Downtown Brooklyn power brokers are making moves to take over the merchants group whose members, small-business owners in the MetroTech business district, are nevertheless, fighting back.
A group called the “Downtown Brooklyn Partnership” is positioning itself to digest the MetroTech Business Improvement District. This BID overseas taxing property owners and in return provides security, street clean-up and other services. The BID’s budget is $2.6 million, which the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership wishes to take over.
According to officials at the Partnership group, they just want to run things more efficiently. BID members, however, disagree, accusing the group of intentions to reduce services to the small guys and devote themselves to bigger businesses and developers.
“It’s all about the money,” said BID President Victoria Aviles, owner of Bridge Cleaners and Tailors. “We have programs that benefit the mom-and-pop merchants and the new residents … We serve the community, not the developers.”
The Partnership’s proposal stipulates that they would receive $200,000 to run the MetroTech BID, while cutting the budgets for various programing that the BID now sponsors, such as online marketing for businesses and fixing up storefronts and window displays. The proposal also cuts out the job of Executive Director, now held by Mike Weiss, who earns $165,000 annually.
Some city officials along with top local developers are behind the move, including Forest City Ratner, the group that developed MetroTech to begin with.
But those against the move say it’s just a money grab by the Partnership, whose municipal funding has been sharply eroded.
“If they were to take over, they would just destroy everything,” said Vincent Battista, executive director of the Institute of Design and Construction, a junior college on Willoughby St. “You’ve got to be nuts to agree to something like that.”
Officials at Partnership say no, they will just be more prudent about spending and will, at the same time, continue to help the merchants just as much as before.
“The less bureaucracy you have, the less overhead you have, the more you can put back onto the street level, where it will directly benefit the small businesses,” said spokesman Lee Silberstein, noting the group stepped up street sales when it took over the Fulton Mall’s BID.
“It is inefficient and a waste of tax money to have this many organizations in the same general area provide the same services,” Silberstein added. “It is bloat. It is unnecessary, and it hurts the people the BIDs are serving.”
Mike Weiss disagreed, saying it is not about saving his job.
“It’s money, but it’s also power. It’s a matter of who controls the real estate decisions in downtown Brooklyn,” he said. “We believe the vitality of downtown Brooklyn demands a presence of small local merchants… That would be largely ignored or not promoted by the partnership.”