The Merchants of Third Avenue, a group representing store owners on the avenue between 67th and 95th streets, is taking initial exploratory steps toward forming a Business Improvement District (BID), an effort that will be enhanced by a $36,000 check presented to them by City Councilmember Justin Brannan.
The Merchants and its president Robert Howe announced the formation of a steering committee made up of business owners and property owners to guide and inform the BID formation effort on Tues., Oct. 9.
Among the 18 selected committee members attending the meeting were Howe and co-chair Sheila Brody of the Green Spa Wellness Center, community leader Patrick Condren, community organizer Chip Cafiero, Northfield Bank Manager and Vice-President Brian Chin and business and property owner Daniel Texeira.
Brannan and the Merchants are partnering with Perch Advisors consulting firm to work on the development of the BID along the Third Avenue commercial corridor.
Brannan formally presented the award before 50 members and guests at Greenhouse Café at the Oct. 9 event, where the preliminary Steering Committee for the BID formation effort was introduced.
Howe said that he was excited to take the first step forward to see if Third Avenue was right for a BID. “We believe it is and we hope the community will believe it is,” Howe said. He explained that it was a democratic process and that everyone would have a say in what they want and what they don’t want in a BID.
Howe said that despite the success the Merchants have had on Third Avenue, there is still more that can be done and the formation of a BID would allow for that. He called Third Avenue one of the borough’s preeminent corridors and said that it must be maintained as such.
“That’s not going to happen by not doing anything,” he said. “That’s going to happen by us investing our time and our money to keep this avenue and this community great.”
Howe said that while a BID is known throughout the city as a business improvement district, he preferred to think of it as a business investment district “where we’re committed to investing in our own community so we can keep it good and make it great.”
Perch Advisors’ James Ellis, senior director community and economic development, was introduced as helping the Merchants in the multi-step process that’s required to become a BID.
Ellis explained specifically what a BID is and what it can do. “It’s a public-private partnership in which property and business owners elect to make a collective contribution to the maintenance, development and promotion of their community,” he said. “Each BID is run by a not-for-profit organization with a board of directors made up of elected members of the community representing property owners, business operators and tenants along the corridor’s residential spaces.”
Services provided by a BID — including sanitation, promotion, beautification and security — supplement city-provided services.
Brannan called it a historic moment. “The BID could be around 60 years from now but we’re all on the ground floor,” he said. “It’s a testament to what Bob and the Merchants have done that many people think we already have a BID here on Third Avenue.”
Brannan added that a BID would put the power in the hands of the property owners and the business owners to decide what they want Third Avenue to look like.
Howe thanked Brannan and said that without his support “we would not be here tonight. He really gets it because his family has a small business on the avenue.”
Ellis said the process of forming a BID was an 11-step program that would culminate with the creation of ballots by June and a vote that would require 51 percent approval in order to proceed. The effort would then have to get the back of the borough president and the Department of City Planning and ultimately be signed into law by the mayor..
A heated moment occurred when a Third Avenue property owner and member of the Fifth Avenue BID voiced his dissatisfaction with the Fifth Avenue BID, citing high membership costs and receiving little in return. He strongly opposed the formation of a BID on Third Avenue. Otherwise, all attendees appeared to support the concept of a Third Avenue BID.
Longtime Third Avenue Merchants member Chuck Otey contended that a BID would be the best thing to happen on Third Avenue in years. “I see it as a big plus for everybody – business owners, tenants, customers – including the people who live in houses around the corner because they’re all going to be impacted in a very positive way,” Otey said.
Alan Lynch, who co-owns the Kettle Black, Ho’ Brah and Tuscany Grill echoed Otey’s sentiments.
“Having been born and raised in Bay Ridge and living here for 35 years makes me want to see the community continue to grow,” he told this paper. “This BID is going to be good for this avenue. I really love Bay Ridge and I want to see this neighborhood continue to succeed. I’m really excited about it.”
There are currently 75 BIDs in New York City. They operate under the auspices of the city’s Department of Small Business Services.
ebrooklyn media/Photo by Jaime DeJesus