Business owners, residents, and community leaders came out this morning to gather information on the proposed 7th Avenue BID and show support for the district’s improvement.
So what exactly is a BID? Mark Caserta, BID consultant, explained.
The BID is a public and private partnership in which property owners, merchants, and residents elect to assess themselves. The city collects the money and gives two lump sums to the organization each year, and the organization decides together how to spend it. Unlike in the less formal merchants’ association, everyone pays and everyone benefits. The 7th Avenue BID would cover from St. John’s to 16th Street, continuing onto contiguous properties.
The group has spent over a year in the planning phase, in that time conducting a needs assessment survey. Of the 653 responses, the most prevalent concern was sidewalk litter, followed by greenery and beautification, nighttime security, and events and festivals.
Based on these responses, the group has devised a proposed budget of $300,000 which would be divided among sanitation and maintenance, some form of security (Mark mentioned the possibility of private patrols or discounts on security cameras), planting trees, marketing and events (like the recently released All About Fifth guide), and economic development. Part of that budget would also go to hiring an executive director.
Financial contributions for commercial properties would be based on square footage as well as storefront linear feet, with a minimum yearly payment of $700. Residents are required to pay only $1 a year, and non-profits or government buildings are exempt.
New York City Councilmember Brad Lander showed strong support for the BID, expressing sympathy for the frustration of feeling like tax dollars aren’t doing enough especially in regards to things “that seem pretty basic” like sanitation and security.
“I get that it is frustrating and really hard,” he admitted, continuing, “but I think this is a great opportunity, and it starts in that frustrating place. I remain very positive, because I think the opportunity here is– for a relatively modest additional amount– to have a whole lot of control over the things that, I hear from people, are most important. And that is pretty rare in government.”
He even offered support of his office and the possible use of city capital:
“If it does get created, I think there may be some opportunities to work together around streetscape improvements, and other places we can find to bring some public resources to the table.”
Michael Cairl, president of the Park Slope Civic Council, expressed support of the plan:
“The Park Slope Civic Council is extremely interested in the betterment of business life in our community and that is why we’re 100% behind the establishment of a 7th Avenue BID, and why we have extended significant resources and time to ensure that that happens.”
Cairl pointed to the “visible difference” BIDs have made on Fifth Avenue and North Flatbush in cleanliness, marketing, and fostering community involvement, and insisted that Seventh Avenue deserves the same.
“Why should 7th avenue be left out? Seventh Avenue is historically the main commercial spine in Park Slope and it would be very sad if it was left to just become less desirable in comparison to other commercial strips in the neighborhood. It’s time to step up.”
Attendees were enthusiastic to do so.
Avi Kravitz and Courtney Ebner, owners of Norman & Jules, expressed frustration with the amount of trash at the bus stop in front of their store. Courtney also suggested installing bike racks, and Avi remarked, “I would love a tree!”
Lyn Hill, Vice President of Communications and External Affairs at NY Methodist Hospital— the single biggest contributor– said that the hospital “is happy to do it, because it’s great for the avenue and great for the neighborhood.”
Mitch Szpicek, owner of Little Things Toy Store and Vice President of the Park Slope Chamber of Commerce, cited an NYU study showing that commercial property value increases by 15% in commercial districts with a BID. But it isn’t just the numbers:
“The BID is important not just because it will increase property value, but because it will revitalize 7th Avenue. It will improve the quality of life.”
The proposed BID needs support from over 50% of the residents and property owners. To help the cause get to the next stage, fill out the statement of support and tell your neighbors to do the same. For more information, check out their website, or stop in at the next informational meeting at Greenwood Baptist Church (461 6th Street at 7th Avenue) on Tuesday, March 5, at 7:00 p.m.