Despite vigorous opposition from local businesses and small property owners, Chinatown is in the process of being turned into a “Business Improvement District” (BID). This designation means that the City Council voted to require property owners to pay additional fees ranging from $200 to $5,000 a year, which the BID will use to provide services like graffiti removal, tourist signs, and additional lighting.
While the City Council has attempted to portray the BID designation as beneficial, the reason that an unprecedented number of Chinatown property owners staunchly opposed the bill was because the new fees will be too great a burden for the small local businesses that have been struggling to emerge from a depression that began after 9/11. The fear is that the fees imposed by the government will ultimately drive out these local businesses, and the neighborhood will be taken over by large commercial establishments or chains that can easily afford to pay them.
“The BID is another step toward gentrifying the community,” said Bethany Li of the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF). “It will price out the small business that currently make up Chinatown, and will increase the number of high end and chain stores in their place.” Chinatown resident Paul J.Q. Lee told The New York Times that the passage of the BID in City Council on Wednesday was “the final nail in the coffin.”
Despite Wednesday’s vote in favor of the BID, AALDEF pledges to continue working with the Chinatown property owners to find ways to prevent increased fees from stifling Chinatown and rapidly displacing the community.
“We will continue to aid property owners, residents, and small businesses who feel that they cannot afford the increased fines and want to keep Chinatown affordable for working class people,” said Li. “We are continuing to look at all available options to fight against the BID.”
Please contact AALDEF if you are interested in learning more about this issue or becoming involved.
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