City: BID your way to antique lamps on Atlantic Avenue

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Dark days are ahead for some Atlantic Avenue business owners if they don’t agree to tax themselves — the city will take the pretty lights away.

After years of debate over who would pay for the Victorian-style lampposts that line the avenue’s sidewalks, the Department of Transportation gave the community an ultimatum: we will take away the antique-style lights unless merchants create a Business Improvement District — which would charge local businesses a yearly fee that would pay for projects like the maintenance of the posts.

“They’re holding the historic lights hostage!” said Elizabeth Crowell co-chair of the Atlantic Avenue BID Steering Committee. “Right now, we have the lighting, but nobody has paid for their maintenance in many years.”

The city confirmed the good and the bad news: The lights are on the chopping block, but they’re safe for now because the proposed BID includes a budget item for the lights’ maintenance.

On the other hand, if Crowell can’t convince businesses to form the BID, the city will rip up the lights.

A business improvement district is a quasi-public, self-taxing entity that supplements such city services as sanitation and security. The Atlantic Avenue BID proposes to change each landlord about $23 per foot per month for the privilege.

The fight to keep the lights intact is not only about their faux-historic beauty.

“Before the lighting, it was dark here — there was a safety issue,” said Sandy Balboza, president of the Atlantic Avenue Betterment Association. “Not only that, but they add character to the street. It’s not a city requirement to have them, but the community needed them.”

The battle over who would pay for the lighting’s maintenance started almost four years ago. The lights aren’t covered in the city’s general budget, so the city told the Atlantic Avenue Local Development Corporation to foot the bill in 2007.

But the city says that the development corporation has not kept up the payments, so the Department of Transportation has moved to take the lights away.

But with the BID’s annual budget of $240,000, the city extended the removal deadline until later this year, pleasing Balboza and her crowd.

“If the city starts to pull them up now, we won’t be able to afford to put them back in,” she said. “If, er, I mean, when the BID is in place, this is just a small service that our businesses will finally be provided with.”

Updated 5:18 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

al pankin from downtown says:
the atlantic ave merchants and property owners already pay sky high taxes..they must have paid for these lights many times over already...if the city wants the lights, let them take them and put in regular street lights...maybe new jersey will buy them from the city, the city is desperate for money. maybe they could give the money to the street vendors who don't pay any of these taxes anyway. the city should stop harassing the small business man
May 5, 2010, 5:23 pm
Mike from Maspeth says:
So is Mr. Pankin a business or building owner on Atlantic Avenue? If so he can vote on whether the BID gets established. So far voting is 80% in favor of the BID by those who will be responsible for payments. And as BIDs go, that's a really low budget number! I think it will work out to about $40 per month. And no, I'm not associated with the BID in any way; I wondered if it was going to be fair and did my research.
May 10, 2010, 2:35 pm

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