Volume 73, Number 43 | February 25 - March 2, 2004

Residents revolt against Union Sq. BID plan to expand to north

By Albert Amateau

Villager photo by Elisabeth Robert
Commissioner Robert Walsh
At their first public meeting on the proposed expansion to double the size of the Union Sq.-14th St. Business Improvement District, organizers last week ran into vocal opposition from a group of residents north of the square.

The presentation at the Wed. Feb. 18 meeting at Washington Irving High School was barely underway when hostile questions and comments started flying.

“You’re saying you have a great solution looking for a problem to be solved,” said Al Prior, who identified himself as a commercial owner in the expansion district.

“I’m on 20th St. between Fifth and Sixth Ave.,” said David Golden. “What relationship does Ladies’ Mile have with Union Sq.?”

Identity was a major concern of many naysayers at the meeting. “I like being in the Flatiron District; I don’t want to be associated with Union Sq.,” said Steve Globus, president of a co-op at 889 Broadway at 19th St. “We shouldn’t consider it at all. We should preserve the name of the Flatiron District,” Globus went on.

A common theme at the meeting was that residents should not have to pay an assessment for an organization and services designed to benefit businesses. One woman handed out flyers reading “Taxation without representation $$$ Neighborhood shake down $$$.”

Many at the meeting objected to the process for the BID expansion, the same process for creating BID’s. George Glatter of the Department of Small Business Services, which oversees the creation and operation of BID’s, explained that BID organizers gather support for BID’s and then submit evidence to the department that property owners want one.

“Once we’re convinced there’s sufficient support we will move forward with the formal process,” Glatter said. That involves a series of recommendations, hearings and approvals, first a recommendation from the community boards involved to the City Planning Commission, which holds a hearing and then submits a recommendation to the City Council, which holds another public hearing.

At the end of the City Council hearing, the comment period remains open for 30 days. “It’s at this point that [opposition by] 51 percent of the property owners and 51 percent of the assessed valuation can kill it without any Council action,” Glatter said.

Glatter insisted that the formal process was nowhere near a beginning and that there was plenty of time to register dissent.

Karen Shaw, executive director of the BID, and BID directors spoke of the 20 years of success of the Union Sq. BID — recently renamed the Union Square Partnership — operating every day to improve sanitation, promote the district as a shopping destination and deal with homelessness.

Currently including all the properties around Union Sq. and on both sides of 14th St. between Sixth and First Aves., the expansion area would extend to Seventh Ave. along 14th St. and from both sides of Sixth Ave to Irving Place and Park Ave. S. from 15th St. to 20th St.

Mayor Bloomberg’s strong support of BID’s has encouraged members of the 23rd St. Association to propose a new Madison Sq.-Flatiron BID that would pick up on 21st St., the next block north of the Union Sq. expansion boundary, and extend to 29th St. between Third and Sixth Aves.

On Tues, Feb. 24, Rob Walsh, commissioner of the Department of Small Business Services, paid a visit to the proposed Madison Sq. Flatiron district.

The Village Alliance BID to the south is also working on an expansion that would extend the boundaries of the Central Village BID from the south side of Ninth St. to the south side of 13th St. along Sixth Ave., University Pl. and Broadway. The Orchard St. Lower East Side BID is also working on extending its boundaries.


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