Borough Board says yes to JFK BID

By Patrick Donachie

The Queens Borough Board unanimously approved the creation of a new industrial business improvement district for an area neighboring John F. Kennedy Airport at its monthly meeting at Borough Hall Monday.

The area includes many cargo and trucking industries that service the airport, and supporters said the new BID would bring clout and advocacy to a neighborhood they asserted was unlike any other in New York City.

“No one really understands this district — how a piece of cheese gets from northern Italy to your dinner table,” Barbara Cohen, a consultant for the IBID, said during the meeting. “It’s a district that has been overlooked and misunderstood, and it’s found its voice.”

The Greater JFK Industrial Business Improvement District was first proposed in October 2012. There are 526 different properties in the IBID area, which stretches along Rockaway Boulevard on the north end of JFK Airport from Baisley Boulevard to the western edge of Idlewild Park. The area includes 199 commercial properties, as well as 154 residential properties. Many of the businesses provide service airport operations, including customs brokers, freight forwarders, truckers and delivery services.

Cohen said the projected first-year budget would be $500,000, which would be raised through funds from area industrial and commercial property openers, with a symbolic $1 charge towards residential property owners. Non-profits would be exempt from payment. Cohen said businesses would likely not pay more than $500 a year because of a larger tenant pool.

According to a BID fact sheet, the funds would go toward district marketing and networking, coordinating with the NYPD on public safety, coordinating with the Department of Sanitation on snow removal and maintenance, assorted technical services and BID advocacy.

Cohen said she was hopeful Mayor Bill de Blasio would approve the IBID by the end of 2016, and it could be established next year. Voters approving the IBID at the Borough Board included the chairs of Community Boards 12 and 13, where the proposed district is located, as well as Council members Paul Vallone (D-Bayside), Karen Koslowitz (D-Forest Hills), I. Daneek Miller (D-St. Albans), Barry Grodenchik (D-Oakland Gardens) and Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village).

The board also heard from former Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott, who was named the president and CEO of Queens Library March 1, a library system that he called “the most diverse in the country.”

“What you hear here is a library system on the move,” he said during his presentation. “We’re not sitting dormant.”

He also detailed some of the capital projects that were planned for the system, including a new library in Hunters Point, which had an estimated cost of $21.2 million. Some Council members, including Koslowitz and Crowley, said the areas they represented also needed new or refurbished facilities.

“I’d like to see a library in Rego Park,” Koslowitz said, noting that construction and property costs were unlikely to decrease. “The longer we wait, the more it’s going to cost.”

Walcott responded that he had heard the criticisms about the slow pace of library construction in the area.

“Rego Park is definitely on my radar screen,” he said. “I understand the frustration, and I understand how that frustration gets exacerbated from the timeline.”

Reach reporter Patrick Donachie by e-mail at pdonachie@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4573.

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