This excellent grassroots history was originally posted by the Queens Anti-Gentrification Project.
Plans are underway for the establishment of a BID(Business Improvement District) in Woodside.
What is a BID?
In short, a BID is a nonprofit organization with a board of majority property owners that oversees economic activity and usage of public space in a given area. The BID is advertised as a beneficial public-private partnership that contributes to the well-being of the neighborhood by providing services like sanitation and security, or by engaging in projects to improve lighting, signage, painting, etc. Sounds nice! However, the BID can also act as a political lobbying force in the interests of landlords. Most importantly, the BID can be used to encourage large scale corporate development in areas that are seen as undesirable, such as low income immigrant neighborhoods.
In reality, BIDs destroy neighborhoods. We understand that a BID would help speed up gentrification by leading to a massive increase in property value, the closure of local businesses in favor of large corporate chains, the loss of immigrant jobs, police harassment of immigrants, criminalization of homelessness, and ultimately, the displacement of all working class people from the neighborhood. The evidence of the negative impact of BIDs is found in over 70 current locations where BIDs now exist in NYC. We must prevent the Woodside BID at all costs. In order to understand what we’re up against, here is a brief history of the Woodside BID proposal:
Four years ago, a meeting was held at St. Sebastian’s Parish Hall during which a very small handful of local officials pushed the idea forward for the creation of a BID on Roosevelt Avenue. At that time, those behind the BID proposal included:
City Councilmember – Jimmy Van Bramer
Former Community Board 2 Chair – Joe Conley
Chair of Woodside on the Move – Bob Piazza
Owner of Ottomanelli Burgers – Frank Ottomanelli
Fortunately, the BID failed to garner any interest from local business owners and even small landlords. Enter QEDC(Queens Economic Development Corporation). In November of 2014, QEDC was given a “Capacity Building” grant by SBS(Small Business Services), the city agency that assists nonprofit development organizations in the establishment of BIDs through their Neighborhood Development Division. One of the Capacity Building grant requirements is the creation of a “corridor assessment” document, to be used for the “commercial revitalization” of Roosevelt Avenue between 57th St. and 70th St. This initial grant was used to try to warm up small business owners and community members to the idea of nonprofit intervention, and ultimately, the establishment of a BID.
On June 23rd of 2016, QEDC presented their corridor assessment to community members at a public meeting at Woodside on the Move. QEDC also announced their plans to start a merchants association. SBS sees a merchants association as a precursor to the BID, as they explain in their Merchant Organizing grant:
According to an amNewYork article published on August 3, 2016, Bob Piazza, the Chair of Woodside on the Move, has explicitly stated that the merchants association is being used(like a Trojan horse) to gain support for a BID:
“In a second attempt to get local merchants to band together to improve their area, Woodside on the Move has teamed up with the Queens Economic Development Corporation to try to form an association. […] Bob Piazza, president of Woodside on the Move, said he hopes the business association will allow merchants to see the benefits of pooling their resources together and potentially create excitement about future BID proposals.”
As we speak, the QEDC and Bob Piazza are working to establish the Woodside BID. In response, Queens Anti-Gentrification Project is kicking off a campaign to defeat the BID and keep QEDC out of our neighborhood. We have many activities planned out over the next few months, and we invite those who live in or around the neighborhood to join us and defend Woodside from gentrification and displacement.