A special improvement district sandwiched between Madison Avenue and Straight Street received a green light on Friday evening, when the City Council passed a resolution establishing the city’s 3rd special improvement district.
However, the passage came after heated exchange between the district’s supporters and detractors.
“Don’t believe SIDs work,” said a man, who only identified himself with an address on Mercer Street. He said he opposes the idea because it will result in higher taxes for local merchants and residents. “Taxpayer has to foot the bill altogether,” said the man from Mercer Street.
The district will tack an extra tax on property owners in the area to fund its operations. The extra tax amount comes out to $18.17 per month for residential homeowners and $36.92 for commercial property owners. Julio Tavarez, 5th Ward councilman, who sponsored the resolution, said the property owners are asking to be taxed more for better services.
“I know we’re putting extra burden on the residential homeowners, but the city, the way it’s structured right now, cannot handle this — every department is stretched,” said Mohammed Akhtaruzzaman, 2nd Ward councilman, who co-sponsored the resolution.
“What’s not being done is exactly what should be done already – we’re already paying for this in our taxes,” Phyllis Anderson, a resident of Park Avenue.
“If you park your car on the street, and a security guard could catch someone that break into your car, would you like that for a dollar a day?” asked Francisco Jimenez, owner of El Tropico.
Edward Paulino, director of the district, ran a presentation with slides showing the various improvements the district would make to the area. Paulino showed numbers, over $112,000 or bulk of the district’s budget would go towards extra security in the area. He said, the district would hire private guards that will keep an eye on the area. Off-duty police officers would also be patrolling the area.
Kenneth Morris, councilman at-large, the sole vote against establishing the district, said hiring off-duty officers would dry up the district’s budget. Paulino did not have an exact price the off-duty officers would be making, but it is estimated at about $60 per hour. The director said he was in conversation with the city’s police department to hammer out a rate, but no agreement has been reached yet.
Morris also wanted an opt-out provision for non-commercial properties, because he stated, for businesses the extra tax becomes part of doing business in the area, while residential home owners, who are not in business, cannot continuous fund the district’s increasing budgetary needs on their meager rental income. Paulino said if he puts in an opt-out option for property owners in the area it will create a free rider problem, where some benefit without paying their fair share.
Morris mentioned the coming tax squeeze for residents where the tax is likely to go up by $200 for most residents in the city. An increase that will place extra pressure on property owners.
Paulino had images of garbage scattered on the sidewalks of Market Street which he said would be a priority for the district. “We’re going to clean every street in this district. It’s going to be comprehensive maintenance program that includes, sidewalk cleaning, street and curb side cleaning,” said Paulino. “I’m one of the people paying for it,” said Jimenez, who has said he looks forward to having a beautified Park Avenue as a result of this special improvement district.
Tavarez pointed out that the opposition simply does not live in the area to understand the issues facing crime-ridden 16th Avenue, East 18th Street, and Summer Street. “We are under siege in that area, that is the worst area in the 5th Ward,” said Tavarez, who lives nearby on Pearl Street. “Help, help, help us! Because we’re drowning in this area.”
Tavarez verbally trounced on Morris, who lives in the affluent Hillcrest section of the city, saying, “It’s difficult for someone to tell us ‘here’s what you can do’ — I understand you’re councilman at-large and you represent everyone — I’m trying to tell you that’s where we live — I don’t live in the Near Eastside section, I don’t live in the Hillcrest or Eastside Park section.”
The resolution passed with five votes with only Morris voting against; Kenneth McDaniel, councilman at-large, Anthony Davis, 1st Ward councilman, and William McKoy, 3rd Ward councilman, were absent. Sandy Hill Special Improvement District is the 3rd improvement district in the city after the Bunker Hill Industrial Park Special Improvement District, and the Downtown Paterson Special Improvement District.
Correction: security spending was previously stated as $120,000, the correct amount is $112,000.