RACA Voices Renewed Opposition to BID Expansion

Tania Mattos of RACA, speaking on Terrace 7. (Photo by Javier Castaño, via Queens Latino)

Tania Mattos of RACA, speaking at Terraza 7. (Photo by Javier Castaño via Queens Latino)

More than 80 people gathered at Terraza 7 to watch the documentary “The Vanishing City” about the forward movement of big corporations and the displacement of small businesses owners in New York City. The event was organized by RACA (Roosevelt Avenue Community Alliance) whose goal is to halt the expansion of the BID (Business Improvement District) around 82nd Street and Roosevelt Avenue, which is being promoted by city council member Julissa Ferreras.

“The BID expansion doesn’t mean anything except the decline of small businesses on Roosevelt Avenue and the arrival of large chain stores and corporations,” said Arturo Ignacio Sánchez, PhD, a professor and member of Community Board 3. Sánchez spoke after the documentary was shown.

Rafael Samanez, representing street vendors and a member of RACA, also criticized the BID expansion.

“We can’t stand aside and do nothing when we are being displaced like this,” he said.

The BID expansion is being driven by city council member Julissa Ferreras and Seth Taylor, executive director of the 82nd Street Partnership. Both were lambasted at the meeting at Terraza 7, owned by Freddy Castiblanco, who is also a founding member of RACA. The Roosevelt Avenue BID originally stretched from 81st to 108th Streets, but has been shortened to 104th Street at Corona Plaza.

Tania Mattos took the microphone and attacked the BID expansion because she believes it goes against immigrant businesses.

“We have to keep organizing ourselves and fight to put an end to this plan. The wellbeing of our families is at stake,” said Mattos, a member of RACA.

For more information on RACA, call (347) 678-6122, write to info@RooseveltAvenue.org, or visit the website at rooseveltavenue.org.

In the documentary “The Vanishing City” one clearly sees the disappearance of small businesses and family-owned companies to make way for the skyscrapers of expensive apartments and large corporate department stores. The director, Fiore DeRosa, was present during the screening and answered the audience’s questions.

The disappearance of auto body shops in Willets Point and the development of the tennis stadium in Flushing Meadows Park are part of this corporate strategy propelled by former mayor Bloomberg.

Many of the meetings to create the Roosevelt Avenue BID have occurred behind closed doors, just like the return of the Roosevelt Avenue Task Force, a police program from the 90s to reduce crime along the thoroughfare. Information on the BID has also been manipulated, and there have been Town Hall Meetings with the community, which are little more than public relations events in support of the plan.

Professor Arturo Ignacio Sanchez speaking the IDB. (Photo Javier Castaño, via Queens Latino)

Professor Arturo Ignacio Sanchez speaking about the BID. (Photo Javier Castaño via Queens Latino)

RACA’s aim is for the area around Roosevelt Avenue to be revived from the viewpoint of education, society, infrastructure, and small businesses, without displacing the local, family-owned enterprises that have been there for years paying outrageously high rent. The BID would raise the price of everything and take away thousands of Latino families’ livelihoods. The city should protect and develop Roosevelt Avenue without needing to charge more taxes or fees.

Professor John Arena, Ph.D., stood up after the screening and said that he is worried how  “some politicians such as council member Ferreras and nonprofit organizations like Make the Road New York are supporting a BID that goes against the immigrant community.”

Eduardo Giraldo, a business owner and member of RACA, added: “This is an area of immigrant businesses and the BID is going to wipe them out.”

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