Small BIDS, big dreams closer than ever

They may have big dreams for their local shopping strips, but their small budgets are another matter.

Now the Bronx’s smaller Business Improvement Districts, like the ones on 161st Street and on White Plains Road in Pelham Parkway, have a chance to snap up some big bucks for innovative projects through two new initiatives announced by the City Department of Small Business Services.

The BIDs assess local merchants and landlords dues to attract business and provide safety and sanitation.

BID Challenge and BID Express will help strengthen the BID program by encouraging innovation and expanding opportunities for smaller neighborhoods.

BID Express will allow commercial corridors smaller than typical BID neighborhoods, as well as smaller existing BIDs, to access central services within SBS, pool resources, and share overhead expenses so more resources can be invested in neighborhoods. Smaller BIDs spend as much as 45% of their budget on administrative costs, compared to just 15% for larger BIDs, a significant hurdle for smaller commercial corridors to overcome. BID Express will help bring expanded BID benefits to existing smaller BIDs, and to as many as five commercial corridors that currently do not have BIDs.

“It’s perfect for us,” said Cary Goodman of the 161st Streeet BID, who testified in January at a City Council committee hearing that smaller BIDS need that kind of financial help.

“After I pay my salary and the guys who sweep the streets, there’s not a lot left for publicizing the BID’s programs.”

Joe Thompson, new executive director of the White Plains Road BID, said they fit right into the initiatives’ requirements.

“We ‘re the third smallest BID in the city,” said Thompson. “I think we’d qualify.”

Some $250,000 in seed funding will be available through BID Challenge to BIDs with the most innovative and creative plans for strengthening their neighborhoods and attracting more jobs and investment.

Awards up to $75,000 will be made to pilot innovative ideas, with successful initiatives being rolled out across the city, as appropriate. BIDs with annual assessments budgets under $1 million are eligible to apply.

“Strengthening New York City’s business environment also means strengthening New York City’s neighborhood business districts, and we have seen the transformative impact that BIDs can have,” Deputy Mayor for Economic Development Robert Steel said at a recent Association for a Better New York breakfast, where he announced the initiatives.

The 23 BIDs formed during the Bloomberg Administration— 20 outside of Manhattan— is the highest number created under a single administration. New York City currently has 67 BIDs, the most in the nation.

BID Challenge is designed to challenge more neighborhoods to do even better,” said Rob Walsh, Commissioner of the City Department of Small Business Services. “And we aren’t stopping there. BID Express will help expand the program so smaller corridors can benefit from services.”

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