Business officials in Morris Park are considering a new solution to the problem of raising money for community events during these tough economic times: setting up a business improvement district.
For the past few months, Morris Park Alliance president Bobby Ruggiero has been speaking with business owners to gauge their interest in setting up a BID. While response has been mediocre, Ruggiero said that a BID would bring in more business to the area and help support the business alliance and the community association’s waning funding.
“As far as I can see, a BID is the direction we ultimately need to go in,” Ruggiero said. “There are a number of cash businesses in the area with absentee ownership. They own four or five stores and nobody wants to care about the area, or join, or donate to the alliance. The formation of a BID is going to equalize the businesses in the area and help improve the business corridor. The impact on the community as a whole would be significant. All the businesses would have to pay regardless [if a BID is approved].”
Forming a BID is a long and involved process, and Ruggiero and the business alliance have only begun to scratch the surface.
The first step, which the alliance is currently taking, is to identify the businesses and property owners that would be included in the district, and to speak with the stakeholders to gauge their opinion on whether a BID would be good for the area.
If the stakeholders are receptive, the next steps involve forming a steering committee, developing a database of owners and commercial tenants, conducting a needs assessment, drafting a formal plan, holding two public meetings and getting approval from the city’s elected officials.
Once established, a BID is responsible for: street and sidewalk cleaning; marketing special events and district promotions; holiday decorations; landscaping improvements; public safety; visitor assistance; capital improvements for street lights, trash receptacles, and street signage; charitable events; business development projects such as vacancy reduction; and services for the homeless and youth.
“It would also alleviate a lot of the duplicity that is going on with the alliance and the community association,” Ruggiero said.
Both groups currently raise money for community and business projects in the area. While some projects are separate, things like holiday lights and parades are usually funded by both groups.
Having two organizations seeking donations from the businesses in the area has been increasingly difficult, but having a BID, which runs on an annual property tax assessment akin to businesses taxes, would alleviate the problem of looking for donations, Ruggiero said.
There are also concerns from business owners that residential homes in the area would benefit from the BID’s programs, like the street cleaning and security, without having to pay the business assessment.He said breaking up the district, which stretches from Unionport to White Plains roads, could be a possible solution.
“It’s a huge undertaking,” said Margaret Arrighi, head of the Bronx Business Alliance, adding that the process takes about two years. “But its a great idea.”