Volume 73, Number 39 | January 28 - February 03, 2004

Hudson Sq. ‘Rashomon’; conflicting accounts of BID

By Lincoln Anderson

Passions flared over the proposal for a Hudson Sq. Business Improvement District at last Thursday night’s Community Board 2 meeting. Two members of the board, David Reck and Lisa LaFrieda, who are on opposing sides of the BID issue, argued over whether there is sufficient support among property owners in the proposed area to justify creating the BID.

In November, C.B. 2 passed a resolution in favor of a Hudson Sq. BID, claiming that owners representing 70 percent of the assessed valuation of property within the proposed district — bordered by Canal St. on the south, Morton St. on the north, West St. on the west and an irregular boundary east of Varick St. — supported the district. However, as subsequently revealed by The Villager, only about 20 percent of actual property owners reportedly support the district.

By law, at least 51 percent of property owners representing at least 51percent of the area’s assessed property value must back the district to allow its creation.

The BID would primarily provide street cleaning and have the lowest property tax assessments of any BID in the city, according to Reck.

LaFrieda, who owns a meat business at Greenwich and Leroy Sts., said C.B. 2’s resolution is inaccurate and is being misused by the BID’s backers, which notably include Trinity Real Estate. Meanwhile, she says, most property owners in the district were never notified about the plan.

“They’re using our resolution. We were definitely — I’m not going to say, ‘lied to’ — we were misled,” LaFrieda said.

Reck said the board was not lied to and that he felt he was being “slimed,” mentioning a Greenwich St. activist who he claimed had badmouthed him.

“Ellen Peterson Lewis has been going around the neighborhood saying all kinds of things,” he said. “They slimed me personally.”

Reck explained the genesis of the BID: Before 9/11, he had been working with Henry Buhl of the Soho Partnership to start up what was then called the Hudson Sq. Partnership. But after 9/11, the plan fell through. Now, it’s been started up again, with the goal of forming a BID, he said.

But LaFrieda, who feels that the BID’s assessment will rise, and that the BID is “too big” and should start out smaller, said she’s been inundated with calls and letters from property owners who want no part of the BID, including the Pontes, a prominent real estate-owning family. Others mentioned who don’t want in the BID reportedly include Kopper’s Chocolates and the new Morton Sq. apartment building at West and Leroy Sts.

“Ponte pulled out last week,” LaFrieda said.

Reck said Kopper’s and Morton Sq. “were never part of the BID,” but he maintained, “The Ponte guy has been attending the [BID] meetings.”

Reck said they’ve decided to move the BID’s northern boundary down one block south to Clarkson St. to avoid problems with property owners who don’t want in on the BID.

LaFrieda claims to have received, unsolicited, around 50 letters from property owners who don’t want to be in the district, to which Reck replied, “These were people who were never part of the BID.”

Noting his three-story Greenwich St. building would pay an annual assessment of $129, he claimed the BID would have the smallest assessment of any in the city.

“That’s the first year,” said a skeptical LaFrieda.

In general, LaFrieda said, the process has been underpublicized. But Reck noted there had been three articles in The Villager — “There was even a map published,” he noted — anticipating there would now be a fourth article. Reck adamantly held that every property owner was contacted.

The idea was raised of the board’s holding a public hearing on the BID idea, but Brad Hoylman, a board member, noting that could be “more confusing than illuminating,” suggested LaFrieda show the board her letters. Jim Smith, the board’s chairperson, agreed, proposing, “both sides will develop information, submit it” and the full board then decide whether its recommendation for the BID should be reconsidered.

For now, the board’s November resolution stands, he said.

The meeting ended with Reck standing near LaFrieda, a board officer, who was sitting at the front table with the board’s other officers, and shouting, “I am not forming the BID. That’s an out and out lie. I am not the major mover of the BID.”


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