Maybe you’ve seen one of the signs on Third Avenue. Or heard it on social media. Maybe, just maybe, you heard it from a store owner. It’s true: a 3rd Avenue BID slowly forming. But it’s not a done deal. There is an anti-BID movement aiming to stop it before it gets off the ground.
But it’s not just about saying yes or no to a BID: it’s about two very different visions for Third Avenue’s future.
Co-hosts Erik and Dan will chat about the differences between the BIDs supporters and detractors. And to get a clearer view, we’ll also meet three members of the 3rd Avenue BIDs steering committee.
They are: current president of the Merchants of Third Avenue and former Republican District Leader and Brooklyn GOP chair Bob Howe; The Green Spa owner Sheila Brody; and Dan Texeira, a property owner’s representative and insurance broker with Lincoln Brokerage. With their help, we’ll get a better idea of what kind of BID they’re proposing, and clarify a few misconceptions.
But are these two sides are the only possible narratives about 3rd Avenue’s future? How can local activists and residents get involved and make their voices heard? Listen in and find out!
Click these links to quickly jump to different parts of the episode…
Expand to view Audio Bookmarks…
- Overview of the Third Avenue BID
- Interview with members of the 3rd Ave BID Steering Committee
- Funding the Merchants Association
- How’d you first get involved with 3rd Avenue?
- What’s changed? Why create a BID now?
- How will the BID solve the problems the Avenue currently faces?
- How can we ensure the BID is transparent?
- Budgeting the 3rd Avenue BID
- Electing the Board of Directors
- Origins of the BID idea
- Is it a tax?
- Call to Action: Residents Matter
- The voting process
- Networking with other business on the avenue
- How to contact the steering committee
- Wrapping Up
The episodes big call to action was to become familiar with both sides of the BID argument… and then go and talk to your local shop owner!
There aren’t many good ways for the neighborhood as a whole to get involved with the BID process. However, engaging with property owners and merchants will help express the needs and desires of the neighborhood at a grassroots level. Some easy things to discuss are:
- What kind of additional events you’d like to see on the avenue (if any).
- Your opinions on the holiday and event lights.
- Whether you want to see more marketing and online presence for your favorite stores.
- Is Third Avenue clean enough? Does it have enough amenities like benches and tree planters?
- Are there services they think the city should provide to make life easier for them?
- If the Avenue was more attractive to you as a shopper, would you be shopping at their store more often?
Neighborhood Support Ballot
The 3rd Avenue BID steering committee has a support petition that’s open to everyone in the neighborhood! If you don’t live on the avenue or have a property or store on 3rd, you can lend your support here!
Key Constituency Vote
The 3rd Avenue BID Steering Committee is gathering evidence of support and opposition. These ballots aren’t a final vote (which occurs during the legislative phase). It is a way of proving support among key constituencies to Small Business Services. Only once the Steering Committee can prove support among a majority of each group can formation proceed to the next phase.
Voting is open to three key groups:
- Property Owners
- Merchants and Store Owners
- Residents who live on the Avenue
How do we know who “won” the vote?
This vote is NOT time-limited, and isn’t like a normal election. Think of it more like a petition: once it reaches a certain number, it triggers the next phase of formation. Many BIDs have stalled entirely at this phase since they never reach majority support.
However, as long as a Steering Committe is actively pushing for the BID, this phase can continue for some time. Dan Texeira mentioned in the episode that the 5th Avenue BID took over two years to move past this phase.
At this point you should proceed to Step 11 if SBS has indicated that you have a sufficient level of support. If not, you will need to repeat some of the outreach activities that were highlighted in Steps 8 and 9.”11 Step BID Formation Guidebook, Department of Small Business Services
The 3rd Avenue BID Steering Committee
The 3rd Avenue BID steering committee lists its members on its web page. Here’s a list, and whether or not they were also officers of the Merchants of Third Avenue.
Funding the Merchants of Third Avenue
Bob mentions in the episode that people don’t seem to realize that the Merchants of Third Avenue report their finances as a non-profit. You can check out the full audits on the State Charities Database. We’ve broken down a few key expenses and income items, which back up Mr. Howe’s assertions on the show, and show how much the status quo currently costs.
View Key 2018 Financial Data from the Merchants of 3rd Avenue.
|Contributions, gifts, grants, and donations||$65,179|
|Street Festival sponsorships, fees, and permits||$24,895|
|Dues collected from merchants and property owners||$12,775|
|Meeting and event catering||$22,686|
|Street Festival expenses||$19,418|
|Advertising and promotion||$8,667|
|Sponsorships and donations||$6,250|
|Materials and supplies||$2,201|
|Computer and website||$1,420|
|Credit card processing fees||$1,071|
|Licensing, permits and filing fees||$25|
One item to note is that merchant dues make up a small chunk of the existing association’s income. Combined, expenses for holiday lights and street festivals are $44,905. Membership dues pay for only 28% of those expenses. If every merchant paid dues at the current rate, it would barely be enough to cover total operating expenses. Expanded programs and services would still be out of the question.
Also of note: the street festivals generate slightly more money than they spend, to the tune of about $5,477 in 2018. Previous years occasionally generated over $10k.
The Anti-BID side
During a recent walk down 3rd, we did notice more signs supporting the BID than opposing it. However, that doesn’t mean the opposition to the 3rd Avenue BID isn’t strong.
The Anti-BID coalition is headed up by Anthony Pennacchio of Vanguard Computers / Bulldog Technologies, a large property owner within New York City. Anthony owns multiple buildings in NYC and provides medical billing and point of sale systems to many of the stores on the avenue. He also sits on the board of the Bay Ridge Birthing Center. Many of his clients and tenants have joined him in the Anti-BID coalition, as well as property owners and store owners who are are adamantly against what they see as a tax increase for their businesses.
We sat down with Anthony after we recorded our main interview with the BID steering committee. The interview was not intended for broadcast as it lasted about two hours. We used what we learned, after some fact-checking, to clarify our understanding of the anti-BID coalition, which we summarized in the opening of the episode.
- We name-dropped Alan Holt in the opening of the show as a local economics expert. We had Alan on the show in our episode on Nativism all the way back in 2017!
- Amanda Zenteno was also name-dropped when we discussed a 5th Avenue BID executive director stealing money from the BID back in 2016. Amanda is the current executive director, who came in after the previous one was fired. She’s awesome, we interviewed her in our 5th Avenue BID episode.
- We compared BID assessments to the participatory budgeting process, where public money goes back directly into the public sphere for spending. You can learn all about participatory budgeting in our Million Dollar Question episode!
Further Reading & Listening
- Check out more detailed information about the 3rd Ave. BID, and it’s opponents, in our Community Archive recording of a public information session.
- To learn more about what a BID actually does when it’s up and running, you can listen in to our episode about the Fifth Avenue BID and what it does!
- This episode is the second and final part of a series on economic health in Bay Ridge. Check out our previous episode about storefront vacancies to get an overall idea of the economic health of the neighborhood, and other ways to advocate for mom and pop stores!
- Check out Ben Verde’s Bklyner article “Will A New BID For Bay Ridge Bring It Back To The Way It Was?“
- Get more in-depth information about the BID formation process with this guide from the Department of Small Business Services.
This episode was recorded in our studio in beautiful Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. Your hosts were Dan Hetteix and Erik Shell. Your guests were Robert Howe, Dan Texeira, and Sheila Brody (no relation to our previous host!). The interview was recorded on September 25th, 2019. All post-production and editing was done by Dan Hetteix.