A five-year effort to create a Business Improvement District in the Castle Hill section of the Bronx came to fruition earlier this month when it was finally approved by the mayor.
On May 12, New York City Mayor Eric Adams signed legislation establishing new business improvement districts (BID) in Castle Hill and the West Village in Lower Manhattan, which will help accelerate making them fully functional by the beginning of Fiscal Year 2023.
The creation of the BIDs will help local businesses bounce back from the COVID-19 pandemic and is the result of years of grassroots organizing. Steering committees — representing property owners, business owners and residents — had been formed to identify the needs of their neighborhoods and envision how a BID could improve the conditions and economic activity of Castle Hill. Targeting specific geographical areas, BIDs oversee and fund the maintenance, improvement and promotion of their commercial districts, and are overseen by the city Department of Small Business Services.
“I am thrilled … to see the Castle Hill BID come to fruition after years of organizing; one of our community’s most important commercial corridors will finally get the investment it deserves,” said City Councilmember Amanda Farías. “I look forward to working with Mayor Eric Adams, my colleagues in the Council, and my local businesses to pass more legislation that focuses on equitable recovery, supporting small businesses, and, most importantly, protecting our hard-working New Yorkers.”
The new BID in the Bronx will serve Castle Hill Avenue from Manning Street to the Cross Bronx Expressway and Westchester Avenue from Olmstead Avenue to just east of Glebe Avenue, and will have a first-year budget of $300,000 — funded by a special assessment billed to property owners in the district — to provide supplemental sanitation, marketing, promotion, holiday lighting, economic development and administration.
Each property owner in Castle Hill that is part of the BID will pay a certain amount into the district based on the square footage of the business, according to Tony DeRosa, chair of the steering committee.
Former Bronx Councilmember Annabel Palma initiated the process to create the BID working alongside John Bonizio, a Westchester Square business leader, and Lisa Sorin, president of the New Bronx Chamber of Commerce. In 2019, unanimous approval was garnered among merchants for its creation.
Yasmin Cruz, the BID development director, and DeRosa were instrumental in making sure the BID crossed the finish line. DeRosa, a longtime property owner on Castle Hill Avenue, believes the BID will make the business area cleaner and more attractive seeing how they’ve benefited other neighborhoods like Throggs Neck.
“If you just take a look and walk down the street, sanitation is out of control,” he told the Bronx Times. “We want our shopping district to be clean.”
DeRosa said the creation of the BID will allow the business district to add security cameras, marketing campaigns for businesses, install park benches, tree plantings and more. DeRosa added that the formation was delayed over the last few years because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Cruz joined the process to form the BID after she became executive director of the Westchester Square BID in 2019. She said the goal is to beautify the area, make it more attractive for shoppers and help the merchants. “At the end of the day this is about the property owners,” Cruz said.
Bob Bieder, owner of Westchester Square Plumbing Supply, 2255 Westchester Ave., who helped start BIDs in the borough with the Bronx Overall Economic Development Corporation, said although he doesn’t believe it will increase foot traffic at his business, it will help the overall community.
“The BID is definitely a good thing,” Bieder said. “If the small businesses fold, the community falls apart.”
The goal is to have officers for the BID elected by the fall and have it up and running by Christmas.
Reach Jason Cohen at [email protected] or (718) 260-4598. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @bronxtimes