Morris Park Business Alliance takes first step toward creating BID

The Morris Park Alliance is pushing for the creation of its own business improvement district, which is aimed at boosting the local economy at a time when collecting dues is increasingly difficult.

Soon, officials with the business alliance will be meeting with the city’s Small Business Services to initiate the BID process and contact local property owners to gauge their interest in the setting up the district. Officials hope to have a steering committee in place to guide the process soon.

“The improvement to the area is going to be huge,” if we get a BID, alliance president Bobby Ruggiero said. “When the business community is doing well, good things happen. People want to move to the neighborhood and it spills off into the residential properties. This is a win for everybody, not just the merchants.”

The alliance is proposing to set up a district along roughly 10 blocks of Morris Park Avenue, from Unionport road to Bronxdale Avenue. The district will encompass about 800 stores.

For the past few years the alliance has been testing the waters to see how enthusiastic the business community would be about creating a district that provides services for the businesses and is funded through an annual tax assessment to each property.

Through the annual fees, BIDs provide funding for maintenance projects, such as street cleaning and graffiti removal; public safety and surveillance equipment; business development programs; marketing; capital projects; landscaping, and community services, such as charitable events and fund-raising.

To give businesses a taste of what the BID can provide, the alliance has helped clean up graffiti, held a street fair and hosted two hay rides during the holiday season in the past year.

“They were happy to have it happen,” said Ruggiero. “Now they have something tangible to touch. So now we can say, if you want it, here’s what has to happen.”

After the steering committee develops its initial plans, it will need to create a database of property owners and commercial tenants before conducting a survey to assess the needs in the area. Then the steering committee will draft a formal plan for the district.

The next step is to hold two public meetings. The committee will then document the public’s reaction and gather support before taking the proposal to the city for a vote.

The process can take several years to unfold.

Although the steering committee will determine the budget and priorities of the BID, Ruggiero said merchants would like to see streetscape projects and more community events, such as a street fair, which will draw customers to the business community.

So far the alliance has been successful drawing shoppers to the area with its programs, but with the tough economy, fees and dues are becoming increasingly difficult to collect.

“We’re always dependant on political entities to get the services to keep the corridor vibrant,” Ruggiero said. “We need to declare independence.”

The alliance will hold a meetingto discuss the BID on Tuesday, February 8, at 900 Park Restaurant.

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