Business Districts to merge in Downtown Jamaica

The bustling business district of downtown Jamaica could soon be overseen by a single business improvement district, or “BID,” as consolidation efforts are underway.

Support has been shown for the merger of the Sutphin Boulevard BID, the 165th Street Mall Special Assessment District and the Jamaica Center Special Assessment District, with many elected officials giving their blessing to the concept at a Committee of Finance meeting last week.

The bill itself, Int. No. 103, would alter how the district is assessed by expanding the boundaries of the existing Sutphin Boulevard BID.

Council Speaker Adrienne Adams, also the former co-chair of the Jamaica Now Leadership Council, offered her full support of the legislation to create a unified business improvement district. It was during her time as co-chair of the Jamaica Now Leadership Council when the merger was first proposed.

“Our downtown area will have a singular brand and voice, which will facilitate more opportunities for investments and large-scale transformative projects,” Adams said. “It will reduce any overlap in responsibilities among the current BIDS, and will more strategically position Jamaica to meet the ever growing needs and challenges of our small businesses, residents and visitors.”

Adams, a Southeast Queens native, says that a unified effort will mean consistent programming and services, as well as greater input for the concerns of businesses in downtown Jamaica.

“I’m excited about the future of this area that I’ve called home for so long, and the potential for positive change this proposal will bring,” Adams said.

As it currently stands, the Sutphin Boulevard BID encompasses Sutphin Boulevard and properties south of Archer Avenue. The Jamaica Center BID, which is technically a special assessment district, includes businesses along Jamaica Avenue starting at Sutphin Boulevard and ending at 169th Street. The 165th Street Mall Special Assessment District includes businesses extending along 16th Street from Jamaica Avenue to 89th Avenue, with over 160 stores in its current footprint.

Councilmember Nantasha Williams, representing the 28th district, said that the merger will be beneficial to all parties involved, and that the move could reduce some administrative costs, such as rent and insurance. Although the conversations about merging predate her time in City Council, she said she is proud to carry the efforts of former Councilman I. Daneek Miller.

“The pandemic has decimated our commercial districts and if the unification means our businesses will be paying less and receiving more services, then this is a no-brainer,” Williams said. “I am in full support and I look forward to working with the BID on future projects.”

Alix Duroseau Jr., the board chairman of the Sutphin Boulevard BID, told the Ledger that he is “cautiously optimistic” about the merger, and he is looking forward to what the endeavor could bring to downtown Jamaica.

Jennifer Furioli, the executive director of the Jamaica Center BID, spoke on behalf of President Michael Hirschhorn during the Finance Committee meeting.

“We want to nurture a thriving downtown, and by partnering with our peers on 165th Street, I believe we can,” Furioli said.

Speaking for Hirschhorn, Furioli added that the Jamaica Center BID has been extremely limited in what it can accomplish due to rising administrative expenses. This year, over a quarter of the organization’s operating budget is allocated to liability insurance expenses,

In the 2022 fiscal year, the Jamaica Center BID says they expect to pay $222,905 for their insurance policy, not including nearly $40,000 for deductables and possibly more depending on legal outcomes.

The Downtown Alliance, the largest BID in the city with a $20 million budget, only paid about $113,000 for their yearly insurance.

“By unifying under Sutphin’s legal structure, as is proposed, the liability would be eliminated and the new BID would not have any legal exposure that the Jamaica Center now contends with,” Furioli said.

Property owners within the new expanded district will be mailed a survey, with at least 51 percent of property owners needed to be in approval of the merger. A City Council vote could come in May or June, which would make the merger official as of January 1, 2023.

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