The BID That Wasn’t: Barclays-Area Effort Dissolves, For Now

To some, it seemed like a good idea, an effort to take responsibility for the effects of Brooklyn’s biggest audience magnet. To others, it looked like overreach.

Now, plans for a business improvement district (BID) for a zone around the Barclays Center, the Atlantic Center and Atlantic Terminal malls, and Brooklyn Academy of Music cultural district have been aborted without public discussion.

barclays1 The BID That Wasnt: Barclays Area Effort Dissolves, For NowThe reason? Organizers couldn’t figure how to spread the burden fairly on property owners, according to a letter sent yesterday to the BID steering committee and later passed on to this reporter.

The BID, which was never officially named but most recently called Atlantic Terminal, surfaced in January, proposed by the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership (DBP), the nonprofit organization which calls itself “the primary champion for Downtown Brooklyn as a world-class business, cultural, educational, residential, and retail destination.”

The DBP, established in July 2006 with $6 million in city funding over three years to manage the Downtown Brooklyn rezoning, now relies on revenue from the three BIDs it manages: MetroTech BID, Fulton Mall Improvement Association, and Court-Livingston-Schermerhorn BID.

Forest City Ratner, the developer of the arena, the Atlantic Center/Terminal malls, and the MetroTech office complex in Downtown Brooklyn, has three associated executives on the large DBP board. The  steering committee for the new BID was chaired by Forest City’s Ashley Cotton, Senior VP of External Affairs.

As stated in an initial press release, the BID’s “service area could include Barclays Center, Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM), the Cultural District and commercial blocks on Flatbush, Atlantic and Vanderbilt Avenues.” Assessments on property owners could fund additional sanitation, security, and streetscape improvements.

The BID also could handle programming, marketing, and economic development, aiding not just the largest property owners but also cultural facilities and hotels. Council Member Letitia James, among others, expressed initial support.

However, the initial map alarmed some, as it suggested an expansion of Downtown Brooklyn’s boundaries to Vanderbilt Avenue in Prospect Heights, the eastern end of the Atlantic Yards site, where there are no commercial properties, just a railyard still owned by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and a surface parking lot. The BID might steer planning and advocacy issues that activists believe should be the work of a new Atlantic Yards governance entity.

“If Forest City and BAM want a Barclays BID to connect their properties, they are welcome to present the merits of that case,” wrote neighborhood activist Gib Veconi in February, noting that city guidelines advise against including government properties, undeveloped property, and residential properties… For now, the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership should amend its plans.”

In mid-April, the proposed BID boundaries were amended, with the eastern end at the block containing Barclays Center. Thus the BID would exclude not just the rest of the undeveloped Atlantic Yards site but also 470 Vanderbilt, a major building in Fort Greene.

The BID looked like it had momentum. The DBP announced there’d be two BID-related public meetings on May 2, hosted with the support of the local community boards, elected officials, and the NYC Department of Small Business Services.

“The meeting’s purpose is to provide a basic introduction of BIDs and proposed services and boundaries,” the DBP said. “This meeting will be a key opportunity to receive valuable feedback from stakeholders.”

Those meetings presaged required public hearings and approvals by Community Boards 2, 6, and 8, the City Planning Commission and the Council–a process that in January the DBP said was “expected to be completed by the end of 2013,” before the Bloomberg administration left office.

Instead, those May 2 meetings were postponed, with no new date set. As time passed, rumors surfaced that the BID had run aground.

Yesterday, leaders of the BID effort confirmed those rumors, circulating a letter saying that, after “extensive conversations… we have been unable to arrive at an equitable assessment formula.”

Now time has run out. Given that the current mayor and Council will leave office before any BID approval process could run its course, any effort to create “a supplemental service and maintenance entity,” according to the message, will have to wait until the next administration.

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