By Alexander Dworkowitz
In front of a packed crowd on the ninth floor of the Union Plaza Nursing Home Monday evening, Philip Xuan Zhang, an attorney and downtown Flushing property owner, vehemently spoke against a proposal to establish a business improvement district for downtown Flushing.
“We firmly object to the matter in which the city has attempted to implement this program,” Zhang said at the Community Board 7 meeting.
Zhang and fellow members of the newly formed Flushing Landlords Federation Against BID tried to convince the community board that the city had muscled property owners into accepting a plan they did not want.
Zhang's comments, however, fell on deaf ears. Soon afterward, CB 7 voted unanimously to support the proposal, and applause broke out once the vote was tallied.
The Flushing Landlords Federation had hoped to throw a wrench into the BID plan by convincing CB 7 members to vote against it. But with their approval, politicians expect the BID easily will become official by the end of the year.
Under a BID, property owners must pay an assessment in exchange for additional services.
The Flushing BID plan has a budget of $380,000. Almost all of the money would be spent on sanitation services, with some set aside for holiday decorations and administration of the plan.
Property owners would have to pay based on how much of their land fronts the street. Most would spend about $1,000 a year, while the largest properties would pay about $20,000.
The proposed BID includes Main Street from Northern Boulevard to Sanford Avenue, Roosevelt Avenue from Prince Street to Union Street, 39th Avenue from College Point Boulevard to 138th Street, 40th Road, and a short segment of Kissena Boulevard.
The community board's vote was based on the BID's tremendous political support. Mayor Michael Bloomberg and every local official has sung its praises, while business groups including the Flushing Chamber of Commerce and the Flushing Chinese Business Association have also spoken in its favor.
But most importantly, large property owners back the plan, reversing their opposition inthe past.
Owners of properties including Macy's, the Caldor site and the Sheraton LaGuardia East Hotel all have said they are willing to pay their assessments.
“I'm looking forward to signing the check for $17,000, and I hope you will allow me to do that,” said Chris Ficalura, general manager of the Sheraton, before CB 7's vote.
Jay Liu, who founded the Flushing Landlords Federation, accused Councilman John Liu (D-Flushing) of misrepresenting the support of the BID.
“We have 120 members who are against this BID,” Jay Liu said. “John Liu says he has 75 percent [of the property owners]. Show it to us. Be open about it, that's all.”
But most people who spoke at the hearing disagreed with Jay Liu. Several residents of the downtown area supported it.
“As a resident of Flushing, quality of life will definitely be improved,” George Miyake said.
Yee Leung, chairman of Destination Flushing, a group of Chinese business owners who have spent their own money to hire workers to clean up streets, urged others to accept the financial sacrifice.
“Ladies and gentlemen, it's time for us business owners to step up and participate,” he said.
Reach reporter Alexander Dworkowitz by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 141.