Merchants: Third Avenue Business Improvement District would hurt bottom lines

Making a bid: Maria Ingardia and Shelia Brody flank Bryan Chin and Bob Howe. The four are pushing a business improvement district on Third Avenue in the Ridge, but some say new taxes to pay for the bid makes the idea dead on arrival.
Brooklyn Daily
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Mind your own bid-ness!

A new plan to turn Third Avenue’s commercial strip of into a Business Improvement District will impose unnecessary and unsustainable fees on already struggling businesses, some merchants argued this week.

“I don’t think we need it here,” said the owner of the Lighthouse Café Bob Relyea, whose diner sits between Bay Ridge Parkway and 76th Street. “And a lot of businesses are barely making it.”

A pack of locals have been pushing to bring the city-run program — commonly known as a “bid” — from 67th Street to Marine Avenue, and they insist it will benefit store owners by funding supplemental services, including sidewalk cleaning, additional signage, and citywide promotion of the strip. But on a recent visit to the Avenue, merchants told a reporter they worried about how they would afford paying the as-yet-undetermined fee, which a Board of Directors determines and which funds the services, according to the city Department of Small Business Services.

A gift shop owner who said she wanted to remain anonymous to protect her business said there was no way she could afford any extra tax since she’s already struggling to turn a profit while losing business to both other shops nearby and in cyberspace.

“If you’re a need-based business, like a grocery store, where you get business every day, I could see the extra tax, but I lose a lot of business to the internet, and a store like mine has to compete with 86th Street,” she said. “When you hit the small stores, there’s not enough business we could do that would support an extra tax. It would hurt us.”

Another shop owner who also insisted on remaining anonymous said merchants already keep the Avenue clean, and that citywide promotion would be pointless because most of the avenue’s business comes from locals, while out-of-borough residents visit the nearby 86th Street — also a bid.

“We sweep every day, what do I need them to sweep my street for? And if you’re going to leave another neighborhood to go to Brooklyn, you’re going to go to 86th Street,” he said.

Fifty-one percent of businesses must endorse the plan before it can move forward, and one of the organizers previously told this paper that more than 50 stakeholders have signed on. But every merchant a reporter spoke to told her they had not yet received any information about the process yet — or the tax they’d have to cough up.

One new restaurateur said she would need to know the amount of the tax, but that she doubted she would be able to afford it anyway since her eatery, Piccante — between 72nd and 73rd streets — only recently opened.

“Right now, it’s not the best moment — we only opened two months ago, and the city isn’t cheap,” said Marta Benito. “I have to see what they can offer in exchange — it will depend on how much and what we can get out of it.”

The Fifth Avenue Business Improvement District’s 340 properties pay an average assessment of $1,255 per year, but each property pays a different amount based on the length of the storefronts, since some of the department stores and chains have larger storefronts than locally-owned shops, and the 86th Street Business Improvement District’s 131 properties pay an average assessment of $2,213 per year, with similar adjustments for frontage, according to a spokeswoman for the city Department of Small Business Services.

The owner of Matter, a café between 76th and 77th streets, said he wouldn’t pay more than $1,000 annually for the tax, and that he’d need a guarantee before signing on that it would improve business.

“I like the idea of cleaning services, that’d be valuable,” said Edwin Krantz. “But there would have to be a direct impact [from the tax]; a quantifiable effect.”

Other shop owners who said they already pay $175 in annual dues to voluntarily be part of the Merchants of Third Avenue didn’t see how the bid would be different. But the organizer of the effort, Ridgite Bob Howe — who is also involved with the Merchants — said the bid would be more powerful than the Merchants Association, which would also continue if the bid went through.

“An Association can’t do [what a BID does] with only a handful of volunteers,” he said. “A bid can supplement an existing Merchants Association in a mutually beneficial manner.”

He did not respond to inquiries about his role in the Association, how many businesses are part of it, or what the bid tax would be.

For the bid to become a reality, it has to pass through an 11-step process that requires two public meetings and Council and mayoral approval.

Councilman Justin Brannan (D–Bay Ridge) and state Sen. Marty Golden (R–Bay Ridge) are both aware of and support the effort, according to their reps.

The bid would be the third in Bay Ridge, which also has them on 86th Street and Fifth Avenue.

There are 23 bids boroughwide.

Reach reporter Julianne McShane at (718) 260–2523 or by e-mail at Follow her on Twitter @juliannemcshane.
Updated 1:34 am, July 10, 2018
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Reader feedback

Ms. Me from Bay Ridge says:
Walking the avenue it appears that not enough of them sweep every day, or ,sadly, maybe they need to do it 2 or 3 times a day.
May 22, 5:43 am
Susan Frances says:
for as long as Bobby Howe and Chuck Otay are involved this thing won't be going anywhere. Otay and Howe are the reason the 3rd Avenue Board of Trade has been hemorrhaging members over the past decade.Third avenue needs some fresh new bold leadership and everybody knows it. Not the same old stale, male and pale weak ale of Otay and Howe
May 22, 2:22 pm
MJ from Bay Ridge says:
Why not let the 5 Avenue BID includes 3 Avenue as an experiment?
May 22, 5:41 pm
MJ from Bay Ridge says:
5 Avenue has a BID, but it seems there are more emptied storefronts on 5th than on 3rd.
May 22, 8:27 pm
Anon from Bay Ridge says:
Are those numbers accurate? There are alot more properties on 5th avenue than 131, and less than 340 on 86 Street BIDS...
May 24, 2:57 pm
Chris from Bay Ridge says:
The reporter flipped the numbers for 5th Ave and 86th Street.

also Century 21 pays bulk of assessment for 86th Street, so saying 2,213 is average bill per year isn't accurate. [also based on square footage, not length of storefront.]

reporter should follow up on this.
May 24, 3:35 pm
Sue from Bay Ridge says:
Property owners pay the tax, not the merchants. If you're going to report a story, at least get facts right. In my opinion and if done right, 3rd avenue could really use a BID. 5th Ave has street cleaners which is a huge asset. 3rd ave could use that as well.
May 24, 4:02 pm
anthony from bayridge says:
5th ave bid is a $480,00 a year failure with $98,000 in salary per year. Otey and Bob are relics of the past wanting to maintain relevance and create a legacy for themselves whilse they retire to florida and we pay. This is almost verbatum with a meeting I and Bob had a few days ago
Oct. 9, 12:55 pm

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