Work Toward Establishing Woodside BID Continues
The series of meetings concerned with starting a Business Improvement District (BID) in Woodside continued July 16 as two city officials came to St. Sebastian’s Parish House on 57th Street to discuss the possibility of shortening the process of establishing a BID. Small Business Services Neighborhood Development Division BID Expansion and New Initiatives Director Kris Goddard spoke of the BID Express program, designed to shorten the time required to progress from initial steps in generating interest in a BID among neighborhood businesses to final certification by the City Council. Time would be trimmed mainly by concentrating on two BID activities, sanitation and maintenance, to the exclusion of others such as marketing and by eliminating the office of BID executive director at the local level.
What Goddard referred to as a “baseline BID” would be managed at a non-profit management center, with a local BID board in place but with no executive director. Community Board 2 Chairman Joseph Conley, a leading figure in the drive for a BID in Woodside, was skeptical, being wary of a situation that might hinder any later move to expand. Goddard said that those wishing to expand or assume fuller control and maintain a BID office of their own could go through an amendment process. David Rosasco, a Woodside resident, expressed skepticism, repeating his inquiries from the last meeting with slight variances. What need would a community have for a BID, he asked, if the city did a thorough job of, say, trash collection and, into the bargain, had a Doe Fund, as Woodside has, owing to a grant of $31,000 secured by Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer, to supplement it. Conley told him that a BID could replace a Doe Fund project and hire its own service (which might even be the Doe Fund) without having to worry that the grant funding it would eventually expire. Rosasco said that he sees the virtue of a BID but wanted to question its vaunted efficacy, rather than simply accept something that might eventually prove a boondoggle. Tom Ryan, a veteran Woodside activist, asked what percentage of the BID allotment goes to a management center in a BID Express plan. Goddard said it would be about 15 percent. Ryan asked what the success of BID Express has been over the years. Goddard replied that BID Express has no record to speak of, since it has just been initiated. If it accepted BID Express, Woodside would be among the pioneers.
Rosasco asked about the success and failure rate of BID formation attempts. Though there are nearly 70 BIDs now in operation and the success rate is remarkable, there have been failed attempts, even in situations that seemed a great fit for a BID. Though there is a Long Island City BID these days, Conley said an earlier attempt to form one failed because it was too large in scale and couldn’t gain financing. The commercial strip along Austin Street in Forest Hills has resisted attempts to form a BID; some have posited absentee ownership, indifferent or hostile to the BID idea, as a reason. On the other hand, Conley said, those trying to form a BID can simply exclude those who resist it and accumulate a sufficient number of proponents to succeed ultimately. He said that was the case in Sunnyside, adding that several years later some of the old resisters have had second thoughts and approached him about joining the Woodside BID. He has told them they must confine their applications to Sunnyside. Manny Perez of Assemblymember Michael DenDekker’s office said that in such cases, amendments necessary to expand a BID are notoriously cumbersome. SBS Commercial Revitalization Executive Director Andrea Buteau said alleviation of the process for expansion is now being provided by a twotiered assessment: the real one, instituted as the BID is formed and a projected one as a plan for later enlargement. She said it is in effect in the Hudson Square BID in Manhattan’s SOHO (south of Houston Street) district.
Conley said that in the previous week he had visited local landlords and store owners and found the response encouraging. Students from LaGuardia Community College also participated, speaking in Spanish and either Mandarin or Cantonese to businesspersons where appropriate. He said he had that day talked to Laverne Howard, a woman deeply involved in getting the BID started, and she said widespread acceptance of it, and funding to pay for it, was forthcoming. Ed Bergendahl, a Korean War veteran, asked Conley if a veteran’s representative would be on the BID board. Conley said it was highly likely, since several, including Van Bramer, are sensitive to veterans’ interests.
Conley said there should be much more constructive work toward establishing a Woodside BID before the next meeting, which will be on a date to be announced in September.