Soho’s Broadway needs a BID!
BY EMILY HELLSTROM AND BRIAN STEINWURTZEL
The steering committee for the Broadway Soho Business Improvement District, in its effort to form a BID for Soho’s Broadway, is not sitting still as it awaits upcoming dates for consideration by the City Council. Though the legislation starts with the word “Business,” the steering committee has demonstrated support by both commercial and residential interests for the BID plan. The plan is narrowly crafted and reasonable as it seeks to address long-standing issues along Soho’s Broadway that affect all those who live, work, visit, walk and stroll along what is surely one of New York’s most vibrant and busiest neighborhoods.
The proposed BID plan (www.sohobid.org) includes just Broadway from Houston St. down to Canal St. No other areas or blocks are included, nor is there any intention to expand the BID area. The BID is not being formed to attract new tourists or to enhance marketing for the neighborhood. Rather, it is intended to supplement and enhance basic government services that simply cannot keep pace with the enormously high volume of activity along Broadway. Most importantly, the advocacy of the BID for Broadway’s concerns goes hand in hand with the issues addressed by Community Board 2, whose district covers a much larger area.
This has been a truly diverse and representative effort, with Broadway residential concerns represented by the residents themselves, who are directly impacted by the quality of life outside their front doors. Today’s membership profile of the BID Steering Committee is 50 percent residential and 50 percent commercial.
Commercial property owners in this Broadway corridor will fund almost 100 percent of the BID’s annual budget of $550,000. The 146 residential condo owners and the 14 co-op buildings along this very specific part of Broadway will pay a symbolic $1 per year. It’s important to note, however, that finances do not dictate the governance of the BID.
By law, property owners — residential and commercial — will have majority representation, and the built-in, careful oversight by government representatives will aggressively ensure a balance in all operations and decisions. And it should never be overlooked that an overwhelming majority of Broadway corridor residents and owners — those actually in the proposed BID area — shared their support for this effort through participation in a survey that presented a return rate much higher than is typical for BID areas citywide.
This effort has benefitted tremendously from the guidance of Councilmember Margaret Chin, who has provided incredibly valuable ideas throughout this long process. At the councilmember’s suggestion, we have scaled back our initially planned budget for the BID, and undertaken meaningful community outreach far beyond that required by the statute detailing how to form a BID. Margaret Chin is a thoughtful public official, deeply interested and involved in balancing the many needs of the diverse constituencies in her district. We look forward to continuing to work with her office as she guides this effort forward in the City Council.
Advancing to “next steps” in this public process is fair. The mechanism for forming a BID is very specific and task-oriented, with a clear route established for those supporting it. While the BID for Soho’s Broadway is considered controversial by some, we would hope that most would agree that advancing to the City Council for fuller consideration is proper and deserved.
Hellstrom and Steinwurtzel are co-chairpersons of the Broadway Soho Business Improvement District Steering Committee