft artists do notnexist on Broadway when these upper floor renters far outnumber the ground floornbusinesses? This letter completely talks around the majority of people who livenon Broadway everyday and every night, and they just do not want a BID.nnBIDs were conceived to improve business in under-served areas u2013 that is clearlynnot the case on Broadway u2013 all evidence to the contrary. And a u201cmajor retailingndestinationu201d is NOT what made u201chistoric Soho special.u201d Retail businesses haventurned a once world-renowned artistsu2019 enclave into a roofless mall. u00a0Whatna loss, but why make things worse? nnRetail zones have a natural devolution that is already in process on Broadway:nthe mom & pops (in this case fabric outlets) are pushed out by thenspecialty shops (Canal Jeans, etc.) who get overtaken by high-end chainsn(Bloomies), and then next itu2019s the lower mass marketers (Walmart anyone?), andnit never ends well for the community. Yet these owners lobby for public/privatenpartnerships, and then blame the residents when their rules donu2019t stem thisnlosing business cycle. Residents who were here before they got here and will benhere after theyu2019re gone, again and again.nnThis letter sounds like pro-BIDers are gonna do what they want to do justnbecause they can. Do they really deserve to make all the rules? This BID ideanis only creating a divide that doesnu2019t need to be there. Residents of Broadwaynwho have been paying monthly for decades deserve better from the propertynowners of retail spaces that just continue to turn over and over. nnOnce a BID is in, it is out of the reach of the voters, so their only option isnto keep replacing their local elected leaders, which is not good for thenresidents or businesses. So until there is consensus, our city council membernneeds to put a stop to this. u00a0Artists understand that No can be the most creativenway to a better solution. No demands a higher standard that fits every need.nSaying No to force-feeding this BID can only create better options as mentionednin the original editorial.nnn

  7. Mr. Steinwurtzel: u00a0We looked for you and the BID gang at the CB2 Vendor Hearing last night, with reps from City Council, NYPD, FDNY and others. u00a0But NONE of you bothered to show up. u00a0The BS BID has shown in the past that they don't have a clue about how to deal with this complicated matter, although they consistently claim that it's one of their top items that they've allocated LOTS of $$ to solve. u00a0The way to deal with it is by doing the hard work, meeting with local government reps and community groups. u00a0Since you first proposed your BS BID over two years ago what have you and your real estate partners done to face this problem? u00a0NOTHING! u00a0And more NOTHING!nnThe BS BID will mainly put money in their own pockets, and do little for the SoHo community.nnREJECT the SoHo BID. u00a0Read more:n n

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