Special Improvement District Abolished By Council

Amid criticism regarding the decision from certain members of the Special Improvement District (SID) Board, its District Management Corporation, and even Mayor Joseph Accardi, the governing body – by a vote of four (4) ‘yes’ votes and one (1) abstention – abolished the current SID program.

Officially created in 2005, the SID is the intersection of Westfield Avenue and Chestnut Street from Walnut Street to Locust Street. A 3% additional tax – or assessment – was imposed on property owners in the T-District, as it is commonly known, in order to pay for programs and initiatives.

It had been stated by some members of council and even the mayor  that the SID was inactive until 2012, but public documents show that a Board of Trustees was sworn in back in 2007 and meetings were held as far back as 2008. In the records, it was revealed that six years ago, the Roselle Park SID met with representatives from Cranford’s SID to discuss creating design standards, establishing marketing approaches, developing ways to invite businesses to Roselle Park, addressing vacant properties by perhaps listing them on the Roselle Park web site, and having a liaison for businesses. None of those ideas were acted on until two years ago.

Statements in support of the SID during the October 16th Mayor & Council meeting were voiced by two SID Board members – President Michael Pasqua from Hercky-Pasqua-Herman Advertising and Vice President Scott Stanford from Briton-Selg-Stanford Agency; each asking council to allow SID more time.

“To be sure, any SID is a slow-building process. There are no magic wands going to turn a downtown into Disneyland overnight,” stated Mr. Pasqua, but in the very next sentence, he explained the very problem that sealed the SID’s fate, “It’s hampered even further when you have a largely apathetic business community that isn’t interested in attending meetings, offering suggestions, or working with us to achieve a common objective.”

But besides them, there were no other voices from business owners at the meeting speaking in support of having the SID continue. In fact, there was one owner of an apartment complex on Chestnut Street, Orlando Aiello, who called the SID ‘legal organized crime’. Mr. Aiello stated that for the money being paid, very little was being delivered by way of tangible productive results for businesses or the downtown.

“Mr. Mayor, the town can do better than this kind of organization. Please, shut off this [SID] system . . . because only a few people make money,” Mr. Aiello said. He closed by stating that businesses have to do things to improve the downtown voluntarily, not because they were forced to do them.

The vote to abolish the SID was tabled until after the general election. When the matter was brought up for discussion at the November 6th Mayor & Council meeting, the only objection to abolishing the SID came from Mayor Joseph Accardi, who co-owns a business on Chestnut Street, Art & Soul Galleries, with his wife. That business received grant money from the SID to improve its facade. Mayor Accardi asked that council have some alternative to the SID in order to address issues with the downtown.

Councilwoman Storey abstained, citing that she received information from SID Management that presented more information but that it was sent to her the day of the vote. She abstained as a way of acknowledging their efforts.

No mention was made of how and when monies already collected for this year would be distributed to businesses.