Flushing BID Almost A Reality

Robert Peck remembers sitting on the corner of Main Street, Flushing as a child and watching the Thanksgiving parade go by.
"Nowadays, its a little bit funky to be sitting on the curb!" admitted Peck, who owns Pecks Office Plus, which has made its home on 36-18 Main Street since 1929. "Theres been a change, of course, in the cleanliness of the town."
Dirty streets, smelly subways and restaurants dumping fat and residue onto the streets are only a few complaints that many community leaders, politicians and store owners have expressed.
Peck hopes that Mayor Bloombergs final approval of the Flushing Business Improvement District (BID) will transform Flushing into a place where kids can sit on the edge of the sidewalks and not worry about getting dirty. Bloomberg is expected to sign the bill, marking the first BID to be created during his administration, in two weeks.
The Flushing BID joins seven other BIDs in Queens, including 82nd Street, Jackson Heights; 165th Street Mall; 180th Street, Jamaica; Myrtle Avenue; Steinway Street; and Woodhaven. A BID allows local property owners and merchants to join together and contribute a set amount of money per year in order to be used by the district to pay for additional services beyond what the city offers.
A BID has been in the pipeline for a while, but most of the credit can be given to Councilman John Liu, for making it a reality, said State Senator Toby Ann Stavisky. "Its a remarkable achievement," she said. "The problem in Flushing was so out of hand, something had to be done. Its a very congested area and were trying to do something to improve conditions."
Commercial property owners in downtown Flushing will be required to pay an average of $1,100 per year, depending on property value and amount of feet in the front of the store.
The money is expected to fund primarily street cleaning. Currently, business owners are required to sweep the sidewalks, but its up to the city to clean the streets.
The BID plans to assist the Department of Sanitation in garbage removal by taking garbage bags out of the trash cans, tying them and lining the fresh cans, said Liu. The Department of Sanitation picks up trash only twice a day which isnt nearly enough for a busy transit hub such as Flushing, Liu added.
Stavisky echoed Lius sentiments on garbage pickups, and has even contacted the Department of Sanitation appealing for more frequent trash removal. She has yet to receive a response, but shes still optimistic: "Youll see results as soon as the BID starts but its going to be a slow improvement."
Wellington Chen has been a proponent of a Flushing BID since the 1970s, but has his doubts whether the $380,000 budget will cover the massive clean-up. "Its a good start," he said. "Its long overdue, but its not going to help." A resident of Little Neck, Chen was a member of the BID steering committee.
He wonders how the budget will cover graffiti removal and steam cleaning the streetsservices other BIDS with a larger budget, ranging in the millions of dollars, provide.
Like Peck, Chen recalls a cleaner, brighter Flushing. Its not only the dirty streets that bother him, but the loss of a close-knit community. He talked fondly about "Flushing Fantastic," a weekend street fair which was held throughout the late 1970s and early 1980s, where hundreds of vendors set up shop and sold ethnic foods, discount clothes and jewelry: "The whole community pitched in…a quarter of a million people showed up and that communal spirit has been lost…We have to dream higher and dream bigger."