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Cashing in on Coney: Local group moves forward with plan to bring business-boosting ‘bid’ to nabe

Bid for change: Local residents and owners of properties and businesses drew the proposed boundaries for a Coney Island Business Improvement District, which would include properties on Mermaid Avenue, on the Riegelmann Boardwalk from W. Fifth to W. 23rd streets, and in the amusement district, according to Alliance reps.
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They’re making a bid for change!

A contingent of Coney Islanders this month kicked off the formal process to create a city sanctioned business-boosting group in the neighborhood, which they say will stimulate the local economy by beautifying the area, providing support to mom-and-pop shops there, and attracting more tourists.

Leaders of community group Alliance for Coney Island on Dec. 5 hosted two public meetings to present their plan for the so-called Business Improvement District, or bid, which a rep said will go a long way to preserving and promoting commerce throughout the People’s Playground.

“We’re talking about how to strengthen and communicate the value of Coney Island as a brand,” said Alexandra Silversmith, the Alliance’s director.

An initial subcommittee of between 20 and 25 Coney residents, businesspeople, and property owners determined the general area served by the proposed bid, which would include properties along Mermaid Avenue, others on parts of Surf, Stillwell, and Neptune avenues, and those along the Reigelmann Boardwalk between W. Fifth and W. 23rd streets.

The subcommittee, whose members Alliance reps would not reveal at the meeting this newspaper attended, also put together the bid’s projected annual budget of $1.2 million, a figure that together with the district’s boundaries the city calls the “district plan.” Funds for that budget would be raised through special annual taxes — which the city calls “assessments” — on buildings and businesses within the district, which would go to pay for such services as sidewalk cleaning, new signage, and promotion of shops there.

An elected, volunteer board of directors consisting of property owners, business owners, and residents would oversee the operations of the bid, which would run independently under the jurisdiction of the city’s Department of Small Business Services. The board’s members would also set the revenue-generating taxes within the district, which are determined using a formula based on the type of property, its assessed value, and its square footage, according to Alliance reps, who added that the taxes would also pay the salaries of a full-time staff that manages the bid’s day-to-day operations.

Of the bid’s projected $1.2-million budget, 34 percent is earmarked for staff and general administration, 24 percent for tourism and special events on the avenues, 23 percent for sanitation, five percent for security and public safety, five percent for marketing, four percent for streetscape and storefront management, three percent for holiday lights, and less than one percent for workforce development, according to preliminary information from reps, who said city data shows that most of those projected allocations are more or less in line with averages for bids with annual budgets between $1 and $5 million.

Annual taxes levied on businesses and buildings in Coney’s amusement district — which bid proponents said would average more than $6,700 per entity — would foot nearly 75 percent of the organization’s $1.2 yearly budget, with taxes on Mermaid Avenue properties — averaging more than $1,600 per entity each year — footing about 16 percent, and taxes on Neptune Avenue businesses — averaging more than $15,000 per entity each year — footing about 13 percent.

The higher annual taxes on Neptune Avenue properties are due to the generally larger average square footage of businesses in the area, which include Applebee’s and the various eateries inside the Coney Island-Stillwell Avenue subway station, according to Silversmith, who said that dollar amount will likely come down following the completion of the mixed-use Neptune/Sixth development on Neptune Avenue between West Fifth and Sixth streets.

Opponents of the proposed bid argue they shouldn’t have to shell out more cash for some of its services, such as cleaning streets outside their shops, which some say they do free of charge themselves. Last year, no less than 30 owners of businesses on Mermaid and Neptune avenues signed a petition against the scheme, claiming the “additional tax burden and loss of autonomy … is excessive from any foreseeable benefits,” according to Coney Island News.

But advocates — including those from the Alliance — defended the idea by highlighting that the money goes back into the pockets of entrepreneurs through supplemental services, such as street beautification, that they would not receive otherwise.

Alliance leaders began floating their idea for the bid last June, after wrapping a study with the city’s small-business-services agency on Coney’s commercial needs, challenges, and opportunities for growth, which showed that nearly 12 percent of storefronts on the neighborhood’s major business corridors are vacant, a figure nearly twice the city’s average.

Supporters of the bid expect its public-review process — which includes going before the local community board, the City Planning Commission, Council, and Mayor DeBlasio — to take about a year, during which they promised to keep sharing feedback on the plan, and continue to engage with entrepreneurs to build more support for it, Silversmith said.

Reach reporter Julianne McShane at (718) 260–2523 or by e-mail at jmcshane@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @juliannemcshane.
Updated 1:42 pm, December 11, 2018
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Reader feedback

Marge from Coney Island says:
Something doesn't smell right here. A lot of the properties in this BID area are owned by various city agencies, so they would be exempt. Also, there is no mention here that a riot almost broke out at the morning meeting after newly elected Assemblywoman Mathylde Frontus announced that she had signed a petition opposing this BID.
Dec. 11, 2018, 12:40 pm
David G from Coney says:
This is great news, some are revolting because they know they will be forced to close because of there garbage quality produce and tiny margins. Look forward to a cleaner, safer and, more gentrified neighborhood!
Dec. 11, 2018, 2 pm
Daniel Ioannou from Coney Island says:
Marge, Assemblymember Frontus did not sign the petition against the B.I.D. nor did anyone say she did. The only people who have signed the petition are business owners or property owners on Mermaid Avenue.
Dec. 11, 2018, 8:07 pm
Milana from Coney Island says:
David, some business owners oppose BID because they have no idea what they will be paying for. Also with BID or without BID no business will be forced to close. In general, BID is not a bad idea but if you look at the map, you see that businesses located within proposed boundaries have completely different needs. Corporations won't be hurt by extra money but small businesses count every penny.
Dec. 11, 2018, 10:23 pm
Marge from Coney Island says:
That’s a surprise. We heard that Assemblywoman Frontus had indeed signed the petition because she was in solidarity with the Mermaid Avenue businesses that opposed the BID. Opposing a BID was even part of her campaign promises.
Dec. 12, 2018, 8:27 am
Daniel Ioannou from Coney Island says:
Marge, Unfortunately Coney Island is full of misinformation and those who should have knowledge on a subject speak and have no idea what they are talking about and then falsehoods are spread rapidly. It’s why out neiginorhood has been taken advantage of for eons. I do wish it was true that Fromtus has publically spoken against the B.I.D but unfortunately it is not. No elected official has vocally opposed the B.I.D or demand Mermaid Avenue to be removed from the B.I.D boundaries at this time. Myself and many others hope leadership will lead and come to the aid of some of the most well recognized neighborhood businesses that have been serving the community for numerous decades . Assemblymember Frontus never said she was against the Coney Island B.I.D. When she was campaigning. She did say she would side with the wishes of business owners who have a right to self determination. She has also taken time to meet business owners and hear them express opposition against the B.I.D. Councilmember Treyger has also recently walked Mermaid Avenue and met with a few business owners. Everyone he met was against the B.I.D, even those who do not display “Stop C.I. B.I.D “ stickers on their shop windows. Currently it appears business owners in the amusement district want a B.I.D and Mermaid Avenue business owners do not want a B.I.D, what is the most rational and fair thing to do? Redraw the boundaries and remove Mermaid Avenue, this was the compromise offered to the Alliance for Coney Island but they have so far not accepted it. Until this happens, many will call on stoping the entire B.I.D.
Dec. 12, 2018, 8:46 am
Daniel Ioannou from Coney Island says:
I do apologize for the various grammatical errors above. It is difficult typing on my mobile and there is no way to edit the above comment. Will be using the computer from now on. There appears to be another article, same story and author. There is a comment section there and even there those are express discontent with this B.I.D. Here is the link: https://www.brooklynpaper.com/stories/41/50/bn-coney-bid-meeting-2018-12-14-bk.html
Dec. 12, 2018, 8:59 am
Gene says:
I still like that meat store grocery that used to be owned for decades. Btw, what ever happened to the free summer concert series in Coney Island? Oh yeah I forgot. The ford ampitheater was built with mostly out of town people coming in and screw the local residents. Business as usual. Thanks Marty for empty promises.
Dec. 14, 2018, 12:10 am
BIDs RUIN NEIGHBOHOODS from BROOKLYN says:
Warning: the "public/private" partnership is a pact with the Big Real Estate devil.Once formed it will take 51% of property owners to rescind it-& landlords/developers/financiers who're the Board Members will keep the BID operational-no matter what. Levies/taxes to sustain the BIDs are a kind of gangster protection money-landlords pass it along to Mom & Pop stores & they pay -like it to not...they pay, even if they're paying for duplicate services such as 'sanitation'. Be forewarned...this is hostage taking and once enshrined-is virtually impossible to turn back. The so-called Dept of Small Business Services & the NYEDC which hypes the 'benefits' is playing the retailers who'll be suckered into their own demise...really. Read more: https://newrepublic.com/article/130188/business-improvement-districts-ruin-neighborhoods
Dec. 14, 2018, 11:59 am
Joe from Business owner says:
I am a business owner of two businesses on Mermaid Avenue and I attended several of the public BID meetings so that I better understand the proposal and the benefits to me as a merchant and a Coney Island resident.   I am frustrated by individuals who have not attended any of these meetings but who have a need to give an opinion without the facts or do not have the same daily struggles of a business owner. I understand that Coney Island is special to many people for different reasons and respect that, however, Coney Island will not get better on its own. We need help!  There needs to be an organization that can bring the different members of Coney Island, I believe the words that have been used are “community stakeholders,” to the table. I have seen real improvements to Mermaid Avenue over the past two years and that is because there is an organization, specifically the Alliance for Coney Island, who talks to us as merchants, as individuals, and listens to our concerns. No one has done that before for all of Mermaid, rather there is the great divide – east end vs. west end. I have learned that the outreach work on Mermaid Avenue is through a grant from the Governor’s office and that the grant has an end date. A big part of that grant that I have seen is the team that has been sweeping the streets 5 days a week. I know for a fact that I have not received a summons from the Sanitation Department since the team is on Mermaid Avenue. At the last BID meeting it was announced that as of December 31st the work of that team will end because that service is paid through the grant and cannot go on forever.   Some people at these meetings have said that we pay taxes and sanitation should be doing this work. Who are we kidding? Sanitation empties the trash cans on the corner, they are not responsible for sweeping the sidewalk. Quite honestly, that is our responsibility as merchants. And in terms of the amount that is listed in the proposed budget for staff, that is for 4-5 staff members including taxes, liability insurance etc. If a business or an organization follows the letter of the law, it costs money. Why the opponents of the BID want to twist the facts and try to make it seem as if one person, the Executive Director of the BID would be paid such a high salary, is beyond me! What I find most frustrating is that there have been a few individuals, primarily two that I have heard about, that have visited many of the stores sharing incorrect information and scaring them into thinking that a BID will be an end to their business because there will be a very high assessment, or rather tax as they are being told. That is why some signed the petition, and some have the decal in the window. When I went to some of the businesses and explained that it would cost most Mermaid Avenue businesses on an average of $45 a month – they were shocked!   Several shared in confidence that they signed the petition and allowed the decal because they felt pushed to do so. And many of those very same merchants, now that they have a better understanding of the FACTS, have removed the STOP CI BID decals and are interested in learning more about how a BID can help their business and Mermaid Avenue. Yes, change is happening in Coney Island and will continue to happen. It is our responsibility as merchants and residents to learn the facts, how they will impact on our business and if it is the right decision. If the DRAFT budget will be difficult for us to pay the assessment, then we need to join in the conversation and further discuss the numbers.   And Mr. Ioannou, with all due respect, your proposed “alternative” to remove Mermaid Avenue from the proposed BID boundaries is not an alternative. It would be the same old. Mermaid Avenue would continue with its daily struggle. We must work together. The conversation has begun and is open to everyone in Coney Island. Let the holiday lights that we have not had for decades be a show of unity. Change will happen with or without us. Let’s have a say in what these changes are so that Coney Island continues to be the place that we want to work, live and shop in.
Dec. 23, 2018, 2:06 am
David from Coney island says:
I appreciate the well laid out comment joe. You make a good point about street cleaning from NY state grant and that the fund will run out soon. Street has been noticeably cleaner the past few years and love the christmas lights!
Dec. 27, 2018, 9:52 am

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