BAY RIDGE — The Bay Ridge Fifth Avenue Business Improvement District is putting a $300,000 federal grant to good use, according to leaders.
Earlier this year, the BID was awarded an Avenue NYC grant from the New York City Department of Small Business Services to work on ways to improve the busy shopping area. The grant is funded through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Community Development Block Grant program.
As a first step, the BID is busy conducting a comprehensive study of all of the shopping areas of Bay Ridge, including Fifth Avenue, Third Avenue and 86th Street, to determine the needs of merchants and property owners.
The BID hired a project manager, Michael Devigne, to help oversee the study and meet with store owners to discuss issues of concern. “He has been out there doing a survey,” BID Executive Director Amanda Zenteno said.
Devigne has also started engaging with the larger community. He recently spoke at a Community Board 10 meeting.
The study, called a Commercial District Needs Assessment, is a unique opportunity to get an in-depth view of Bay Ridge’s shopping areas, according to Zenteno.
“Bay Ridge is bigger than just Fifth Avenue. You just need a larger picture,” Zenteno told the Home Reporter.
“There is not a lot of data on Bay Ridge,” Zenteno said, adding that the CDNA will likely yield a great deal of information.
“It’s going to help us in the future,” Zenteno added.
In addition to the focus on commercial areas, the CDNA will also allow the BID to look at the needs of residents.
“There is also a consumer-residential component of the study,” Zenteno said. The consumer survey will ask questions like, “Where do you shop?”
The CDNA is actually divided up into different components. One part is a storefront survey in which the BID will look at the condition of storefronts. There will also be a streetscape survey. “It looks at the whole block. Is it safe, clean? Are there benches there?” Zenteno said. The streetscape survey will also look at whether the block has graffiti.
And there will be a merchant survey. A mailing list has already gone out to property owners. The BID is also conducting an outreach to local elected officials.
The Bay Ridge Fifth Avenue BID, which was established in 2007, represents hundreds of property owners, merchants and residents on Fifth Avenue from 65th Street to 85th Street. Its annual operating budget is $427,000.
The BID area contains 369 storefronts. But Zenteno said that figure does not include stores that might be located on the second floor of a building.
BIDs are public-private partnerships that enable property owners to pay for improvements to a commercial area. The BID’s operating funds are generated through an assessment on property taxes paid by property owners. That money is pooled and used by the BID for projects its Board of Directors approves, including holiday lights, supplemental sanitation services, security patrols and advertising budgets.
There are 76 BIDs in New York City. The Dept. of Small Business Services oversees the BIDs.
Even before the CDNA started, there were several facts about Fifth Avenue that BID officials knew already.
Currently, the BID area is composed mostly of service-oriented businesses, Zenteno said. There are doctor’s offices, eyeglass stores, pharmacies, fruit stands and nail salons. Fifth Avenue does have its share of restaurants, but not as many as Third Avenue.
Fifth Avenue appears to be a healthy, vibrant shopping thoroughfare. “We have an extremely low vacancy rating,” Zenteno said. The current vacancy rate is 3.6 percent.
After the CDNA is complete, the BID will decide what comes next.
The funds could be spent on merchant engagement programs, street enhancements or other special programs. But while the study pertained to all of Bay Ridge, the second part of the grant will deal strictly with Fifth Avenue.
The Avenue NYC grants are meant to strengthen the ability of business improvement districts to carry out multi-year commercial revitalization programs in their communities, according to SBS.
The Bay Ridge Fifth Avenue BID was one of four BIDs to be awarded Avenue NYC grants this year.
“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,” SBS Commissioner Gregg Bishop said in a statement at the time the grants were announced in April.
For more information on the Commercial District Needs Assessment, visit the Bay Ridge Fifth Avenue BID’s website at: www.bayridgebid.com.