July 21, 2015 By Christian Murray and Jackie Strawbridge
The Long Island City Partnership’s goal to expand its sanitation and marketing services into Hunters Point will be taking a big step forward next week.
The Partnership, which aims to incorporate the Vernon Blvd/Jackson Avenue area as part of its existing LIC Business Improvement District, will be holding two public meetings Wednesday, July 29, where it will outline how the expansion will help promote businesses and beautify the Hunters Point commercial area.
The public meetings are required before the Partnership is able to submit its formal BID plan to the Department of Small Business Services, which would start the legislative process in order for the expansion to be signed into law.
If the process runs smoothly, the expanded BID could be in place within nine months to one year.
The Partnership, which currently serves the Queens Plaza/Court Square district through the LIC Business Improvement District, aims to expand into Hunters Point by creating a subdistrict that serves the Vernon Blvd corridor—from Jackson Avenue through 44th Drive. The plan would also cover all of Jackson Avenue—connecting to the existing BID in Court Square.
A number of commercial stakeholders in Hunters Point have been working on the subdistrict since the second quarter of 2014, tasked with the goal of explaining the services that the BID subdistrict would offer as well as the cost to businesses.
Paula Kirby, from Plaxall, a member of the steering committee, said some of the items the subdistrict would focus on include streetscaping, street lighting, additional sanitation/street cleaning and marketing.
“This subdistrict does have different needs than the present [Queens Plaza/Court Square] district,” Angelo Ippolito, a chiropractor on the steering committee, noted, citing the possibility of more marketing needs for new businesses.
The Hunters Point subdistrict would be working with a budget of $350,000 if approved, according to Liz Lusskin, the president of the Partnership and BID executive director. This is a smaller and separate budget from the existing BID zone, which currently works with a $425,000 budget. However, with the expansion of the existing BID, as opposed to creating a whole new entity, the subdistrict would benefit from economies of scale—in terms of staff and office space.
Each property owner within the Hunters Point subdistrict would be required to pay an assessment/fee. Most landlords pass these fees on to their tenants.
Kirby said the assessment is much lower than most businesses initially anticipated. For instance, she said that a business with a 25 foot linear frontage would pay about $510 per year—less than $45 per month. Owners of residential units within the district pay a token $1 assessment, while religious institutions and non-profits are exempt.
Ippolito said that when the process began, many businesses were concerned about the cost. That changed, he said, when they became aware of the assessment and the services that could be offered.
Pat Burke, the owner of Woodbines, said last year that 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.”
Ippolito said that one item that is often overlooked when BIDs are formed is that they can speak as one voice.
“A very underrated component of what the BID does is advocacy,” he said. “You want a concise, consensus-driven voice to speak on behalf of this particular area and the BID will act as that voice of advocacy.”
The structure of the BID would change if the expansion is approved. The BID would be comprised of two subdistricts—the Queens Plaza/Court Square subdistrict and the Hunters Point subdistrict.
The board would also be revamped to reflect the change.
A significant number of the board members would have to come from the Hunters Point subdistrict in proportion to its budget size. Given the budgets, about 45% of board members would have to come from the Hunters Point subdistrict.
“There will be various mechanisms in place to make sure that each subdistrict not only is in charge of services in its district, but that also the common needs are met,” Lusskin said.
Before the expansion is approved, an overwhelming number of businesses and property owners must support it.
However, some are looking for more of the details to be flushed out at the public meeting next week before the plan moves forward.
“We want to hear specifically what they plan to do,” said Brent O’Leary, the president of the Hunters Point Civic Association.
Furthermore, he said the streets are currently being kept clean by Doe Fund workers and Hunters Point is firmly on the map and is not in need of extensive marketing.
He also said that while the assessments seem reasonable today he wants to know whether they are subject to significant change.
Nevertheless, the BID appears to have the solid backing of local businesses and property owners.
“We have strong support across the [sub] district,” Ippolito said.
Once the public meetings are held and the plan is approved by stakeholders it will be submitted to a host of different agencies and government groups, such as the Department of Small Business Services, Community Board 2, the Queens Borough President and the City Planning Commission. It would also have to be passed by the City Council.
Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, who is the key voice in the council on this matter, has said on several occasions that he supports the expansion.