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Editorial: Beware the BID

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In theory, we have problems with the concept of BIDs or Business Improvement Districts. A Business Improvement District is a commercial area in which property owners agree to pay an assessment in exchange for increased services, ranging from more garbage pickups to increased security to advertising.

In essence a BID is a tax that business owners agree to in order to get services that should have been provided by the city in the first place. It's small wonder that Mayor Bloomberg and other city officials encourage the creation of new BIDs. Why wouldn't they?

That's in theory. But in practice BIDs have helped to revitalize many of the city's commercial districts. BIDs can create a sense of ownership among the merchants and other businesses operating in a well-defined area. The businesses acknowledge that they are joined at the economic hip - when the area prospers, the individual businesses will also prosper.

In some cases, the creation of the BID makes sense. Downtown Flushing is ripe for a BID. In the last 20 years this community has experienced phenomenal growth. Already Flushing is the city's fourth largest commercial district with a thriving restaurant business, some national chain stores and the Sheraton LaGuardia East. But Flushing is also filthy. Trash clutters the streets and, despite the prosperity, many national retailers such as Barnes & Noble still shun the area.

Downtown Flushing was an economic miracle fueled by the investments of Asian immigrants. But that miracle has stalled. Something is desperately needed to take Flushing to the next level.

But we are not persuaded that Austin Street in Forest Hills needs a BID. This is a community that already pulls together to provide extra sanitation and holiday lighting. Property costs are already high in Forest Hills. If the BID becomes a reality, the landlords would have the right to pass on the cost of their assessments to their tenants. This could have the unwanted effect of forcing some businesses to close.

Although a BID can be a benefit in communities such as Flushing, we question whether a BID is needed anywhere in Forest Hills.

Editorial: The Pre-K dilemma

It's a classic Catch 22. District 24 has the funding to provide free pre-K classes to four-year children. But the district stands to lose hudreds of thousands of dollars in state funding if it cannot fill the seats in the pre-k classrooms.

It isn't that parents don't see the value of early education. Many would love to send their children to the classes but the logistics make it impossible. Although there is funding for Pre-K classes, there is no money for transportation. And the class day is short - only 2 and hours.

The district has about 2,500 pre-K slots this year, out of which there are still hundreds of openings. A one school in Elmhurst, 130 slots are still available out of a total 282 seats. Parents have been urged to bring eligible children born in 1998 to register for universal pre-K before the end of the month, when the district will lose state funding for any seats not filled

State officials should realize that although this is a worthy concept it isn't easy to get universal Pre-K off the ground. Give parents and administrators the time they need to work out the logistics.

Posted 7:25 pm, October 10, 2011
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