LES BID Outlines Plans For Local Development Corporation

Looking down on Orchard Street, Sunday, June 3. Photo by Hayley Smith.

Fresh off a successful street festival, DayLife, held a week ago — the LES Business Improvement District is making big plans for its future. Last week, staff from the BID went before a Community Board 3 panel to share details of a spin-off organization they’re forming — the Lower East Side Development Corp.

Tim Laughlin, the BID’s director of policy, planning and operations, told members of CB3’s economic development committee that the new not-for-profit entity would focus on “initiatives that involve capital expenditures.”  One possibility, he indicated, would be a small business incubator, to provide start-up firms the physical space they need to grow and create jobs on the Lower East Side.

Local development corporations (LDC’s) are not a new concept downtown.  The Chinatown Partnership and the Union Square Partnership are examples.  Laughlin and BID Executive Director Bob Zuckerman said the Myrtle Avenue (Brooklyn) Local Development Corp. is probably most analogous (given that community’s similar socio-economic makeup) to the organization they’re forming.  Laughlin said the new framework would allow the BID to focus on its core mission (street cleanup, safety and marketing), while spinning off development projects to the LDC.

Laughlin told committee members the new organization would benefit the Lower East Side as a whole. “There’s a lack of investment in this community,” he said. “We want to act as a resource to help find city dollars” for neighborhood improvement.  Laughlin mentioned “streetscape” enhancements as one area the LDC could address.

The boundaries of the LES Development Corp. have not been determined, but Laughlin and Zuckerman said they’re thinking of fairly expansive borders reaching beyond the LES BID’s coverage area.  Noting that the East Village does not have a non-profit devoted to small business development, they suggested that the blocks above East Houston Street could be included in their planning.  There would be a separate board of directors for the LDC.

CB3 members seemed intrigued by the idea, but there were some questions and concerns.  Longtime Community Board 3 member Herman Hewitt, who sits on the LES BID board, cautioned that the development corporation’s directors must be “reflective of the community,” rather than confined to business oriented members.  Richard Ropiak, committee co-chair, echoed Hewitt’s sentiments, saying there would need to be more than one community board member on the LDC board.  Ropiak also said he wanted clarification about the organization’s boundaries. Meghan Joye, committee co-chair and a founding member of the LDC board, said she joined because there’s an obvious need to create new business opportunities and new jobs on the Lower East Side.

The local development corporation is going through the process of incorporating, so the organization will not become official for several more months.  Separately, the BID itself is continuing to move towards an expansion of its original 1992 borders.  In the months ahead, they will return to CB3 for approval of the expansion proposal.

The LDC does not require the approval of the community board.  Last week’s presentation was a courtesy, although some CB3 members discussed eventually introducing a resolution supporting the initiative.