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Liu, Weprin tout BID plan on Flushing’s Main Street

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City Councilman John Liu (D-Flushing) and City Council Finance Committee Chairman David Weprin (D-Hollis) met with business owners on Main Street in Flushing last Thursday to discuss plans for the controversial downtown Flushing Business Improvement District proposal. Liu put forth a proposal for the BID in the spring and the City Council Finance Committee will vote on whether or not to approve the proposal next month. If approved by the City Council, the Flushing BID would create a central economic development entity and help make the downtown neighborhood eligible for city money to improve environmental conditions, infrastructure and quality of life, Liu said. “The BID can’t fix every problem in Flushing, but it can help clean sidewalks and improve business promotion,” Liu said. Main Street property owners and politicians who have expressed distaste for Liu’s plan contend the proposal would be too large a burden for businesses already hurting from sluggish economic conditions. The BID would serve as a coalition of area businesses financially responsible for coordinating and carrying out street cleaning and basic maintenance projects within the designated zone. Liu and Weprin conducted the meeting on a crowded sidewalk on Main Street at Roosevelt Avenue to illustrate Flushing’s active business community and need for an appealing consumer environment. “As you can see, Flushing is a very busy place even in the middle of the day. It would be impossible to meet here during rush-hour” Liu said. “It’s a bustling area with an active commercial environment, so we need a BID.” According to Liu, the downtown Flushing business community is lacking the necessary coordination to clean up sidewalks and storefronts in order make the district eligible for further city funding. Liu also said multiple projects are already in the planning stages for improving infrastructure in the area, including the $3 million Flushing Pedestrian Improvement Project which would improve sidewalks and add lampposts and historical markers to 37th and 39th avenues. He said the lack of a BID in Flushing has prevented the city from moving forward with those projects in the past. “The fact is that there is already a $3 million plan to improve the streets of downtown Flushing,” Liu said. “That $3 million is not going to happen until we prove to the city that the private sector has the desire and ability to apply minimal maintenance to downtown Flushing.” Under the BID proposal, large business owners would be responsible for the majority of maintenance dollars while small business would pay minor amounts, Weprin said. A group of property owners opposed to Liu’s proposal met Sunday to gather petition signatures and organize an opposition to the BID. Jimmy Meng, former president of the Flushing Chinese Business Association and owner of a Flushing lumber company, which does not fall within the boundaries of the proposed district, said the BID plan is too large and demands too much of businesses. Meng said the proposal needs to be smaller and expand as a healthier economy develops. “After 9/11 and the Iraq war and the tax increase of 18.5 percent and SARS, it’s a tough time for the small businessman,” Meng said. “All the people in the community support the BID, but it’s not the right time.” Others more adamantly against the proposal accused Liu of mismanaging the legal process. Main Street property owner Jay Liu, who is running against John Liu in the upcoming city council election, said opposition to the BID was completely ignored during the process of filing the proposal. He said that petition signatures to stop the proposal were wrongfully dismissed by the councilman. “They needed to have majority support and they didn’t have that,” said Jay Liu, who is not related to the councilman. “This BID has gotten a lot of people upset over Councilman Liu.” But merchants and landlords present at the councilman’s meeting all voiced support for his BID proposal. Landlord Mark Paul Ho of A.O. Realty has been in business in downtown Flushing for nearly 25 years and said he recognized that changes in the community required action on the part of business owners. “I realize we have more population than before and that the area now has less quality,” Ho said. “The BID will allow us to do better business.” Weprin said such support extends to Flushing property owners who voiced their opinions on the proposal at a June 25 Finance Committee hearing on the proposal. He said Liu’s plan has received backing from the mayor and he was confident the Finance Committee would approve the plan to move forward with the BID and subsequent improvement plans. “Once Flushing becomes a BID, it will ensure the credibility of Flushing as a hub for the city and allow councilman Liu to gain valuable capital dollars for the area,” Weprin said. Reach Reporter Dan Trudeau by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com, or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 173.

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