Lower East Side Partnership Steps Up Outreach Ahead of Possible Expansion

caal street visioning

An online tool offers anyone the chance to redesign Canal and Ludlow streets.

A few weeks ago the Lower East Side Partnership launched a community engagement initiative in advance of a possible expansion of its boundaries and services. On Wednesday evening, Partnership President Tim Laughlin updated Community Board 3’s economic development committee about the project and outlined next steps for the organization.

Residents, business owners and property owners have been asked to fill out an online survey regarding current neighborhood conditions and what improvements they would like to see in the coming years. The survey addresses impacts from nightlife businesses, traffic, cleanliness and neighborhood amenities. There’s a specific focus on Ludlow and Canal streets. An online tool called Streetmix makes it possible for users to design their own street and make suggestions for improvement.

In addition to the survey, there are two upcoming opportunities for people on the Lower East Side to help shape the Partnership’s future plans.

Next Thursday, Sept. 15, the organization will close off a section of Canal Street (between Essex and Ludlow streets) for a on-site visioning event along the bustling corridor. Participants will be able to suggest improvements in the streetscape, including changes in parking, loading areas, bike lanes, trees, etc. Anyone with an interest in the area is welcome to attend between the hours of 5 and 7 p.m.

On Thursday, Sept. 22, there will be a discussion about Ludlow Street. It will take place from 6-8 p.m. at the Tenement Museum, 103 Orchard St. At this event, participants will use a 3D model of the street to suggest changes.

The Lower East Side Business Improvement District was created in 1992. Only in the last year has the organization become known as the LES Partnership. The district boundaries (largely encompassing the Orchard Street commercial corridor) have remained the same for 25 years. Laughlin told community board members that a modest expansion is being considered in adjacent areas where business owners and residents have voiced a need for more services.

“In the past three years,” said Laughlin, “we have really concentrated on making improvements to quality of life as a catalyst for economic growth for our small businesses.” A main focus of the organization is keeping Orchard Street clean, especially on weekends when the area’s nightlife businesses shift into overdrive. Laughlin said anyone walking through the neighborhood early on Sunday morning can see the difference between Orchard Street, which the Partnership maintains, as opposed to Ludlow Street, which is outside its current boundaries.

A preliminary map shows possible expansion area.

A preliminary map shows possible expansion area.

During the community board meeting, Laughlin passed out a map that showed proposed expansion boundaries (see above). You can see the current BID borders in dark orange. Expansion Area A (in green) covers Ludlow Street. Expansion Area B (blue) incorporates parts of Essex Street. Expansion Area C (in light orange) covers parcels left out of the original BID boundaries in 1992 for one reason or another. Expansion Area D (yellow) is designated in a small area around Canal Street.

Laughlin said, “We went into this (engagement process) knowing that, especially in the green area highlighted on the map, there are significant residential concerns about nightlife and some of the impacts of nightlife.” So far, around 200 people have completed the survey (The Partnership mailed 10,000 postcards to residents, business owners and property owners). “We are hearing in the survey,” Laughlin explained, “that people would like us to look at the neighborhood in a more coordinated way,” rather than simply concentrating on Orchard Street issues. “You shouldn’t walk out of your apartment on Orchard Street at 9 a.m. on Sunday morning and have a different experience than (people) a block away on Ludlow. That is what we are trying to change.”

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In addition to the surveys and the public visioning sessions, the Partnership has installed devices at four locations in the neighborhood to collect data (see here) about pedestrian and automobile traffic at various times of the day. At the end of October, they will evaluate all of the information that has been gathered and decide whether to move forward with an expansion.

If that occurs, the community board, city agencies and the City Council would all weigh in on the proposal. Laughlin said the next step for his organization will be deciding what specific areas and services would be added, and determining how  much they would cost. [The Partnership is largely funded through assessments on property owners, which are passed on to commercial tenants.] The city will expect the Partnership to demonstrate widespread support for an expansion before signing off on any new plan.

If you would like to complete the online survey, click here. It’s also available in the Partnership’s office during regular business hours (it’s located at 54 Orchard St.). People planning on attending the Ludlow Street visioning session should RSVP here.