Backers to retool Midtown business improvement district plan

Two years and $50,000 after a business group embarked on an ambitious effort to institute a business improvement district for the Broadway corridor, the plan is on hold after coming under heavy criticism from property owners and political leaders.

The idea for a BID originated in 2009 when the city allocated $50,000 in federal entitlement funds to the Business Alliance of Kingston to hire a “main street manager.” Downtown art gallery owner Nancy Donskoj was hired for the job, which involved serving as a liaison between the commercial sector and city government and promoting the Uptown, Midtown and Rondout business districts. Donskoj’s primary mission, however, was the creation of a BID for the Broadway corridor.

A BID functions as a special taxing district levying an annual assessment on all “benefited properties” within its borders. However, unlike taxes paid to the government, BID assessments are controlled by a board elected by stakeholders. The money is used for security, marketing and sanitation intended to benefit the entire area. The BID concept is credited with cleaning up New York City’s once-infamous Times Square and helping boost the business environment in smaller communities like Middletown and New Rochelle.

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The final plan for the BID, presented to the Common Council in August, called for a district encompassing Broadway from Albany Avenue and Orchard Street in Midtown and between Spring Street and East Strand in the Rondout. The map also took in a number of side streets which, BAK President Pat Courtney Strong said, contained important businesses that would benefit from the added services.

The BID would be funded by an assessment on commercial properties set at 20 percent of the existing non-homestead tax rate. Residential properties would pay $1 per year while nonprofit entities would be exempt from the fee. The management council for the BID would be comprised of a majority made up of commercial property owners with minority representation for homeowners, commercial tenants and city officials. The budget envisioned for the first year totaled $199,000, with $60,000 slated for hiring a BID manager and maintenance supervisor. Another $50,000 would pay for private security, $46,000 would go for sanitation and $12,000 would be devoted to marketing and promotion.

Substantial opposition

After the Common Council approved several resolutions to move the process forward, a 30-day public comment period kicked off with a public hearing on Sept. 29. But if BAK officials had hoped for smooth sailing, they were disappointed when opponents of the plan turned out in force.

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