Board members and business owners appear to be organizing a protest to the city’s plans to consolidate operations of the Bayonne Town Center Management Corporation (BTC) to relocate its management to the Urban Enterprise Office in City Hall.
The City Council introduced an ordinance at its March 14 meeting that would eliminate the Town Center Management Corporation as it is currently comprised and put its operations under the umbrella of the Urban Enterprise Zone (UEZ).
BTC is a Special Improvement District (SID) that was established in the 1990s to cover properties in an area from 17th to 30th streets, and was designed to help revive aging commercial districts devastated by the loss of customers to shopping malls throughout the state. An SID raises funds through special assessments on property owners, which finance improvements to the district, provide for promotions to bring customers into the area, and offer other benefits like street and sidewalk cleaning operations and other projects that promote economic development.
City Business Administrator Steve Gallo said the purpose of the ordinance was to reduce overhead connected with the SID – which includes salaries and rent for the BTC office on East 22nd Street – and to run operations from an office in City Hall.
If approved, the funds from SID assessments would be administered by the UEZ office instead, making more funds available for the programs.
By putting the BTC operations under UEZ Coordinator Terrence Malloy, the City Council does away with some of the overhead in the Town Center’s $290,000 annual budget.
“Bayonne will be the only city/town to have a municipal community instead of a business community manage a Special Improvement District.” – Mary Divock
Quoting state statute, Divock said, “State statue states there must be a District Management Corporation (DMC) to administer these funds. The city has created a new ordinance that will change this DMC from BTC to the UEZ. The BTC [board] can continue to exist, but all the decisions pertaining to the SID funds will be enacted through the UEZ.” Divock maintains this will be improper under the law.
The City Council must approve the budget for the BTC under the new plan, but the BTC board, under the UEZ umbrella, decides how the money gets spent, a potential source of gridlock.
State statute says that decisions for how to allocate the money must be made by the board, which is made up of seven or more people, a majority of which must be owners or occupants of properties connected to the shopping district or their designees.
This board can plan for the operation, construction, or maintenance of the business district.
“The current BTC improves and maintains the district,” Divock said. “The BTC was currently researching pencil cameras for security purposes and new LED lamp post heads, which would shine down on our pedestrian sidewalks.”
Divock said the BTC also publicizes the district by creating promotions and events to bring customers to the district. As a 501-C non-profit, the BTC applied for grants to refurbish and enhance businesses, such as brand new facades at Herbert’s, Carvel, Verizon, and K&D Jewelry and Gifts. The BTC collaborates with property owners and retail brokers to fill vacant stores, which is very difficult during these challenging economic times and with the new Bayonne Crossing mall nearby. The property owners/merchants also have a “go to office” when there are problems within the district, such as which occurred with the parking meter stations.
The fate of all these functions isn’t clear under the new consolidation.
“Currently on the BTC Board of Trustees, there are two merchants, five property owners/business owners, and one bank,” she said. “They are on the board because they have a vested interest and care about Broadway. As the ordinance stands now, there are no requirements for the Board of Trustees. Steve Gallo states the UEZ has nine board members, and they plan to add two members who will be merchants. This means nine people with no connections to Broadway will decide on how the SID funds will be dispersed. Bayonne will be the only city/town to have a municipal community instead of a business community manage a Special Improvement District.”
Divock and others who support the existing TCMC hope to bring people to the April 18 City Council meeting to raise concerns about the change, and to possibly get the city to reverse its decision.