The Merchants of Third Avenue organization is exploring the possibility of asking the city for permission to form a Business Improvement District (BID) to raise money to fund various street fairs and community improvement projects it plans to sponsor in the coming years.
Merchants President Bob Howe said the group is still in the nascent stages of the BID effort, but that enthusiasm is running high.
“We are conducting a preliminary exploration. But the merchants and the property owners we have talked to so far have been very enthusiastic,” Howe said.
A BID would bring in a steady flow of money that would allow the Merchants to pay for its ambitious projects, Howe said.
The group has traditionally relied on membership dues and a small group of volunteers to fund and organize street fairs like the Third Avenue Festival and Summer Stroll on Third. But those events have grown in size and scope to the point where they are getting hard to handle, according to Howe, a lawyer.
“Summer Stroll in particular is getting more complicated in terms of city paperwork. We need people with experience to run it, not just volunteers. And we also want to do more promotional events on Third Avenue. Right now, we can’t do more than we’re doing,” he said.
A BID is a public-private partnership that operates under the auspices of the city’s Department of Small Business Services (SBS). There are 75 BIDs in New York City, 23 of them in Brooklyn.
A BID is funded by property owners within a specific geographic area who agree to pay a special assessment. The city collects the assessment but returns the funds to the BID. The BID’s stakeholders decide how to spent the money. Most BIDS use the funds to pay for supplemental sanitation services, private security guards, decorative holiday lighting, sales promotions for stores and special events like street fairs. Each BID has a board of directors oversee operations and a district manager to run the day-to-day affairs.
The BID’s annual budget and the amount each property owner pays into the BID are decided by the BID when it is established. The average assessment is $1,000 a year.
There is an 11-step process involved in establishing a BID, including public meetings and City Council legislation. One of the first steps is to contact SBS to notify the agency officially of the desire to form a BID. “We’ve really not at the first step yet. We plan to contact SBS next month,” Howe said.
If it eventually wins the city’s approval, the Bay Ridge Third Avenue BID would be one of Brooklyn’s largest in terms of territory, spanning 31 blocks.
Howe and the Merchants are eyeing a BID that would start at 67th Street and end at Marine Avenue.
The Third Avenue BID would be Bay Ridge’s third. The 86th Street Bay Ridge BID, which was established in 2001, runs along 86th Street from Fourth Avenue to Fort Hamilton Parkway and has an annual budget of $290,000. The Bay Ridge Fifth Avenue BID, running from 65th Street to 85th Street, was established in 2006 and operates with a budget of $427,000.
“We’re lucky here in Bay Ridge. We have two BIDS to serve as examples for us,” Howe said.
State Senator Marty Golden strongly supports a BID for Third Avenue, according to Deputy Chief of Staff John Quaglione.
“Throughout our neighborhood and our city, the positive impact of BIDs on our commercial strips can be seen, and one on Third Avenue will thrive and make our stores and restaurants stronger and more viable,” Quaglione said.