C.B. 2 backs Hudson Sq. BID, despite some protest

By Albert Amateau

Community Board 2 last week gave a vote of confidence to the proposed Hudson Sq. Business Improvement District in the mixed industrial and residential district roughly between Morton and Canal Sts. from West St. to an irregular boundary west of Varick St.

But some industrial property owners in the north portion of the district say they are determined to fight formation of the business improvement district.

BIDs, supervised by the Department of Business Services, are intended to supplement municipal services like sanitation, street lighting and security. Funded by a surtax on assessed valuation, BIDs require the participation of at least 51 percent of the property owners representing 51 percent of the assessed valuation.

The community board’s Nov. 20 resolution to support the formation of the Hudson Sq. BID said the BID had the assent of property owners representing 70 percent of assessed valuation, But the resolution was not specific about the number of property-owners who have agreed to participate in the BID.

And Lisa LaFrieda, a community board member and principal in LaFrieda Meats, a wholesale meat business on Leroy and Washington Sts., said there is considerable opposition among neighboring small businesses in the north end of the district.

“Fifty percent of the property owners around here didn’t receive any notice of the BID and I don’t think people know what they’re voting for,” said La Frieda, adding that the proposed BID would serve the interests mainly of major property owners. “We don’t need any of the improvements that would help them,” La Frieda said.

The BID steering committee is indeed dominated by representatives of major property owners, including Trinity Real Estate, which owns more than a quarter of the square footage in the district. Ponte Equities, Newmark, Tishman Speyer Realty, Jack Resnick & Sons, Edison Properties and United Parcel Service are also represented on the steering committee.

But David Reck, a community board member who owns a four-story building in the southern part of the district where he lives and conducts his architectural practice, is also on the BID steering committee and is a strong advocate of the BID.

In response to a question about the number of property owners who have agreed to participate in the BID, Reck said, “It’s a high number, but I don’t have that data.” Carvel H. Moore, the consultant for the Hudson Sq. BID committee, was not available at press time nor was John Franqui, Trinity Real Estate executive and head of the steering committee. Both Moore and Franqui had asked the Community Board 2 Institutions Committee for support earlier this month and received it.

Martin Tessler, chairperson of the C.B. 2 Institutions Committee, said that Moore and Franqui had acknowledged that they had not received a reply to their BID inquiry from the industrial condo owners of at least one large building in the district.

Informal meetings among Hudson Sq. property owners and the Department of Business Services have been underway for a year and a half. The formal BID creation process is expected to begin in a couple of months, Reck said.

The process involves a pre-notice to property owners, then certification of the BID plan by the Department of City Planning, followed by a 30-day review by the community board. A 60-day review period by City Planning comes next, followed by a vote in the City Council. If approved, a formal BID notice goes to property owners with a schedule of assessments. Property owners then may file objections.

At a Hudson Sq. BID steering committee meeting in May, a tentative first-year budget was estimated at $520,000, and would cost property owners 4.5 cents per square foot each year. The largest buildings in the district are about 1 million square feet and the owner of such a building would pay $45,000 annually. The district also has small three- and four-story buildings of 4,000 square feet or less.

While the city tax roles show 450 property owners in the area, about 300 are owners of space in condos and the BID steering committee is counting each condo board as one owner.

The neighborhood, formerly dominated by warehouses and printing industry uses, has become more residential in recent years. In August, the southern part of the district between Canal and Spring Sts. from Washington to Hudson Sts. was rezoned to allow new residential development and residential conversions. The new zoning also allows existing manufacturing uses to continue, but prohibits new manufacturing development and imposes a 120-ft. height limit on new construction. Nino Vendome, a developer, plans to build a residential tower, designed by the famed architect Philip Johnson, on Spring and Washington Sts. in the proposed BID.

A proposal to rezone the manufacturing zone in the northern part of Hudson Sq. around Morton and Leroy Sts. to allow both residential and industrial development was defeated in August.