City Council to consider Chinatown BID

September 20, 2011 02:20PM

Several retailers are pushing the City Council to pass a bill to
create a Chinatown Business Improvement District that they believe
would improve business conditions in the neighborhood, the New York
Times reported. Under the plan, property owners would have to pay
annual fees to Enhance Street cleaning, outdoor lighting, security,
tourism and signs to steer visitors.

Wellington Chen, executive
director of the Chinatown Partnership Local Development Corporation,
estimated that 35 percent of the neighborhood’s 1,891 property owners
would pay $200 or less a year and 74 percent less than $1,000. But
other property owners oppose the plan, saying they have already been
suffering financially since the September 2001 terrorist attacks.

Jan Lee, whose family owns buildings on Mott Street, fears that if he
passes a $2,000 fee onto his commercial tenants he will drive them
out. In business improvement districts like Times Square, a good
share of the fees are paid by large companies and banks, opponents
note. Lam Sai Hung, owner of Hop Lee Restaurant On Mott Street, said
he already washed the sidewalk in front of his restaurant every day
and paid a private carter $1,100 a month to take away his garbage.

“Why do I need to spend more and more?” he said. But Vincent Fung, the
owner of a jewelry shop in Chinatown, said the critics don’t see the
bigger picture. “The more business you have, the higher the value of
your property will be. You may pay a little more taxes, but you will
get a little more rent.”

The Council’s Finance Committee is
scheduled to vote on a business district tomorrow, and City
Council member Margaret Chin said she supported the idea because
“cleaner, brighter streets will attract more visitors and make
Chinatown connect to surrounding neighborhoods.”

Lee said the economy has suffered because of the declining garment
industry, with many former workers now working as home health aides
throughout the city.

Howard Shih, census programs director of the Asian
American Federation, said that the traditional Chinatown core now has
fewer people than younger Chinese areas like Flushing, Queens, and
Sunset Park, Brooklyn. Chinatown is also losing some of its Chinese
residents as 19th-century tenements are gentrified by younger white
residents taking advantage of low rents. Meanwhile, many business
owners are waiting for the opening of 1 and 4 World Trade Center; the
influx of Tourists Drawn By The New Memorial Plaza there; and even a
surge of tourists from mainland China. [NYT]