By Bill Parry

Opposition to the proposed expansion of the 82nd Street Partnership was in full throttle at two separate public meetings last Thursday.

Speaker after speaker denounced the plan that would extend the Business Improvement District from 82nd Street in Jackson Heights all the way to 104th Street and Roosevelt Avenue in Corona, including Junction Boulevard up to 35th Avenue.

The new Jackson Heights-Corona BID would encompass 440 lots as well as about 850 commercial tenants and provide small business assistance, help with street maintenance and safety and fund special events. Landlords and business owners would pay a yearly fee to be determined by special assessments.

City Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras (D-East Elmhurst), a supporter of the expansion plan, opened the evening session at the Sabor Latino restaurant in Elmhurst with a warning.

“You are going to hear the complaints and negativity, but try to keep an open mind,” she said.

Each speaker had three minutes to state his or her case. Many spoke of taxation without representation, of small businesses and immigrant vendors getting displaced, of higher rents. Some who spoke in support of the plan were heckled by the crowd of nearly 200.

“We actually expected that because the opposition has gotten more organized,” 82nd Street Partnership Executive Director Seth Taylor said. “At the end of the day it’s the vote of the direct stakeholders in the district that will decide if this proposal moves forward. We’re confident there is enough support among the commercial tenants, property owners and residents in the district.”

Taylor pointed out that much of the opposition came from people from outside the district, but when members of Make the Road New York spoke against the plan, it was something of a surprise because their lead organizer, Daniel Coates, sits on the 16-member steering committee for the BID.

Fausto Rodriguez, owner of a medical clinic on 90th Street and Roosevelt Avenue, and members of Make The Road New York made the statement for the group, saying, “As a small business owner and member of a multifaceted organization, we are concerned about the impact the BID would have on our community and cannot support it as it is currently proposed.”

Taylor said he was open to negotiations with the advocacy group,” he said. “We need to continue the conversation and better understand their concerns,”

One speaker electrified the room when he warned that the immigrants who saved these neighborhoods would be expelled by gentrification. Arturo Ignacio Sanchez, who once taught Taylor Urban Planning at the Pratt Institute, is now a columnist for the newspaper QueensLatino.

Sanchez accused Taylor, in a recent column, of grabbing his notes and crossing them out during a recent interview that turned into an argument.

“He disrespected me, a Latino man. If he could talk to me like that, how does he talk to the other Latinos?” Sanchez said.

His newspaper has called for Taylor’s resignation.

In a statement, Taylor wrote, “At no time during those hours of meetings did he tell me he felt disrespected. The tone and tenor that he describes in his column does not match my recollection of our conversation.”

In the next few weeks the district stakeholders will vote on the plan.

“Emotions are running high and people are passionate about their neighborhood’s future, so we don’t want to dwell on the negative,” Taylor said.

Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparry@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4538.

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