May 8, 2014 By Christian Murray
Vernon Boulevard and Jackson Avenue might look a lot cleaner if the Long Island City Partnership’s plan to expand its services into Hunters Point proves successful.
The LIC Partnership, which currently serves the Court Square/Queens Plaza district through the LIC Business Improvement District, is currently holding meetings with property owners and businesses in the Vernon Blvd/Jackson Avenue area to see whether they would like to be part of an expanded BID.
The expansion would incorporate the Vernon Blvd commercial corridor—from Jackson Avenue through 44h Drive. It would also cover all of Jackson Avenue—connecting to the existing BID in Court Square.
The businesses/landlords in the expanded district would each be required to pay a fee/assessment and in return the area would receive supplemental sanitation services, landscaping, streetscaping, marketing services and more. The assessments would also help fund capital improvements.
The LIC Partnership has spoken with several business/property owners in Hunters Point about the possible expansion. However, it wants the stakeholders in that area to decide whether to sign on.
A group of Hunters Point business/property owners have formed a steering committee to determine whether the concept makes sense, which is being co-chaired by Paula Kirby, from Plaxall, and Angelo Ippolito, the owner of LIC Chiropractic. To date, the committee has held two meetings to discuss the concept and the expansion has been viewed positively.
At the first meeting two months ago, Ippolito said that about 25 business owners attended and some were a little apprehensive at first. However, once they realized it would cost less than $700 per year (for a typical business), they believed it was worth it. Then, he added, they discussed how the funds would best be spent.
The second meeting was held about two weeks ago and a similar number of business/property owners attended. “It was a very positive meeting and I felt a lot of good vibes,” Kirby said.
Kirby said local businesses are calling for services such as enhanced lighting, tree guards, hanging baskets, street benches, plantings and neighborhood marketing—as well as supplemental sanitation services.
In about a month, Ippolitio said the steering committee will be finalizing the budget, which will determine how much it can spend on these services. The committee will also be finalizing the streets that will be included in the expansion.
The benefit of expanding the Long Island City BID—as opposed to creating a whole new BID for Hunters Point—is that there are significant cost savings, from sharing office space, staff and contractors.
However, the Hunters Point group would still control what goes on in that section of the district. It would hold separate meetings and would be represented fairly on the board, Ippolito said. However, the governance issues still have to be finalized.
Leslie Nilsson, the owner of Sage General Store on Jackson, embraces the idea of expansion. “It brings cohesiveness to the community and the amount it would cost businesses is well worth the benefits.”
Pat Burke, the owner of Woodbines, said he was in favor of the expansion based on his positive experience with the business improvement district in Sunnyside, where he owns another bar/restaurant. “It would be good to see improvements come to Vernon and Jackson such as nice seating, hanging baskets and garbage removal.”
The decision to expand the BID into Hunters Point, however, comes down to a vote by the property owners in the district. By law, 50% of the owners must support it in order for it to happen.
However, it would be extremely unlikely that the BID would incorporate Hunters Point unless there was overwhelming support, according to sources.
The public would also have a say on the proposal, as there would be public meetings.
The expansion is still at least a year away—since it takes more than nine months from the time the final plan is submitted to the city to it being approved.
During that period, the plan would have to be approved by a host of different agencies and government groups, such as The Department of Small Business Services, the City Planning Commission, Community Board 2, and the Queens Borough president. It would also have to be passed by the city council.