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Op-Ed: Why Long Island City needs to expand its Business Improvement District

(Courtesy of the Long Island City Partnership)

Sept. 22, 2023 By Andrew Yuan and Pei Yin Cheong

City government can be opaque. It’s sometimes hard to see the direct result of the money we pay for taxes. Not so with the Business Improvement Districts, or BIDs, which are funded by assessments on property owners that vary from neighborhood to neighborhood.

You can see the impact immediately. It’s right there on the street.

BIDs add lighting, street furniture, trash cans and plantings, and supplement sanitation services by providing their own team of sanitation workers to sweep the sidewalks, a service that the city does not provide. All for a modest fee.

Right now, the local BID in Long Island City — called the Long Island City Partnership — wants to expand. The process to expand the BID is a long process involving planning, community outreach and legislation. In Long Island City, the process has slowed to a crawl and we don’t know why.

We are, respectively, the owner of Knock Knock — a Cantonese and Dim Sum restaurant-by-night, coffee shop-by-day on Crescent Street — and the creative director of The Coffee Project NY — a modern cafe where you can attend classes to learn all and everything about the coffee industry. It’s on 51st Avenue, on the other side of Long Island City.

Knock Knock features Coffee Project coffee and we are a great example of local, small business collaboration. We work on different ends of the neighborhood, but our concerns are the same. Right now, the BID doesn’t currently cover the blocks where our businesses are located. We want it to. We support the expansion wholeheartedly.

Let us explain why.

Knock Knock is on a block of buildings old and new, like so many others in the neighborhood, with a highway overpass cutting diagonally above it.

During the day it’s a lively street with a few restaurants, but at night it gets a bit dark. The overpass doesn’t help. Neither does the fact that there are no garbage cans. This means many people just toss their refuse on the street.

Even worse, dog owners — and there are many of them in the modern high-rises springing up all over Long Island City — don’t bother to clean up after their dogs. There’s no place to throw it away.

To get to the Coffee Project NY on 51st Avenue from the subway, you need to go under the Long Island Expressway and then over Long Island Railroad tracks on a very rickety-looking overpass. There is one lamppost and one garbage can in the underpass. At night, it’s very dark. Our landlord has tried to deal with it, but it is hard to keep up with the growing amount of foot traffic in the neighborhood

The Long Island City BID was created in 2005, when Long Island City bore absolutely no resemblance to the modern place to live, eat and work that it’s become. The BID expanded in 2017 to reflect the changing nature of the neighborhood. It encompasses Queens Plaza and Jackson Avenue to Court Square and the commercial corridor along Jackson Avenue, Vernon Boulevard and 44th Drive.

The new expansion plan is bold, to be sure.

On the west, the BID hopes to encompass Northern Boulevard, Jackson Avenue 23rd Street, Queens Plaza South, Vernon Boulevard and 41st Avenue.

Also, it wants to provide services at a reduced rate on Queens Street, Purves Street, 24th Street, Crescent Street, 27th Street, Hunter Street, 46th Avenue, Pearson Street, Court Square East and Court Square West because these streets require less service hours to maintain the same level of quality.

To the east, the BID proposes to expand the boundaries to 21st street on the west, Thomson Avenue/ Queens Boulevard on the north, Borden Avenue on the south, and Van Dam Street on the east.

Long Island City is one of the hottest neighborhoods in New York after decades of being something of a post-industrial backwater. It has glittering glass skyscrapers and an enviable waterfront. But its industrial roots are strong, and both of our businesses are on the more rugged periphery.

While Long Island City will continue to be a home to industrial businesses, what that looks like today is different from the neighborhood needs of the past. We want the BID here. We need the BID here.

It’s time to improve the level of services in our opposite corners of this great neighborhood in the greatest city in the world.

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Enough is enough

There is a desperate need for a bus route between woodsidee and hunters Point Vernon/Jackson Ave. And another route between Queens Blvd and Vernon Jackson Ave. There is nothing to help kids get to/from schools when the 7 line ends at Queensboro Plaza. Plus, there is no wheelchair access at Queensboro plaza or Vernon Jackson. There’s infrastructure money and it’s time to use it for the greater public good – not just to fill those at ‘the top’ pockets.


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