Why do we need a BID when we have a very active Merchants Alliance?
For 25 years, Merchants of Third Avenue, with the support of a handful of volunteers, has produced large-scale street festivals, spearheaded collective marketing efforts, advocated for small businesses on Third Avenue, and much more.
Merchants of Third Avenue is heavily reliant on a dedicated team of volunteers, who care deeply about the economic viability of the neighborhood. Without these volunteer efforts, none of what the organization does would be possible - no Christmas lights, no Summer Stroll, no business networking events. 25 years later, some volunteers have dropped off and the remaining volunteers are 25 years older -- while the merchant alliance model has served us for decades, it isn’t sustainable as we enter the modern age of Amazon.
In the words of Steering Committee co-chair Bob Howe: “While Bay Ridge Third Avenue might be doing just fine in 2019 as a result of the great work of Merchants of Third Avenue, we encourage stakeholders to consider the avenue a “Business Investment District.” If we do not invest in our avenue, some not so good things could happen, and may be happening already.”
How will a BID address parking and traffic issues? Homelessness? Exorbitant fines from city agencies?
An important component of the good work that BIDs do in New York City is advocacy and education. BIDs serve as a mouthpiece for small businesses, giving a voice to businesses who might not otherwise have the time, resources, or political clout to advocate for themselves with city government. BIDs advocate for the specific needs of the businesses within their districts, and advocate against policies that unnecessarily hurt small business.
For example, in 2018 businesses across Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan were struck by a wave of Department of Buildings violations fines for signage they had used for decades. The fines were normally around $4,000, and were issued to businesses for violating a law that most businesses didn’t know existed.
BID directors joined forces with small business owners at a City Hall rally intended to draw attention to the issue, and were vocal with their local Council Members, which sparked the passage of Councilmember Rafael Espinal’s Awnings Act, providing relief to small businesses by creating a 2-year moratorium on new fines for signage, rescinding all outstanding signage fines, giving businesses that have already paid fines a discount on future signage permits, and reducing the fees for signs and awning permits going forward.
BIDs also offer educational resources, giving businesses the information they need to be in compliance and avoid exorbitant fines from city regulatory agencies like Department of Health, Department of Buildings, and Department of Consumer Affairs. BIDs will let businesses know what their responsibilities are, and help businesses that are out of compliance re-adjust to avoid hefty fines.
How will a BID attract new business to the avenue?
A BID is a local nonprofit that is governed by local stakeholders and has the flexibility and on-the-ground knowledge to respond directly to the community. A BID can play an important role in determining what types of businesses come to the district, in direct response to the needs of the local community. Many BID directors liaise with commercial real estate companies to help fill vacancies with businesses that will serve the local population.
Additionally, with cleaner streets, collective marketing, frequent events, beautification initiatives, etc, a commercial corridor becomes a more desirable place to dine, shop and stroll, and thus attracts businesses to the neighborhood.
“Yet while the BID can play the role of advocate, it can also have considerable power in influencing which businesses stick around and which don't… The Bed-Stuy Gateway BID tracks how often locals leave the district to shop and shares that data with property owners. "Maybe the next time you have a vacancy you'll consider that," Executive Director Michael Lambert tells landlords.” - Aaron Elstein, Crain’s New York Business
Aren’t BIDs Taxation Without Representation?
“In fact, quite the opposite- BIDs offer a more direct form of control over the distribution and use of resources than regular tax dollars. Consider that a typical City budget is allocated based on the input of many elected officials. Those elected officials are often beholden to constituencies outside of the downtown that vote them into (and out of) office. This can become a challenge to ensuring that downtown districts get the resources they need to remain competitive” - Larisa Ortiz Associates, Debunking the Arguments Against Business Improvement Districts