Earlier this week, representatives of the LES Business Improvement District briefed Community Board 3 on the organization’s proposed expansion. As we have reported in the past, the BID is looking at new boundaries encompassing most of the neighborhood below Houston Street.
The new borders, roughly speaking, would extend the BID to Bowery on the west, Clinton on the east and Division on the south. Most notably, the plan would bring the struggling Clinton street business corridor into the fold. BID consultant George Glatter explained that surveys have been mailed to 800 property owners to find out how much support there might be for the proposal. The outreach will continue until the end of the year. There will then be a public hearing, the mayor and City Council will weigh in and, finally, the plan will go to Albany for approval.
Yesterday, BID Executive Director Bob Zuckerman told me the initial response has been very positive. The organization provides many services to merchants, including keeping the sidewalks and streets clean. Shop owners see an obvious difference in the condition of Orchard Street (currently part of the BID) and Clinton Street, which isn’t in the Business Improvement District.
On Tuesday night, CB3’s Richard Ropiak wondered how merchants would react to increased rents (the likely result of an additional assessment property owners would be called on to pay). Glatter responded that the assessment is quite different from a tax. “Every dime goes back into the organization,” helping to make businesses stronger, he said.
Zuckerman said there are good reasons to be considering a BID expansion during these tough economic times. He noted that the Lower East Side organization was created in the early 90’s, in the middle of another brutal recession. During times like these, he argued, small businesses are especially eager to have the kind of help BIDs can provide.
On Tuesday, Wellington Chen of the Chinatown Partnership was in the audience. He’s spearheading an effort to create a business improvement district in Chinatown. CB3 members asked whether there were any concerns about a border dispute between the two neighborhoods. As we have reported, the two groups (along with SOHO business leaders) have already worked out their differences.