Sunnyside business group eyes improvement district

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Planners have been at work since January, trying to raise public awareness on the project that would require businesses to pay a yearly assessment based on their overall frontage and assessed value, Chamber President Gerry Lederman said during a meeting last month.

In exchange, the businesses would get additional services to help promote and stabilize the area, including more garbage pickups, security, graffiti removal and marketing, said John Vogt, vice president of the chamber.

"It's basically like a chamber of commerce with an ongoing source of funding," said Lederman, who pointed out that by law services provided by the business improvement district would be above and beyond those already provided by the city. "It enhances."

The project has been in the works for about two years, Vogt said. The first go around "it didn't fizzle. We just decided to expand," he said.

The total annual assessment for the additional services would be $300,000 for the properties included in the BID that would run from 39th to 48th streets on Queens Boulevard and then down Greenpoint Avenue to 40th Street.

Residential properties and non-profits would not be assessed, Lederman said.

"We wanted to keep it affordable," Lederman said. "We wanted to keep it low while at the same time providing what people said they wanted."

The city, which would collect the assessment for services, must ultimately approve the project. Planners must get the go-ahead from the owners of 51 percent of the affected properties before the district plan can be submitted to the city for approval.

So far, Lederman said the response has been mostly positive from merchants and property owners along Queens Boulevard. But organizers have faced some opposition from people along Greenpoint Avenue who worry about the cost.

"We may have to scale back," Lederman said of the project. "Part of the problem I think we have is that many business owners aren't familiar with community business activities."

At least some of their concerns may be addressed during the extensive public outreach campaign required to gain approval for the project.

The Sunnyside Chamber of Commerce already has started contacting business and property owners, Lederman said. Later this summer, planners hope to hold the two required public hearings on the creation of the business improvement district, Vogt said.

He said organizers hope to have the plan before the City Council as early as September or October.

A similar project around Queens Plaza was approved by Community Board 2 last month.

It took about two years for the Long Island City Business Development Corp., which sponsored the 85-property district, to gain approval for the project.

If the plan is ultimately approved, the services will help make the area more enticing, said Chamber of Commerce member Theresa Facciuto.

"What this means for the community is more sanitation and more cooperation," she said. "You become more attractive to other businesses."

Reach reporter James DeWeese by e-mail at, or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 157.

Posted 7:06 pm, October 10, 2011
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