Soho BID needs work

In general, we support business improvement districts. But, at this point, we can’t support the effort to create a BID along Soho’s Broadway corridor.

In short, the steering committee of major property owners that has pushed for the creation of a Broadway Soho BID hasn’t won sufficient community support. Unlike the Chinatown and Hudson Square BIDs, which had strong support from Community Board 2, this BID was overwhelmingly rejected by C.B. 2. And it has generated fierce and widespread opposition in the Soho community.

There are also issues with the property owners’ vote that raise questions about whether it accurately represented community sentiment. For example, all 40 condo owners at the luxury building at 40 Mercer St. were counted as “yes” votes based on the signature of a single sponsor of the condo. These 40 votes were an important percentage of the total votes in support of the BID. The city’s Department of Small Business Services tells us that’s considered kosher — but it doesn’t pass our smell test. Many of these condo owners are reportedly absentee.

Meanwhile, longtime, full-time residents who have seen Soho “malled” over the years — turned from a world-renowned artists’ enclave into a shopping mall — have recoiled from the BID plan.

Assemblymember Deborah Glick recently withdrew her support for the BID. Citing the 40 Mercer St. residents who aren’t here full time, she called their contribution to the community “questionable,” especially when compared to the far higher number of permanent Soho residents who oppose the BID.

If there is a formal vote to authorize or deny the BID, however, it will be in the City Council. Margaret Chin, who represents Soho in the Council, wrote a talking point that appeared in this paper in February, in which she stated: “I have said from the beginning that I will not support a Broadway Soho BID unless I see substantial support from residents in the proposed BID catchment area, including from Community Board 2.”

Clearly, that “substantial support” just isn’t there.

Admittedly, the Broadway Soho BID Steering Committee, with Chin’s help, worked to scale back the BID’s scope and budget to try to meet the community’s wishes. A complicated reimbursement formula was scrapped in favor of a flat $1 annual fee for residential condo and co-op owners. Yet, in the end, most Soho residents remain unconvinced this BID is in the neighborhood’s best interests.

Nevertheless, what the BID is offering are basically benign things, like snow and trash removal and improvements in pedestrian safety. ACE, which had been providing supplemental sanitation services, was having trouble raising funds from local property owners and merchants to continue its operations, which resulted in the BID proposal.

If the BID isn’t approved, then the ball would be back in the court of the BID’s opponents. Without a BID, where will the money come from to fund ACE’s efforts to clean Broadway? The reality is that Broadway is hammered by droves of shoppers and tourists every day. It could use the help that ACE provided or a BID would provide.

But the proposed BID’s time has not yet come. The best solution is for the BID backers and community groups to take a step back and, together, go back to the drawing board and try to find a solution with broader support. The Hudson Square BID failed in its first iteration years ago, and came back with a model that now enjoys strong community support.

One thing is for certain, though — a BID without the community’s backing simply won’t fly.

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5 Responses to Soho BID needs work

  1. My wife and I are residence of SOHO since 1973 when we bought our loft.u00a0 BS BID's first offer to us several months ago was $5000.00 tax based on our building's frontage. Margaret Chin persuaded BS BID to replace the 5 grand with a 1 dollar fee (THE FIRST YEAR!).u00a0u00a0 But next year? and the year following?nWe residents face taxation without representation!u00a0 Once BS BID is in control, we have not control.u00a0 They say we can sit on the "board".u00a0 Their statements confirm their selected title BS Bid. Write Margaret Chin and tell her we do not want outsiders governing our homes and businesses.nJames V. Hatch, SOHO resident for forty years.

  2. Thank you for your well-thought out editorial in opposition to the proposed SoHo BID. You are right. u00a0This proposal does not pass the smell test. u00a0u00a0It doesnu2019t pass it on so many levels. u00a0You wrote of the 40 Mercer Street condo whose 40 votes were cast by a single person – the sponsor. u00a0What you could also have written is that you would need 40 cooperative buildings to equal the votes from that single building. u00a0u00a0u00a0This disparity will u00a0follow into the actual votes for directors should the BID actually form. u00a0u00a0Property owners, by law, must be represented by the majority of directors. u00a0u00a0Condo owners get to vote for those u201cmajorityu201d directors. u00a0Coop owner/residents, despite as large a financial stake and historically greater ties to the neighborhood, do not. u00a0Is this the kind of democracy we u00a0have a right to expect?nnI disagree with you, though in your statement that the BID is offering basically benign things. u00a0Those are the sheepu2019s clothing hiding the wolf within. The fact is, this is a fight for the future direction of SoHo. u00a0A fight for control. In addition to taxing power, BIDs have enormous political power.u00a0 Directors include representatives from the Mayoru2019s Office, the Department of Finance, the City Council Member, the Borough President. That means these guys get the ears of decision makers much more easily than, say, a block association.u00a0 u00a0No wonder their initial budget has $200,000 for lobbying.

  3. Margaret Chin may represent Soho but she does not support its residents.u00a0 She needs to be shed in next election. All the reasons have been expressed by others so I will not repeat them.u00a0

  4. Pingback: “Substantial Support” Just Isn’t There « SoHo NO BID

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