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Is New Rochelle City Council Monitoring the BID? by Peggy Godfrey

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Is New Rochelle City Council Monitoring the BID? by Peggy Godfrey

December 29, 2010 - 00:55

In the December 30, 2010 issue of the Westchester Guardian

According to New Rochelle City Manager Chuck Strome) the accomplishments of the BID (Business Improvement District) are the Facade Program and efforts to fill two stores on Main Street. Strome, a member of the BID, on WVOX (12/14/10) cited Consignment on Main and the moving of another store recently displaced by a proposed CVS to the former Palace store on Main Street. When Commissioner of Finance, Howard Rattner, another member of the BID, was asked about New Rochelle's financing of the BID, he stated $436,000 tax levy is collected by the City and is remitted back to the BID. Also, the City contributed $115,000 for the downtown cleaning program. While the City Council continues to delay a second vote on the BID initiated charges for charging for night time parking in city lots, their faith in Ralph DiBart, the BID Executive Director, remains undiminished. When the 2011 City budget was approved, it included $52,000 for DiBart. The $52,000 is now paid directly from the City budget because this expense is no longer eligible from a Community Block grant.
It seems appropriate now to question whether the New Rochelle BID is really necessary. In 2000 according to Strome the BID was authorized in New Rochelle by both the City Council and State legislature. Half of the property owners in the area to be serviced had to approve the designation of the BID which operates under the New York State Comptroller's office.
BIDs are funded by member taxes as well as taxes contributed by the City. Unfortunately,according to a knowledgeable source, a BID can just become "another layer of government, and an extra tax on downtown properties." The question persists: has the City profited sufficiently from increased sales and real estate values in the downtown area to justify supporting it with money from the City budget? Of particular concern is the $52,000 payment to the Executive Director which can no longer be allocated from a grant and must be paid from the City budget. According to one source, the $52,000 the City pays to the BID's Executive Director is at least doubled by BID contributions.
A controversial City Council decision to charge for overnight parking in downtown parking lots was supposed to be revisited by Council. Not only does City Council need to have this promised re-vote on this decision, they need to explain to the taxpayers why they are continuing to approve city funds to give to the BID.
James O'Toole, Resident Representative of the BID (the only one elected by the people), does not agree with the 24-7 parking plan. But he feels the BID has kept the streets cleaner and the Facade program has improved the appearance of the downtown. He does not believe the city could do a better job of street cleaning because the BID salaries are lower than the salaries paid to City employees..
Residents of New Rochelle have a different view of the BID. Dario Castellano said the City is spending too much money for what the BID accomplishes. The BID needs to bring more businesses into the City. How much control does the City have over the BID? Is the City Council monitoring what they are doing? George Imburgia commented that for the entire existence of the New Rochelle BID he has not seen any notable improvements which would benefit the shoppers or the residents.