The Manhattan BIDs

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The Manhattan BIDs

Meet the organizations that are raising the bar for Manhattan’s neighborhoods.
October 7, 2019

This past weekend, “Joker” was released in theaters. The heavily hyped comic book film had received rave early reviews at overseas festivals, with many critics highlighting the movie’s overt homages to the early films of Martin Scorsese, in particular his 1976 New York City classic “Taxi Driver,” with its landscapes of urban neglect and squalor.

Though it makes for a fascinating film setting, that vision of New York City is very much a relic of the past. In those days, the idea of families watching movies on the grass in Bryant Park or waiting for their turn at the TKTS booth in Times Square would have been unimaginable.

The city’s transformation can arguably be credited to business improvement districts. In the early 1980s, some Manhattan businesses started to take matters into their own hands, setting up a new voluntary tax to clean up their neighborhoods and make them safer for customers.

The wild success of BIDs in Manhattan led to the creation of more districts throughout the five boroughs – but they still have the biggest impact in Manhattan. Last year alone, the borough’s BIDs poured a total $134.2 million into improving their areas.

Below, meet the organizations that are raising the bar for Manhattan’s neighborhoods.

 

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34th Street Partnership

Leader: Dan Biederman, President

Budget: $14.7 million

Key projects: Redesign of the public restroom in Greeley Square Park to make it safer, more efficient and easier to maintain. Activation of new pedestrian plazas on Broadway with programming, horticulture and furniture.

Founded: January 1992

A Q&A with Dan Biederman

What challenges are you currently facing in your district?

There are a large number of sidewalk sheds in our district, which obscure horticulture, make it difficult to do capital maintenance and are magnets for social disorder. Similar issues are posed by pay phones and LinkNYC units. We are currently working with several other midtown BIDs to have these sidewalk sheds, pay phones and LinkNYC units removed, as well as prevent any more from being installed in the future.

What accomplishments are you most proud of?

We introduced several new programs this summer, including a series of financial literacy seminars, Bhangra lessons and bubble blowing sessions. These join our already robust lineup of existing programs and engage a diverse group of people with wide-ranging interests. Several large leases were also signed in our district. The attractiveness of the 34th Street district to businesses is a testament to the good work we have done in recent years.

How has the focus of your organization evolved over the years?

When we first started the 34th Street Partnership, we focused on establishing a baseline of order and cleanliness through street sanitation and capital maintenance. Once that baseline was established, we also turned our attention to improving social dynamics in the district through programming, security and outreach.

Alliance for Downtown New York

Leader: Jessica Lappin, President

Budget: $23 million

Founded: January 1995

A Q&A with Jessica Lappin

What challenges are you currently facing in your district? What accomplishments are you most proud of?

Lower Manhattan’s recent growth is truly remarkable. Our residential population has soared past 60,000. We are finally back to pre-9/11 employment numbers. There are now more than 1,200 restaurants and shops in the area, 38 hotels and a record 14.6 million tourists visited last year. I think all New Yorkers take pride, as they should, in our recovery and renaissance. But that growth has created some pressure as new quality of life issues have emerged. Garbage is one of them. The residential population has tripled since 9/11. Simply put, more residents means more residential waste piled up on our narrow sidewalks. 

I’d also like to see more progress on the infrastructure front. After a decade, the city will finally break ground in 2020 to implement some of our long-standing streetscape proposals for the Water Street corridor. That’s fantastic news – now if we could only do the same in the area surrounding the New York Stock Exchange.

We’re also strongly advocating for resilience and climate crisis intervention. A few years back, we helped to secure upward of $100 million in funds to protect lower Manhattan. But there is much more work to be done, specifically on the East Side, where a sizeable workforce is thriving.

Are there any legislative and/or policy issues that you’re currently focused on?

We’ve been very vocal about the need to ban third-party ticket sellers in our district. At best, these aggressive ticket sellers overwhelm tourists and locals. At worst, they scam or assault them – and each other. Over the years, there have been incremental changes made to try and mitigate their impact. It’s time for them to go for good.

Bryant Park Corp.

Leader: Dan Biederman, President

Budget: $21.6 million

Key projects: Upgrade and reorganize the Parkhouse yard to maximize storage capacity and provide a better break area for employees; repair bluestone pavers on the Upper Terrace to eliminate trip hazards; enhance the lighting system on the Fifth Avenue Terrace to discourage negative uses overnight.

Founded: July 1986

A Q&A with Dan Biederman

What challenges are you currently facing in your district? What accomplishments are you most proud of?

In terms of our challenges, the increasing number of visitors to Bryant Park puts additional strain on our staff and infrastructure, requiring us to simultaneously dedicate additional resources and be more efficient in order to maintain high levels of service to the public.

For our accomplishments, the introduction of new programs such as capoeira, ribbon dancing, kung fu and weekend events for children. The use of an LED screen rather than a projector for movie nights, which allows for more flexible uses of the stage throughout the summer. We also redesigned the audio system for performances in Bryant Park, bringing it up to world-class standards that match the quality of our performers. During the winter, we continued to improve the offerings at the Winter Village, adding bumper cars, igloos, live music performances and a public broomball league. Because of these efforts, Bryant Park is now a year-round destination for tourists and locals alike.

How has the focus of your organization evolved over the years?

The initial goal of the Bryant Park Corp. was to reclaim Bryant Park from the crime and misuse that plagued it during the 1970s and 1980s. After establishing Bryant Park as a safe and inviting place for the public, our focus then turned to innovating our programming and operations to make Bryant Park one of the premier public spaces in the world.

Chinatown Partnership Local Development Corp.

Leaders: Wellington Z. Chen, Executive Director; Warren Chin, Chairman

Budget: $1.9 million

Key projects: ADA – Americans with Disabilities Act guidance and weekend walks; Asian heritage cultural celebration and preservation special events; Big Belly solar trash collection supplemental reduction program; business assistance, education, promotion and outreach; Community Land Trust community outreach and engagement; coastal and climate change future storm preparedness; cross collaborations with local associations, charities and nonprofits; data collection, review and tracking of this vast district; Doyers Street historic street activation with art, amenities and color; Earth Day e-waste, environmental recycling and education; Emergency Preparedness Risk Assessment Grant program; GoTenna – low frequency communication handout program; Happy Home Base stabilization program exploration through DRI; Hate Has No Business Here partnership and promotion of love; historical, cultural tours and other promotional events; reconnect with bypass counter measures due to security zones; Shared Street TGIF programs in defiance of terrorists’ threats; Smoke-free partnership and smoking cessation and reduction program; special district exploration in partnership with stakeholders and advisers; and training and volunteering opportunities for students, residents, seniors.

Founded: 2012

A Q&A with the Chinatown Partnership Local Development Corp.

What challenges are you currently facing in your district?

The historical ebb-and-flow pattern of immigrants coming and going, of families seeking better opportunities and looking for more viable options elsewhere; changing and shifting consumer patterns and live/work preferences; high operation costs and merchants’ difficulties in keeping up with demand.

What accomplishments are you most proud of?

Breaking through in finally forming a business improvement district and jump-starting an effort that had languished for 30 years, resulting in sending away millions of pounds of trash and garbage; successfully piloted and implemented the first city wayfinding system with the DOT for pedestrians; the introduction of many historical first initiatives of the community; the first business improvement district to initiate an ADA welcome event; first to support the ADA parade and every summer since; the first to bring dragon boats and many other joyful and fun initiatives into the community.

How has the focus of your organization evolved over the years?

The Chinatown Partnership grew out of the ashes of post-9/11 world as a catalytic task force to conduct a value demonstration campaign of supplemental cleaning with temporary promotions and it was able to create a stable business improvement district platform. Now, the focus needs to shift to finding solutions that have eluded the other prior groups with their previous attempts. The search for answers to this riddle remains critical.

Columbus Amsterdam Business Improvement District

Leader: Peter Arndtsen, District Manager

Budget: $479,550

Key projects: We produce events calendars and restaurant guides; provide free monthly walking tours and lectures about the rich history of the neighborhood; “Manhattan Valley Trees,” a project to increase the number of trees and tree wells in an effort to beautify the neighborhood and improve air quality; Bloomingdale Family Days, an annual street fair that encourages community engagement among residents and visitors and provides a space for community organizations and city agencies to talk with residents about relevant issues and outreach opportunities; and our street sweeping and horticultural team maintains our sanitary and healthy streets in the neighborhood.

Founded: July 1987

A Q&A with Peter Arndtsen

What challenges are you currently facing in your district? What accomplishments are you most proud of?

Current challenges our diverse and vibrant district faces include both the changing demographics of property owners who are often more corporate, not local, and difficult to engage, in addition to the influx of new resident groups. We’re most proud of the positive changes seen in our neighborhood and the increase of community involvement. Our sidewalks are clean, safe and have a high number of pedestrians. We’ve hired a number of unemployed neighborhood residents to our street sweeping and horticulture team who have gained work experience and are now employed elsewhere.

How has the focus of your organization evolved over the years?

In the past, the Columbus Amsterdam Business Improvement District was focused heavily on safety and security in the neighborhood. Projects included installing safety lights, painting over graffiti and cleaning the sidewalks, and although we still have similar initiatives, safety projects have required less focus.

Are there any legislative and/or policy issues that you’re currently focused on?

We have focused on encouraging the retail rezoning of our neighborhood, which emphasized the need for small spaces for small-business owners. We are concerned by property taxes, laws and regulations that have an outsized impact on small businesses. In addition, our business improvement district supports the need for good transportation policy, including dedicated bus lanes and regulated and protected bike lanes.

Columbus Avenue Business Improvement District

Leader: Nicole Paynter, Executive Director

Budget: $430,000

Key projects: Districtwide beautification and landscaping; Taste of the Upper West Side

Founded: January 2000

A Q&A with Nicole Paynter

What challenges are you currently facing in your district? What accomplishments are you most proud of?

Like many other districts, we are dealing with the changing face of retail as well as changing consumer demand. The businesses in our district are learning to adapt, and businesses that utilize new retail models are coming into the district as well. Additionally, our businesses are dealing with the rising cost of doing business and ever-growing regulatory hurdles.

The district is currently 95% leased and we have sustained this level or better for several years. We are able to sustain small individually owned retail and hospitality businesses as well as attract international brands. Our stores tend to have smaller footprints, well-sized for individual brands and mom and pop shops, and we are in the heart of a community that supports local retail.

How has the focus of your organization evolved over the years?

Over the past 20 years, the Columbus Avenue Business Improvement District has evolved in many ways. In the early years, after a major reconstruction project on Columbus Avenue caused a wave of vacancies, we focused on individual businesses to ensure their survival. Later, as a more mature organization and district, we were able to turn to bigger projects, such as placemaking and beautification efforts, and creating a large event to draw people to the district.

Are there any legislative and/or policy issues that you’re currently focused on?

In terms of policy issues, we are currently focused on the rising cost of doing business and ever-growing regulatory hurdles, street vending and ADA accessibility compliance within a historic landmark district.

East Midtown Partnership

Leader: Rob Byrnes, President

Budget: $3.5 million

Key projects: Beautification of our community has long been a major priority, and we are in the process of building on our previous efforts to make our community more attractive. We also plan to integrate planters to our streetscape by next spring as a pilot program which, if successful, would be expanded districtwide.

Founded: January 2002

A Q&A with Rob Byrnes

What challenges are you currently facing in your district? What accomplishments are you most proud of?

Our chief challenge today and our chief accomplishment over the past 17 years are actually complementary. This slice of Manhattan has transitioned dramatically since 2002. Back then, this was a heavily commercial district with little life after work hours. Today it’s become a much more diverse area, with many new residential buildings. Those changing demographics have, in turn, changed the retail mix, which today caters to both the district’s daytime business community and the off-hours community that increasingly lives and socializes in East Midtown. There was certainly nothing wrong with the old East Midtown, but today it’s much livelier, much more fun, with many more consumer options.

How has the focus of your organization evolved over the years?

When we opened our doors, our focus was very heavily on safety, cleanliness and homeless outreach, with the latter two tied to a social service component.

As the years passed, though, we sought out and found more ways to improve the district. We’ve been expanding our special events calendar to bring innovative, creative programming to the area.

Are there any legislative and/or policy issues that you’re currently focused on?

The East Midtown Partnership gets involved in more local issues. One example is congestion pricing, which will have a direct effect on us since the zone boundary runs through the BID. We believe it’s imperative that businesses and residents on or near East 60th Street be given consideration as the plan is finalized. We shouldn’t be penalized and experience a diminished quality of life based solely on our geographic location.

Fifth Avenue Business Improvement District

Leaders: Jerome Barth, President; Edward Hogan, Chairman

Budget: $6.4 million

Key projects: Renovation and reopening of Apple; renovation of Tiffany & Co.; renovation of the Crown Building; the creation of a parklet at the northeast corner of 53rd Street and Fifth Avenue

Incorporated as a BID: July 1993

A Q&A with Jerome Barth

What challenges are you currently facing in your district? What accomplishments are you most proud of?

Our most pressing challenge currently is the presence of unruly street vendors along Fifth Avenue.

Our proudest accomplishments are achieving the value and trust of our tenants. We have attracted and retained the industry leaders across multiple categories here on Fifth Avenue: Apple, Tiffany, Cartier, Gucci, Nike, Sephora, Louis Vuitton, just to name a few. And they are not just planting their flags here on Fifth – they are investing millions of dollars in their spaces because they know the value of Fifth is solid. In the hospitality space, we welcome Aman – whose first urban property will be here on Fifth – and soon you’ll see major investments from other major players as well.

How has the focus of your organization evolved over the years?

As consumers expect more of an immersive experience, we’re looking to deliver on those expectations. We’re striving beyond delivering just on safety and sanitation. We want to evoke emotion, personal sentiments with one eye harkening to the glamour of Fifth with the other firmly on the future. We’re investing in placemaking, activations and partnerships that integrate Fifth Avenue into the personal experiences of visitors and locals alike, whether through art, music, fashion or pop culture – we want them to feel no experience in New York is complete without Fifth Avenue.

Are there any legislative and/or policy issues that you’re currently focused on?

There are always many potential policy issues that are of interest. A potential overhaul of vending rules is one, a change in commercial waste carting rules is another.

Flatiron/23rd Street Partnership Business Improvement District

Leader: James Mettham, Executive Director

Budget: $3.8 million

Key projects: Flatiron public plazas redesign and place management; expanding the

boundaries of the business improvement district

Founded: January 2006

A Q&A with James Mettham

What accomplishments are you most proud of?

Since the establishment of the Flatiron/23rd Street Partnership in 2006, Flatiron has undergone a dramatic transformation into a safe, clean and desirable neighborhood sought out by a wide variety of businesses, industries and cultural institutions as well as residents, employees, tourists and local visitors.

What challenges are you currently facing in your district?

With Flatiron’s ongoing growth and vibrancy, the streets and sidewalks are often congested, creating challenges with pedestrian and cyclist safety and competition for the use of our district’s vital and limited public spaces. Another challenge in Flatiron – and neighborhoods across New York City – is achieving long-term solutions for individuals living without shelter. Since 2007, the Partnership has partnered with homeless services nonprofit Urban Pathways to offer ongoing assistance and critical services to individuals and families living without shelter.

How has the focus of your organization evolved over the years?

Upon its inception in 2006, the Flatiron/23rd Street Partnership’s primary focus was on litter and graffiti abatement and a general focus on cleanliness, social services and safety. From there, we have been able to not only maintain and grow the impact of that work, but also expand to focus on more robust quality of life enhancements, placemaking, district identity, and business support.

Are there any legislative and/or policy issues that you’re currently focused on?

The Flatiron/23rd Street Partnership is focused on outreach for a proposed BID expansion, a process that requires legislative authorization. The proposed expansion will bring our extensive services to a larger footprint that includes NoMad, the Sixth Avenue gateway to the district and 20th Street. We are seeking to expand the BID because there’s a greater need for broader districtwide promotions, advocacy, and public realm services and enhancements. We hope to enter the legislative phase by mid-2020.

Garment District Alliance

Leader: Barbara A. Blair, President

Budget: $10 million

Key projects: Community and public programming; streetscape beautification; sanitation and security; promotion and marketing of local businesses

Founded: October 1993

A Q&A with the Garment District Alliance

What accomplishments are you most proud of?

In December 2018, GDA supported a tremendous, historic feat for the Garment District neighborhood and New York City at large. The City Council voted to lift outdated zoning restrictions in the Garment District, which will unleash the neighborhood’s full economic potential. Additionally, in July 2019, the New York City Department of Transportation announced the city had dedicated $20 million in capital funds to convert two blocks of Broadway from temporary to permanent plazas. This will serve as the first designated open space in the history of the Garment District.

What challenges are you currently facing in your district?

As the Garment District continues to evolve and new tenants move to the neighborhood – including restaurants and bars – GDA is advocating for initiatives that address congestion, enhance the pedestrian experience and focus on facilitating mobility. Additionally, as homelessness continues to rise in New York City and across the U.S., GDA is focused on advocating for programs that aid individuals in need. Because of our central business district location, anchored by Penn Station, Port Authority and the Times Square subway hub, our pedestrian counts are tremendous. With all those people comes garbage. Managing the volume of garbage generated is a challenge.

How has the focus of your organization evolved over the years?

The Garment District has evolved from a single-use neighborhood to a multi-industry district over the years. Over the course of its evolution, GDA has shifted its focus from presenting narrowed programming to broader initiatives that encourage and foster a diverse, vibrant neighborhood.

Are there any legislative and/or policy issues that you’re currently focused on?

GDA is focused on policies that ensure the neighborhood’s streets are pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly. Advocating for a comprehensive review of what is on our streets from people to vendors, bikes, Links and phone booths, newsstands and all the various users claiming space requires a plan that starts from scratch and rationalizes how we allocate our shared spaces.

Grand Central Partnership

Leaders: Alfred C. Cerullo III, President and CEO; Peter S. Kalikow, Chairman

Budget: $13.6 million

Key projects: Public space: Pershing Square East/West, One Vanderbilt Plaza; development: One Vanderbilt, 270 Park, Grand Hyatt; infrastructure: Grand Central-42nd Street subway improvements, East Side Access

Founded: July 1988

A Q&A with Fred Cerullo

What challenges are you currently facing in your district? What accomplishments are you most proud of?

A specific challenge we face post-Midtown East rezoning is the identification and planning of new public spaces and amenities stemming from its enactment, and to ensure that we are prepared to address the needs and desires of the new population of tenants, employees and residents. In terms of accomplishments, we’ve completely recast the district’s streetscape, making it cleaner, more uniform in terms of streetscape elements, and much more attractive and well lit through our horticultural and lighting programs.

How has the focus of your organization evolved over the years?

From a tight focus on making the neighborhood clean, safe and beautified when we first began, GCP’s evolution has included leveraging advances in technology to create more sustainable infrastructure, such as the conversion of our streetscape lighting to LED. The newest chapter of our existence has found us providing public space management given the new focus on expanding public realm opportunities throughout Midtown East.

Are there any legislative and/or policy issues that you’re currently focused on?

GCP is focused on working closely with neighborhood stakeholders on the many new land use projects coming to our neighborhood, and on assisting property owners and businesses through that process. Additionally, we work very closely with our business improvement district counterparts on important legislative and policy issues, such as vending, homelessness, commercial carting and related regulations that are imposed on the business community.

Hudson Square Business Improvement District

Leader: Ellen Baer, President and CEO

Assessment: $3.2 million

Key projects: Transforming Hudson Street from Canal to West Houston streets into a redesigned boulevard with sidewalk extensions, a protected bicycle lane, sidewalk plantings and seating; planting more trees, helping further our commitment to environmental and health benefits; Hudson Square Canvas, a public art initiative featuring five large-scale street art pieces from contemporary artists

Founded: February 2009

A Q&A with Ellen Baer

What challenges are you currently facing in your district? What accomplishments are you most proud of?

Home to the Holland Tunnel and some of lower Manhattan’s most congested streets, the Hudson Square Business Improvement District’s mission is to ensure the comfort and safety of our neighborhood. In 2012, we launched a master plan known as Hudson Square is Now, a $27 million public-private partnership. We are proud to announce that years later, all projects from the master plan are either completed or in implementation. The master plan has vastly changed the neighborhood’s streetscape, allowing for the creation of expansive green spaces, environmental initiatives and overall street beautification.

How has the focus of your organization evolved over the years?

When the Hudson Square BID was launched 10 years ago, our primary focus was to create a thriving community in what was formerly Manhattan’s printing district. Inspired by the long-standing tradition of creativity in the neighborhood, the BID laid the groundwork for this transformation with the Hudson Square is Now streetscape master plan, which sought to bring the spirit of creativity from inside our office buildings out onto the neighborhood’s streets.

Are there any legislative and/or policy issues that you’re currently focused on?

Our ongoing commitment to pedestrian comfort and safety has manifested itself in advocating for new policies to reduce overall traffic congestion in lower Manhattan, particularly in our work to institute two-way tolling on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. On April 28, top city officials gave their full support on the issue, announcing federal legislation to reinstate two-way tolling on the Verrazano.

Hudson Yards Hell’s Kitchen Alliance

Leaders: Robert J. Benfatto, President; Kevin P. Singleton, Chairman

Budget: $3.2 million

Key projects: The Canoe public plaza on 36th Street between Ninth and Dyer avenues; the 37th Street pilot project to create a safer and more inviting experience between Ninth and 10th avenues.

Founded: 2013

A Q&A with Robert J. Benfatto

What challenges are you currently facing in your district? What accomplishments are you most proud of?

We are working with New York City and local nonprofit organizations to try and help many of the homeless who pass through Hell’s Kitchen. The construction debris and the heavy Lincoln Tunnel traffic create legitimate safety concerns for people who are sleeping in makeshift encampments. On a daily basis, our staff members reach out to homeless people in the community to encourage them to receive available social services. Local residents often complain about construction noise. The ongoing problem of construction is a good problem because our area is responding to commercial and residential growth. The construction is short term, but the development will benefit the community in the long term.

How has the focus of your organization evolved over the years?

When I first took over as president of Hudson Yards Hell’s Kitchen Alliance, my main concerns were where to find office space, establish human resources, obtain maintenance, landscaping and waste management services that the organization was obligated to provide, hire an entirely new staff, solidify park calendar maintenance and completion. Our responsibilities have grown to include numerous organizations and additional independent contractors whose work ensures that the Hell’s Kitchen and Hudson Yards community remains vibrant and well serviced.

Are there any legislative and/or policy issues that you’re currently focused on?

Hudson Yards Hell’s Kitchen Alliance does not often advocate for or against any legislation. However, as a member of the NYC BID Association, and its present co-chairman, I do work with other BIDs throughout all five boroughs on legislation related to vending, commercial rent control and other concerns shared by all BIDs.

Lincoln Square Business Improvement District

Leaders: Monica Blum, President; Gary Jacob, Chairman

Budget: $3.4 million

Key projects: Make Lincoln Square clean, safe, beautiful and fun; maintaining our extensive horticultural program; printing and distributing the official Lincoln Square map and guide, a restaurant guide called Where to Eat in Lincoln Square; Winter’s Eve at Lincoln Square

Founded: April 1997

A Q&A with Monica Blum

What challenges are you currently facing in your district?

Our public safety team and our clean team work together on many quality-of-life issues and, where appropriate, we report these to city agencies. Each summer, we deal with a fairly dramatic seasonal increase in the number of homeless sleeping overnight in our public parks and spaces. To address these conditions, we have formed a great working alliance with various social service providers and responsible city agencies. We also address illegal vending conditions, and report street conditions requiring attention to 311. Seasonally, we paint all street furniture, and throughout the year we remove graffiti and stickers.

How has the focus of your organization evolved over the years?

The neighborhood that comprises Lincoln Square has changed dramatically since our formation almost 25 years ago and has experienced tremendous growth with the addition of many residential buildings, more retail establishments and more pedestrian traffic. Despite these changes, Lincoln Square – anchored by the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts – is a thriving residential community with an incredible vibrancy and active street life and nightlife.

Are there any legislative and/or policy issues that you’re currently focused on?

The Lincoln Square BID, along with our colleagues at the NYC BID Association, consistently monitors issues of mutual concern, including proposed legislation that would increase the number of vendors without any siting requirements and expanded enforcement. With congestion pricing on the horizon, we will work closely with our city and state partners on implementation, since the boundary will undoubtedly have an impact on our district.

Lower East Side Partnership

Leaders: Tim Laughlin, President; Michael Forrest, Chairman

Budget: $1.85 million

Key projects: Opening of the new Essex Market and other elements of the Essex Crossing development; the installation of new public space amenities that have transformed underutilized areas; the 100 Gates Project, a mural art program that installs art on roll down security gates, improving streetscapes and deterring illegal graffiti.

Founded: January 1993

A Q&A with Tim Laughlin

What challenges are you currently facing in your district? What accomplishments are you most proud of?

While the Lower East Side remains a dynamic destination to work, live and shop, contextual constraints of the building stock have previously limited daytime uses, such as office space, that create foot traffic. Those conditions are rapidly changing and are the principal rationale for the organization’s steadfast advocacy that any development of the Seward Park Extension Urban Renewal Area include commercial office space.

How has the focus of your organization evolved over the years?

In recent years, our work has focused on improving overall quality of life, which we firmly believe sets the stage for continued economic growth and success for our local economy and the small merchants that call it home. Our work achieves this goal through public space improvement and maintenance, public programming that drives foot traffic and supports a diverse residential population.

Are there any legislative and/or policy issues that you’re currently focused on?

We seek to support and assist property owners, many of which own single buildings often passed down over multiple generations. The increasing burden of property taxes, sewer and water charges and an ever-changing regulatory environment continue to create unique conditions for the mom and pop property owners in our community. We also will continue to work closely with the Mayor’s Office of Nightlife and other city agencies to address the unique impacts associated with a robust and active nighttime economy. We will implement innovative approaches to mitigate quality-of-life concerns while supporting an important sector of our local economy.

Madison Avenue Business Improvement District

Leaders: Matthew Bauer, President; E. William Judson, Chairman

Budget: $2.4 million

Key projects: Wedding Weekend on Madison Avenue in partnership with The Bridal Council; Miracle on Madison Avenue in partnership with The Society of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center

Founded: April 1996

A Q&A with Matthew Bauer

What accomplishments are you most proud of?

As the luxury retail marketplace evolves and new venues for the purchase of these products continue to expand, Madison Avenue is reasserting its core strengths of loyal and local clients, expert retail sales talent and a physical environment that celebrates pedestrian scale and cutting-edge storefront and window design blended with historic architecture. These strengths are what compelled longtime Madison Avenue brands, such as Carolina Herrera, Giorgio Armani and Hermès to reinvest by either announcing or inaugurating new flagship stores within our district this year.

How has the focus of your organization evolved over the years?

The core public safety and sanitation services that our organization provides were the building blocks that built our reputation among our members, and which continue to play a critical role in making Madison Avenue a pleasant place to visit, live or work. As the organization has grown over the years, we have taken on a much larger role in the marketing and promotion of the district and its members.

Are there any legislative and/or policy issues that you’re currently focused on?

The Madison Avenue BID focuses on working with city elected officials and agencies to identify solutions to the many challenges facing our businesses. Most recently, the Department of Transportation has proposed to install bus shelters along the extremely narrow sidewalks of Madison Avenue. The placement of these bus shelters with illuminated advertising would negatively affect small businesses by blocking storefront visibility and limiting pedestrian movement. As a compromise, the BID has offered to financially support installing benches, providing relief for bus riders and pedestrians without placing more burden on our businesses.

Meatpacking Business Improvement District

Leader: Jeffrey LeFrancois, Executive Director

Revenue: $2.9 million

Key projects: The opening of new public plazas; capital improvements on 14th Street between Ninth and 10th avenues; planning for and expanding upon the Meatpacking District’s programming for 2020

Founded: 2015

A Q&A with Jeffrey LeFrancois

What challenges are you currently facing in your district?

I have held this position since February, and the biggest focus and challenge has been hammering to get all of the neighborhood’s capital construction completed. The entire neighborhood has been torn up for the past four years, and slowly but surely, we’re seeing it roar back to life now that the streets have reopened. With the streets and public spaces now easily accessible again, the focus will be on driving foot traffic, creating multipronged community programming and continuing to help businesses, property owners and residents improve their quality of life.

What accomplishments are you most proud of?

Not to dwell on construction, but the capital reconstruction project was a decade in the making, so to be a part of its completion is really exciting. After a lengthy design and review process, the BID worked with the city Transportation Department and the Design and Construction Department to move the project forward in the most effective and efficient manner possible while protecting the business and commercial interests of the neighborhood. This project overall marks another moment of transformation for the Meatpacking District. We are grateful to our businesses and residents for bearing with us through the lengthy, and often disruptive project. The Meatpacking District has arrived, again, and we’re just getting started.

NoHo Business Improvement District

Leaders: Cordelia Persen, Executive Director; Bradley Fishel, Chairman

Budget: $540,000

Key projects: Supplemental sanitation; neighborhood safety; business outreach; and district marketing

Founded: January 1997

A Q&A with Cordelia Persen

What challenges are you currently facing in your district? What accomplishments are you most proud of?

There has been a significant rise in vagrancy and drug-dealing on our streets. The BID has worked hard to build a network of eyes on the street, including building supers, engaged residents and property owners who work with us to inform the NYPD on daily activities. While it’s an ongoing problem, it’s good to have a coalition working to make our community stronger.

How has the focus of your organization evolved over the years?

NoHo has changed a lot since our founding. We now work a lot more on marketing and placemaking. This means connecting our businesses and building synergies. Also, the increased daily costs on our neighborhood businesses, including rapidly rising property taxes, mean our businesses need even more support. We do a lot of outreach and connect businesses to government resources and programs and to each other, so they can find ways to work together and support each other.

Are there any legislative and/or policy issues that you’re currently focused on?

NoHo and SoHo have been going through a community planning process to rethink the zoning and land use rules in the area. We have evolved from a manufacturing center to an active, high-profile work/life district. The community has been actively engaged in trying to come up with comprehensive solutions for issues around quality of life, housing and street-level retail.

SoHo Broadway Initiative

Leader: Mark Dicus, Executive Director

Budget: $990,000

Key projects: Expansion of the residential compost program; curb extension and planter installation; guidelines for retail events and product launches

Founded: 2013

A Q&A with Mark Dicus

What accomplishments are you most proud of?

The initiative was founded to keep SoHo Broadway clean and improve sidewalk congestion caused by illegal sidewalk use. Over the past five years, the initiative’s clean team has delivered on a cleaner Broadway each and every day. The difference from before we started and today is night and day. On sidewalk congestion, the initiative has mapped the district to show where vending is allowed and worked in partnership with the city to do education and enforcement on the rules for vending. We’ve seen the number of illegally located vendors drop by over 65% since we started our work.

How has the focus of your organization evolved over the years?

While the initiative’s focus on keeping SoHo Broadway clean will always be a focus, we’ve started to spend more time on bringing neighbors together and exploring how to provide more green space. We get frequent complaints about how there are so few places for neighbors and work colleagues to meet up for lunch or after work. The initiative has started to explore ways to bring neighbors together in fun and casual ways, through neighborhood events like happy hours or game nights.

Are there any legislative and/or policy issues that you’re currently focused on?

We are keeping a close eye on proposed vending legislation, which we strongly oppose, and the commercial waste zone collection legislation. We support the New York City Department of Sanitation’s proposal. We are eagerly awaiting the release of the report from the Envision SoHo/NoHo community engagement process, which will likely include a number of recommendations on how to improve the SoHo/NoHo neighborhoods, including possible zoning changes.

Times Square Alliance

Leader: Tim Tompkins

Budget: $23.2 million

Key projects: Times Square Arts, our burgeoning public art program; plaza programming featuring Broadway Buskers and Jazz at Lincoln Center; the Valentine Heart Design Competition, Times Square Design Lab and the NYC Design Pavilion; and the curation of our food kiosks by UrbanSpace

Founded: January 1992

A Q&A with Tim Tompkins

What accomplishments are you most proud of?

Progressively improving the public space experience in Times Square. First, we spearheaded the building of the TKTS booth and the Red Steps, setting a new design standard for Times Square. Then, understanding that our public space challenge was no longer about getting through Times Square without getting mugged, but just getting through Times Square, we partnered with the city to create 98% more space for pedestrians by creating the Broadway plazas. Since then, in small steps, we’ve worked to use those spaces to celebrate the city’s unique cultures and communities.

How has the focus of your organization evolved over the years?

“Clean, safe and friendly” were the three most important words during our first decade of work. Many partnerships brought great progress in the face of enormous challenges. Every sign of progress was celebrated and amplified in the face of enormous skepticism that anything could ever change. Our success brought newly congested sidewalks and streets, and suddenly “clean and safe” wasn’t enough for a world-famous public space. A second decade created new expectations for the public realm. The Alliance’s third decade will reflect ever-higher aspirations: that Times Square represents the best of New York through world-class design, first-rate public space management and unique urban arts and programming.

Union Square Partnership

Leaders: Jennifer Falk, Executive Director; Lynne Brown, Co-chairwoman and President; William Abramson, Co-chairman

Budget: $4 million

Key projects: Advocacy; streetscape beautification and capital improvements; community and public programming; marketing and promotion of the district

Founded: July 1984

A Q&A with Jennifer Falk

What challenges are you currently facing in your district? What accomplishments are you most proud of?

The Union Square Partnership ensures the Union Square-14th Street district’s continued growth and success by overseeing a wide range of programs, including business development, park beautification, public safety and sanitation, and marketing and events. I am most proud that during my tenure USP completed its largest capital project to date, the $20 million North End Project, which tripled the park’s play space and rehabilitated the historic pavilion for use by a seasonal restaurant concession, the widely popular, Bocce Union Square.

How has the focus of your organization evolved over the years?

The Union Square Partnership was founded back during the city’s fiscal crisis. Back then it was all about the “clean and safe” programs that are still the foundation of our work today. But organizations like USP are doing so much more for their communities these days – whether it’s making capital investments to improve the overall physical environment, like our public plazas and park seating areas, or activating our spaces with events like our public art program.

Are there any legislative and/or policy issues that you’re currently focused on?

Like most of our sister organizations, we are very focused on vending and the impact that having too many vendors can have on a thriving 24/7 residential and commercial district. Some vendors is always a good thing – it adds life and activity to our bustling sidewalks. But too many causes a multitude of problems, so we’re always advocating on behalf of our districts for balance.

Visit the Hudson Square Canvas. Experience street art along Varick Street in Hudson Square. Plan your visit #hudsonsquarecanvas

Village Alliance Business Improvement District

Leaders: William Kelley, Executive Director; Martin Dresner, President

Budget: $1.6 million

Key projects: Astor Place plazas, Village Access app

Founded: 1993

A Q&A with the Village Alliance

What challenges are you currently facing in your district?

An uptick in homelessness and public intoxication, and higher vacancy rates than in previous years.

What accomplishments are you most proud of?

Astor Place renovation and clean and friendly streets.

How has the focus of your organization evolved over the years?

From basic “clean, safe and beautiful” toward neighborhood promotion and public space activation.

125th Street Business Improvement District

Leader: Barbara Askins, President and CEO

Assessment: $1 million

Key projects: Clean Campaign Initiative; Harlem Happenings App

Founded: January 1994

Responses: Declined to answer

47th Street Business Improvement District

Leader: Michael Grumet, Executive Director

Assessment: $900,000

Key projects: Installation and maintenance of 19 distinctively designed street lights and four corner diamond shaped pylons; the sanitation program keeps the district free of excess debris; the installation of flowers, holiday decorations and banners that greet consumers entering the Diamond District; the development of a website that provides shoppers with information on purchasing jewelry and gives merchant referrals; a strong relationship with the NYPD which increases security in the Diamond District.

Founded: July 1997

Responses: Declined to answer

Washington Heights Business Improvement District

Leader: Isidro Medina, Executive Director

Assessment: $517,422

Key project: Uptown Restaurant Week

Founded: July 1986

Responses: Declined to answer

 

Clarification: The Fifth Avenue Association has existed since 1907, but was incorporated as a BID in 1993.

City & State
20191023