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Queens Community Board gives LIC Business Improvement District expansion the green light 

Laura Rothrock, the president of the LIC Partnership, made her case for the expansion of the LIC Business Improvement District ahead of the community board’s vote. Photo by Iryna Shkurhan

Mar. 12, 2024, By Iryna Shkurhan

The proposal to double the size and budget of the Long Island City Business Improvement District (BID) is closer to becoming a reality following the advisory approval from Community Board 2 last week. 

On Thursday, Mar. 7, the board gathered for its first hybrid monthly meeting since the pandemic at Sunnyside Community Services on 39th Street. While other issues were addressed, the vote on the BID proposal was the most discussed item on the agenda that night. Following back and forth from stakeholders and board members, 20 votes were cast in favor of the expansion with 12 board members voting against the move.  

The proposed expansion seeks to double the representation of the LIC Businesses Improvement District. Photo courtesy of LIC Partnership

The proposal, which would give landlords in one of the fastest growing neighborhoods in the city more influence over the area, drew strong opinions on both sides. The current BID provides supplemental services such as sidewalk sweeping, graffiti removal, plant beautification, holiday lights and neighborhood marketing to parts of LIC.

By law, no city services such as sanitation can be reduced as a result of BID services. Additional BID services such as servicing trash cans and tree plantings are supplemental. 

The LIC BID was formed in 2005 and is one of 76 BIDs across the city. It had a minor expansion in 2017 but in 2021, small business owners on the edges of the district began requesting representation from the Long Island City Partnership, which oversees the BID. It currently operates along commercial corridors from Queens Plaza and Jackson Avenue to Court Square. 

The proposed expansion to the east could bring additional trash cans, graffiti removal and winter lighting to the area. Photo courtesy of LIC Partnership

The subsequent expansion proposal includes two new areas. The west expansion, near the current district, would include properties along major corridors such as Northern Boulevard, Vernon Boulevard, 41st Avenue as well as smaller streets such Crescent Street. The east expansion would encompass the industrial business zone, where no tenants reside currently. 

“There are all these needs for services in an area that has been traditionally sort of ignored by the city. There’s a lot more foot traffic there now, we’re seeing more of what were the side streets now becoming main streets and that’s why there was a need for the services there too,” said Laura Rothrock, President of the LIC Partnership, at the meeting. 

The proposed expansion to the west proposes beatification elements such as hanging plantings, tree plantings and public art installations. Photo courtesy of LIC Partnership

Currently the BID has an assessment budget of $1 million, and in expanding, its budget would double in size. The proposed additional budget for the east expansion is $650,000 and $375,000 for the west expansion.

Not all board members believe that the responsibility of improving neglected areas of Long Island City following its recent boom should be fall on the BID. Many say that sanitation services and ensuring adequate lighting at night for pedestrians are city responsibilities.

“I don’t believe in BIDs. I don’t think that we should be giving up what government should be doing to a BID that does not represent us and is not controlled by the electeds that we voted for to do the work that we as taxpayers are paying money for the government to do,” said Danielle Brecker, the former Chair of CB 2. 

While some people felt strongly about their stance on the BID expansion, there were many board members still not sure of their decision leading up to the vote. 

“This is a hard vote for us. We, the community board, really want to see public services come back to this area. We’d like to put you [the BID] out of business, frankly. If there were so many other public services in this neighborhood, we wouldn’t need a BID. And that’s what is so frustrating,” said Sheila Lewandowski, who sits on the land use committee. 

Other board members expressed approval for the expansion, and said that they cannot wait around on the city to bring improvements when the BID is waiting to do so. They also argue that the costs are low enough to be worth the investment. 

“These are the organizations that we currently have in this district, it is a pathway to get large amounts of dollars into our community, and it does not supplant the city’s efforts,” said Board Member Nicholas Berkowitz

Property owners with buildings located within the confines of the BID are required to pay a yearly fee to fund the services, which are typically passed onto their commercial tenants in addition to the rent. The median assessment is $590, which is calculated based on assessed value and square footage.

Residential tenants do not pay into the BID, with condo owners assessed at $1 annually. 

“You see garbage overflowing in some of the parks. That’s something that we wish the city was doing, but they’re not, especially with budget cuts,” said Rothrock, who in the past has overseen dozens of BIDs under Mayor Bloomberg. “Most of what we’re doing is really around direct services that the city does not provide.”

She added that several supplemental services by the BID are not even offered by the city, such as sidewalk sweeping and holiday lighting. But given the changing nature of the neighborhood, she believes these services should be welcomed by the community. Three business owners in the area also expressed support for the expansion during the meeting. 

“The cost for this BID for me to pay is small compared to what I’m already paying to cover a day to day healthy and safe lifestyle for my employees,” said Maya Brewster-Dorian, chief production officer of Eva Nosidam Productions. She said that she pays for additional security for her staff to feel safe leaving the building, near the 21st Street bridge, at night following shoots. 

A year after the proposal was initiated, the BID received over 51% of the broad based support from property owners—a vote that is needed for the plan to move forward and into the legislative phase.

But one community board member pointed out that they have not heard from enough business owners who are not in favor of the BID.

“My big concern about that is this is a decision that’s non-reversible,” said Morry Galonoy, also citing concerns of gentrification, which he said could potentially lead to small business owners and longtime residents being priced out of the neighborhood. 

Galonoy made a motion to table the vote until more community input can be considered, but given the deadline in place, the board would not be able to participate in the process if the vote was delayed by a month. He added that he wished a bigger public meeting was held ahead of the vote to hear from more small businesses and local residents.  

With the community board having weighed in on the plan, the proposal will go before the City Planning Commission within the next 60 days.

If approved, the expansion proposal will head to the city council. Two hearings will be held 30 days apart, before the council votes on the plan. If passed, it will go to the mayor to be signed into law.  

“Long Island City’s population has grown five times faster than the rest of the Queens and we have had two times the growth of jobs. Long Island City Partnership (LICP) has been a dedicated partner for our district and has been pursuing this BID expansion for years to meet the needs of rapid growth,” said Council Member Julie Won. “LICP must continue to be responsive to the community’s feedback and collaborate for a final BID proposal that meets the needs of our community to ensure my support of the expansion throughout the legislative process.”

If the proceedings carry on without objection, the LIC Partnership hopes to be able to provide services to the new regions added to the district by July 1.

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