A proposed Third Avenue Business Improvement District is proving to be a hard sell to Bay Ridge merchants and building owners.
During a public hearing Thursday night, BID supporters took a grilling from skeptical business owners, many of whom said the proposed fees were unnecessary, and did not trust that the agreed-upon fees would not be raised. James Ellis, a consultant hired by BID supporters, got into several spats with attendees, at one point telling a woman he was exchanging words with she “could leave” if she was done speaking.
“I’m involved in several bids,” said Anthony Pennachio, a property owner on Third Avenue. “Every one of them asks for two or three hundred thousand more because the minimum wage goes up, the insurance goes up, everything goes up.”
Supporters of the BID are asking for $560,000 for the first year. If approved, the funds would go towards advocacy, sanitation, marketing and events along the corridor, as well as holiday lights. On top of a $200 base fee, businesses would pay a price that would be determined after an appraisal of their storefront or office. The proposed district would run from Senator Street to Ocean Avenue, a 30 block stretch that would be the largest BID in Brooklyn if approved, according to BID supporters.
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There is a BID in place along Fifth Avenue in Bay Ridge, as well as in Sunset Park and Park Slope. A representative for the Park Slope BID spoke at the meeting in support of the proposal, and confirmed that their fees often rise annually.
Some business owners said the added costs would be too much of a burden, and could worsen the storefront vacancy issues currently plaguing the neighborhood.
“The physicians are dying in Bay Ridge, they’re getting killed,” said Dr. Lisa Eng, a representative of the Bay Ridge Medical Society. “We cannot afford another penny, your doctors are leaving.”
Residents who supported the BID said the proposal would provide essential services that would be even more needed once the leading figures of the existing business-boosting group, the Third Avenue Merchants Association, retired. Some longtime neighbors said the corridor had become run-down compared to how they remembered it after a 1980’s revitalization and the BID would present an opportunity to restore it.
“I tell my kids about what it was like back then, it was restaurants, there were bars, there were shops, it was so much fun to be there,” said one business owner. “It’s come down, the last 10, 12 years. It’s not the same as it was then, and I think this is our last chance to bring it back to the way it was.”
Bay Ridge resident Marc Hibsher said BID skeptics were being shortsighted, and not thinking of a future without the Merchants Association.
“One thing I’m feeling is that people are looking at today’s date, and we’re in the midst of summer stroll and all the stuff that’s going on,” Hibsher said. “Are you guys thinking about 2021? 2022? Chip [Cafiero]’s not doing this, Bob [Howe]’s not doing this… What are your thoughts three years from now?”