The effort to create a Business Improvement District along Third Avenue between Senator Street and Marine Avenue is moving ahead.
On Thursday, July 25, the Merchants of Third Avenue and the BID steering committee held a meeting at St. Mary’s Antiochian Orthodox Church, 81st Street and Ridge Boulevard, to bring community members up to date on the effort. Chairing the meeting was longtime Merchants President Robert Howe along with Co-Chair Sheila Brody of the Green Spa.
A BID is a critical component in the future vibrancy of the thoroughfare, speakers stressed.
“I think without a BID, Third Avenue is going to take a huge dive,” said Chip Cafiero, who has organized events such as the Third Avenue Festival for years. “I’ve been doing this for 42 years … I believe Third Avenue is going under if they don’t get the BID.”
Contending that Third Avenue was “one of the best commercial districts in New York City.” Howe said that in order to maintain that level of success, a BID was essential, because it would formalize many of the tasks that volunteers now do, with a paid staff to do the legwork.
Forming a BID would also eliminate the need for volunteers to go door-to-door to raise money for initiatives such as the annual holiday lighting, which would be covered by the annual assessments all businesses and property owners within the BID area would be required to pay.
“After 25 years, I can tell you how difficult it is to do that,” Howe said, citing nail salons, 99-cent stores, grocery stores, massage parlors and large companies like Verizon as never contributing a dime.
One of the reasons that the effort to form the BID began, said Howe, is that officers in the merchants group “realized that the work we were doing was far outstripping the number of people that we had doing the volunteer work,” said Howe. “Also coupled with that was a demand for us to do more.”
“A BID will only enhance the neighborhood. It will give us more visibility,” said Northfield Bank Manager and Vice President Brian Chin. “I know the BID on Third Avenue is looking to do a website which would allow us to market the various restaurants and the various businesses. It would help us compete and stay a strong and vibrant community.”
“I think a BID would make a big and positive difference,” agreed Patrick Gilbride, financial advisor at Edward Jones. “The Merchants is a purely voluntary endeavor. Anybody who wants to be involved can be involved, but with the BID, it’s going to be a switch to making sure everyone’s involved and making sure that everybody who has a stake, has a voice and has an impact on the future economic health of the neighborhood.”
Backers currently estimate that the mandatory annual assessment for those within the BID area would amount to $895 for businesses, while residents would pay $1, and religious institutions, nonprofits and government organizations would be exempt from paying anything, said Perch Advisors’ James Ellis, senior director of community and economic development, who has been helping the merchants in the multi-step process that’s required to become a BID.
The first phase of BID formation, planning, was completed in June, said Ellis, who said the steering committee was currently in the outreach phase, which will continue for three months. The third and final phase would ideally culminate in City Council approval of the BID by June 2020.
While there would be required annual assessments to pay, merchants would no longer pay merchant association dues of $175, plus $150 more to participate in the Summer Stroll, said Ellis, and merchants would no longer have to foot the bill for holiday lights, as all costs for them would be covered by the BID budget. The BID would also assume a leadership role in fairs and street festivals.
There would be an elected board of directors to lead the BID, which would in turn hire paid staff to make sure the operation runs smoothly, Ellis said
The proposed budget for the BID is $560,000, according to Ellis, who said it would cover, among other things, supplemental sanitation and public safety services; marketing, including special events and holiday lights; and beautification and streetscape enhancements, including street furniture and plantings, and repairs.
There are currently 76 BIDs within the five boroughs, including 23 in Brooklyn, according to Brody.