Sunset Park

Sunset Park BID urges merchants to dump store gates

June 24, 2016 By Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Miguel Hernandez (left), whose family has been on Fifth Avenue for 50 years, accepted the Property Owner of the Year Award from BID Executive Director Renee Giordano and BID President Llamil Nunez. Eagle photos by Paula Katinas

They’re a reminder of high-crime 1970s, leaders say

The Sunset Park Business Improvement District (BID) has been so successful in improving the economic climate on Fifth Avenue that it’s time for members to turn their attention to other matters, according to leaders of the group who want the organization to start a major beautification project.

At the BID’s 21st Annual Meeting on Thursday, leaders set a new goal: urging storeowners on the busy commercial street to get rid of metal store gates that cover entire storefronts.

The BID represents property owners, merchants and residents on Fifth Avenue from 38th Street to 64th Street,

Delvis Valdes, a longtime member of the BID’s board of directors, said the gates are unsightly and a remnant of a high-crime past that no longer exists in Sunset Park.

“The 1970s were the advent of shelter gates. It was very, very tough just to walk on the avenue,” Valdes said at the meeting, which took place at the Young Dancers in Repertory studio at 5602 Fifth Ave.

Forty years ago, when the crime rate was high in New York City, many storeowners covered their windows with roll-down gates at closing time to protect their shops from break-ins and vandalism.

But the gates are ugly and uninviting, according to BID members, who said the iron coverings can be a turn-off to potential customers who like to window shop in the evenings.

“We have come a long, long way. We are enjoying the fruits of our labors. Now is the time to remove these shelter gates,” Valdes said. “Now is the time to consider a new storefront.”

Henry Irving, who has lived in Sunset Park for 73 years and is a member of the BID’s board of directors, agreed that the gates have got to go.

“There are no robberies. We don’t have anything like that anymore. This neighborhood is a good neighborhood,” said Irving, who added that he has visited many stores in recent weeks to talk to merchants about removing the gates.

The city’s business improvement districts, which operate under the jurisdiction of the Department of Small Business Services, are made up of property owners who agree to pay an added assessment on their real estate taxes to fund expenditures designed to bring more shoppers to a commercial area and, by extension, improve a neighborhood’s economy.

BIDs pay for such amenities as supplemental sanitation services, graffiti removal efforts, benches, trees, private security guards and decorative street lights during the Christmas shopping season.

The BIDs are obligated by law to hold annual meetings.

At the Sunset BID meeting, Executive Director Renee Giordano and President Llamil Nunez gave an overview of the organization’s activities for the 2015-2016 year.

“We are celebrating the 21st anniversary of the BID. We’ve seen the evolution of the avenue,” Nunez said.

The BID hosted numerous events throughout the year, including a street festival, a Christmas tree-lighting ceremony, Make Music NY, a Cinco de Mayo Parade, a Puerto Rican Day and a free trolley.

Giordano said the BID developed an app this year that promotes the BID and helps stores promote themselves. “We want you not just to download it, but to use it,” she said.

Fifth Avenue also has free Wi-Fi, thanks to the BID, which is footing the bill for the service. “That’s paid for by these guys,” Giordano said, pointing to BID board members.

Also at the meeting, the BID members voted for a new slate of board members for the 2016-2017 year.

A highlight of the meeting was the awards ceremony.

The Property Owner of the Year Award was presented to the Hernandez family. Miguel Hernandez accepted the award. Cricket Wireless was named Business of the Year. The BID announced that it would present an award to Police Officer Carmela Anderson of the 72nd Precinct. Anderson was unable to attend the meeting.

The BID paid tribute to journalists who cover Sunset Park. Dana Arschin, formerly of News 12 Brooklyn; Jaime DeJesus of the Home Reporter and Dennis Lynch of the Brooklyn Paper were presented with Friend of the BID plaques.

This reporter was also given a Friend of the BID award.