Volume 80, Number 38 | February 17 - 24, 2011
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933


Talking Point

Photo by Aline Reynolds

Shoppers in Soho paused for a breather.

Angry Buddhist asks: Is Soho taking it on the Chin?

By Carl Rosenstein

In The Villager’s front-page article last week concerning the Soho business improvement district, there were several key omissions and inaccuracies. The most glaring exclusion is the vital role Councilmember Margaret Chin plays in the scenario. She is the linchpin, nobody else. Your article states correctly that the mayor’s subservient City Planning Commission rubber-stamped the proposal, which now “only awaits approval by the City Council.” This is an extremely noteworthy “only,” because approval by the whole Council rests entirely with Councilmember Margaret Chin. In land-use decisions and district matters such as this that arise before the Council, members will always defer to the inclination of their colleague whose district is affected. If Chin opposes the BID, so will the others. End of story. End of BID.

So why, in spite of the unanimous opposition by the 14 residential artist co-ops along Broadway, overwhelming opposition by Community Board 2 and opposition by the Soho Alliance and the Soho community at large, is the BID proposal still alive? Why doesn’t Councilmember Chin publicly and unequivocally state: “I oppose the BID because my residential constituents are against being double-taxed by a private, undemocratic and unaccountable government made up of big real estate executives whose interest is clearly greed-making greater profits at the expense of the community. Soho doesn’t need a BID. It’s a wildly successful area that can’t withstand the strain of any more tourists with a map pinned to their lost faces. It can’t bear one more tour bus or motor vehicle; traffic is already intolerable at all times. It doesn’t need Christmas lights or signage that will cheapen the incredible character of New York’s most famous historic district.

“What’s more, it is unacceptable and morally shameful that the big real estate entities that have put together a fund of $250,000 to develop their BID have been unable to contribute anything to ACE, which has given hope and employment to more than 1,000 homeless people over the years. If I am unable to persuade these big real estate empires along Broadway, such as Vornado and Thor Equities, to contribute their fair share so ACE can continue cleaning Broadway, I will request sanitation enforcement to ensure Broadway property owners maintain their sidewalks and curbs and keep them free of debris, as required by law. If needed, I will allocate $25,000 from my Council budget to ACE to be sure that this self-empowerment program for the homeless will continue.

“As councilmember of District 1, which includes Soho, I will ask for an audit by Comptroller Liu of the sales tax and real estate taxes generated in Soho to demonstrate how woefully shortchanged this amazing neighborhood is. Surely, Soho produces more sales tax than any locale in the city, save for perhaps Times Square and Herald Square. If we need an additional trash pickup along Broadway, I will meet with Sanitation Commissioner Doherty, and pound my shoe on his table if called for. We certainly don’t require a private government funded by my middle-class constituents so real estate executives can pay themselves limousine salaries to manage the 24 wastebaskets on the corners from Houston St. to Broadway. The BID stops here.”

So why hasn’t Councilmember Chin made this speech? Why have she and her staff spent scores of taxpayer-funded hours keeping the BID afloat? In her own words, according to your newspaper’s report, she will support the BID when “she sees more resident involvement.” Which letter in the word “no” doesn’t she understand? The community is adamantly against the BID, period! Having a minority vote on a board of powerful real estate interests will not make the BID more palatable to anyone in Soho, plain and simple. Chin reminds me of candidate John Kerry, who was against the Iraq War while simultaneously being for the Iraq War.

Maybe this speech hasn’t been made because, in contrast to what you actually reported, Chin has been an active supporter of the BID from its onset, and at an initial meeting with the BID proponents at the Scholastic building last summer, prior to having done outreach to any residential constituents, Councilmember Chin endorsed the BID.

One can only surmise that Councilmember Chin has made a cold political calculation that potential campaign donations by big Soho real estate that will expand her power base far outweigh the votes that she will lose in a potential 2013 primary by selling out the relatively small residential Soho community.

If this is the case, Chin marches lockstep with our uber-mayor and obedient, politically ambitious Council speaker, who consistently enrich developers and this city’s elite at the expense of the beleaguered middle class. The truth will unfold in short time. There’s no hiding from this outcome. Either you’re with your residential constituents or you’re against them. No BID!… OMMMMMMMM.

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