Group to study bringing BID to downtown Flushing

By Alexander Dworkowitz

In an attempt to address the problem of cleanliness, which has plagued downtown Flushing, a committee has been formed with the help of the mayor’s office to devise a proposal for a Business Improvement District.

Politicians, community leaders and city officials called a BID central to the plan of development for downtown Flushing at a news conference at the Sheraton LaGuardia East Hotel last Thursday.

“Five years from now when we take a look at Flushing, we’ll see the reason why we had a renaissance in Flushing was what took place here tonight,” said state Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Flushing).

A Business Improvement District is a commercial area in which property owners agree to pay an assessment in exchange for increased services, ranging from more garbage pickups to increased security to advertising.

Although downtown Flushing is the city’s fourth-largest retail center with Macy’s, Old Navy, a prominent mall and a second mall that is being planned, local leaders have often expressed frustration at their attempts to attract more businesses. With many stores run by Asian immigrants and trash cluttering the streets, many national retailers such as Barnes & Noble have shunned the area.

The BID is one of several projects in the works focusing on downtown Flushing. The city Economic Development Corporation Monday issued a request for proposals aimed at producing a study of possible future development in downtown Flushing.

While a BID has been considered for Flushing since the 1980s, the mayor has never taken such an active interest in Flushing as evidenced in the appearance of Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff, community leaders said.

“We are completely committed to working with everyone in the community to actually help Flushing reach its full potential,” Doctoroff told the news conference. “This is one of our more important priorities.”

The steering committee, which will devise the BID proposal, is comprised of 14 people, including six downtown Flushing property owners.

The committee will meet over the next several months to come up with an area for the BID, which services will be provided and a formula to assess fees for property owners.

After the proposal is presented to the public for comment, the property owners affected by the BID vote on the plan.

If a majority of property owners agree to accept the plan, it will then go before Community Board 7, Queens Borough President Helen Marshall and eventually the City Council.

Whether or not property owners will sign off on a BID remains in question, since they have not embraced such a plan in the past.

But members of the committee were cautiously optimistic about the current plan.

Councilman John Liu (D-Flushing) approached Mayor Michael Bloomberg about improving downtown Flushing when he first took office in November. Liu said Bloomberg voiced support for investing in downtown Flushing. The councilman added he had a strong relationship with Doctoroff.

In addition, Liu said Flushing community leaders agreed on the need to seriously consider a BID.

“I think this is a very cohesive community,” the councilman said.

The inclusion of six property owners in the committee was also viewed as a positive step towards making the BID a reality.

Rob Walsh, commissioner of the Department of Business Services, said a preliminary study of the downtown Flushing area did not give any indication property owners would not be able to afford an increase in taxes.

“One of the reasons this didn’t work in the past is that perhaps we didn’t take an aggressive enough step,” he said.

The committee will comprise Stavisky, Liu, state Assemblyman Brian McLaughlin (D-Flushing), borough president representative Seth Bornstein, Community Board 7 District Manager Marilyn Bitterman, Community Board 7 Chairman Eugene Kelty, Flushing Chamber of Commerce Co-President Myra Herce and Flushing Chinese Business Association President Fred Fu.

The six property owner representatives are Ed Goldberg, a vice president with Macy’s, which operates on Roosevelt Avenue; Sandeep Mathrani, executive vice president for retail at Vornado Realty Trust, which runs the Caldor property on Roosevelt Avenue; Wellington Chen, whose company TDC Development and Construction owns the Main Street Queens County Savings Bank; Jim Gerson, who owns the Main Street Chamber of Commerce Building; Louis Chang, who owns the Main Street Taipan Bakery building; and Robert Peck, who owns and runs the Main Street Peck’s Office Supply building.

wReach reporter Alexander Dworkowitz by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 141.