A group of merchants along Atlantic Avenue has begun the movement toward creating a business improvement district — but opponents say that this is the worst time to impose a new tax.
The proposed Atlantic Avenue BID, stretching from Fourth Avenue to the East River, along with properties within State and Pacific streets, would become the latest of scores of such quasi-public, self-taxing entities operating with limited oversight in an effort to supplement city services.
“We have to be competitive with the other commercial strips that have BIDs,” said Frances Caroll, the owner of Silk Road Antiques, which is between Hoyt and Smith streets. “We would be able to do things like a shopping guide, make grant proposals, buy tree guards and other types of beautification.”
Another business owner echoed Caroll’s excitement over the possibility of new services for merchants.
“For years, I was not in favor of a BID,” said Charlie Sahadi, the owner of the beloved Middle Eastern grocery store that bears his name. “The situation on Atlantic Avenue has changed. The street has more character than it had before and needs more help.”
But others say that, during a deep recession, business owners simply can’t afford the new tax, which would charge landlords $23 per front-foot of the building.
“Did they ask anyone, ‘How is your business doing?’ ” pleaded Mohamed B. Mohamed, a real-estate broker who has handled many properties on Atlantic Avenue. “Business are literally dying on Atlantic — and this is the right time to raise taxes?”
Mohamed also scoffed at the notion of hiring a private company to handle sanitation, as is done on the Fulton Mall and numerous other commercial strips.
“Those guys cleaning Fulton Avenue are the laziest people ever!” Mohamed said, adding that he thought the current arrangement was fine.
“It’s the landlord and the tenants’ responsibility to clean the sidewalk,” said Mohamed. “Most businesses are OK with that.”
Some merchants shared Mohamed’s skepticism.
“On the face of things, I wouldn’t be in favor of the BID,” said John McGill, owner of Two For the Pot, a 37-year-old coffee and tea shop on Clinton Street just north of Atlantic Avenue. “I clean the area around my store. I don’t need to be paying more for someone else to do the same thing I do.”
But with an annual budget of $240,000, Caroll says that the BID will more than make up for the additional expense.
“The dues amount to $600 a year in additional costs for our shop,” Caroll said. “I look at that $600 as [extra] marketing, which I will more than realize through the benefits.”
Caroll pointed to the success of the Myrtle Avenue BID, which recently secured funding for street improvements and a pedestrian plaza project.
BID supporters say that they have secured the support of a vast majority of property owners in the district — adding that 88 percent of them have signed a letter of support. But that doesn’t mean smooth sailing. An effort to create a BID in Clinton Hill last year caused strife among local business owners, though it did win a majority and is operating smoothly, supporters say.
— with Lara Gross