The Bay Ridge Fifth Avenue Business Improvement District has won a grant from the city’s Department of Small Business Services to continue its mission of revitalizing the strip which is largely composed of mom-and-pop stores.
SBS Commissioner Gregg Bishop announced on Thursday, April 25 that the BID was one of four community-based development organizations around the city to be awarded grants under the agency’s Avenue NYC initiative, a program designed to boost commercial areas in the five boroughs.
“We’re thrilled!” BID Executive Director Amanda Zenteno told this newspaper shortly after the grants were announced.
Basil Capetanakis, a member of the BID’s board of directors, said the board is pleased to win backing from the city. “Of course, we’re all excited. It’s a great thing,” he said.
The BID will receive $100,000 a year for up to three years. The BID, a public-private partnership of business and civic leaders, represents property owners, store owners and residents along the Fifth Avenue commercial corridor from 65th Street to 85th Street. There are 359 storefronts located within the BID’s catchment area. Each of the city’s business improvement districts was created through City Council legislation and operates under the jurisdiction of SBS.
The Avenue NYC grant money will be used to fund two separate programs, according to Zenteno, who said the first thing the BID will do is conduct a comprehensive study, called a commercial district needs assessment, of commercial areas of Bay Ridge. “It gives you a picture of what the needs are. It can also help you identify retail opportunities,” she said.
The study will encompass all of the commercial areas in the neighborhood, not just Fifth Avenue.
After the district needs assessment is complete, the BID will then decide what comes next.
The funds could be spent on merchant engagement programs, street enhancements or other special programs. But the second part of the grant will pertain only to Fifth Avenue. “We will get to decide what to move forward on,” Zenteno said.
The Avenue NYC grants are meant to strengthen organizations’ capacity to carry out tailored, multi-year commercial revitalization programs in low and moderate-income communities, according to SBS.
“As New Yorkers, we take great pride in our neighborhoods, which is why the city is committed to empowering community-based organizations to strengthen and preserve their neighborhoods. This year, Avenue NYC is awarding four more neighborhoods the funding and support they need to build vibrant communities,” Bishop said in a statement.
In addition to the Bay Ridge Fifth Avenue BID, the grant recipients are:
- Lower East Side Partnership, East Village, Manhattan
- Queens Economic Development Corporation, Richmond Hill, Queens
- Sunnyside Shines BID, Sunnyside, Queens
Nine community-based organizations were awarded nearly $1 million in Avenue NYC grants in 2018. These groups have already used the funding to conduct merchant and consumer surveys to complete their commercial district needs assessments.
The 2018 grant recipients were:
- Chhaya Community Development Corporation, Jackson Heights, Queens
- Community League of the Heights, Washington Heights, Manhattan
- Flatbush Development Corporation, Flatbush, Brooklyn
- Greater Hunts Point Economic Development Corporation, Hunts Point, Bronx
- Harlem Park to Park Initiative, Harlem, Manhattan
- Jamaica Center Improvement Association, Jamaica, Queens
- Mosholu Preservation Corporation, Norwood, Bronx
- Pitkin Avenue Business Improvement District, Brownsville, Brooklyn
- Rockaway Business Alliance, Rockaways, Queens
Avenue NYC is funded through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Program.
In addition to the Avenue NYC grant, the BID recently received a 360 Fellowship grant from SBS that will enable the group to bring in a representative to engage with merchants. “He will be out on the avenue talking to merchants every day,” Zenteno said.