By Maria Rocha-Buschel
The Flatiron/23rd Street Partnership will be hosting the first of multiple meetings next Thursday to get public input on a proposed expansion for the business improvement district (BID).
Executive Director James Mettham said that one of the goals of the proposed expansion is to fill in the gaps since the BID was first established in 2006 and create a more cohesive district that reflects the neighborhood.
“Part of the effort about expanding is to say look, Flatiron is growing, but the NoMad and Sixth Avenue corridors have changed pretty drastically as well,” he said. “We feel that there’s a symbiotic relationship between the neighborhoods and what’s good for one is good for the other.”
The BID’s current boundaries are generally 21st Street to the south, Sixth Avenue to the west, 28th Street to the north and Park Avenue South to the east, although there are some blocks that extend the district to Third Avenue near Baruch, and other parts of the district on the western side are cut off mid-block before Sixth Avenue.
The expansion area includes about three blocks farther into NoMad, which doesn’t have its own BID, and bumps up against the southern boundary of the 34th Street Partnership’s coverage area at 31st Street.
To the west, the proposed expansion area would include Sixth Avenue from West 24th to 31st Streets. The current boundaries only include Sixth Avenue up to West 23rd Street.
To the south, the district would extend to include 20th Street within the BID’s current east-west boundaries, which stretch from Sixth Avenue to Park Avenue South.
The current boundaries of the BID don’t include Sixth Avenue between West 24th and 31st Streets, primarily because a rezoning in 1995 allowed for the development of high-rise towers with a combination of residential and commercial tenants, which was too substantial for the BID to take on initially. But Mettham said that one of the goals of the expansion was to include this section of Sixth Avenue because it is essentially part of the neighborhood but has been somewhat neglected.
“Sixth Avenue is a hustling, bustling corridor where there’s a lot of car traffic and bicyclists, and if you look at the streetscape right now, there’s a lot of wear and tear there, there’s not a lot of attention to detail,” he said. “A little love and care is needed.”
He also noted that part of the goal of extending the BID to Sixth Avenue was to square off the boundaries so that area didn’t feel insular.
“This is how many people access Flatiron, and how people access NoMad is through Sixth Avenue so we thought was important,” he said.
Mettham said that the boundaries to the north and south for the expansion were primarily decided by where other neighborhood BIDs begin so as not to overlap, although the decision not to spread the district farther east was more related to neighborhood character.
The BID has always had a close relationship with Baruch College so a handful of blocks east of Park Avenue South where the school’s campus is were included in the original boundaries, but the expansion doesn’t go farther east than Park Avenue South for most of the district.
“Some of it is just due to the element of Broadway and the slice of it,” he said. “The Flatiron and NoMad energy is kind of tilted in that way, otherwise you’re just avenue to avenue.”
In addition to creating a cohesive neighborhood, the Partnership is also attempting to expand because they have received requests from property owners, businesses and residents outside the current borders who want assistance from the Partnership’s programs, including street cleaning, homeless outreach and street beautification. The BID has a district-wise horticulture program to build out tree pits and tree pit guards and to install street lamp hanging flower baskets, and public safety officers address quality-of-life concerns while partnering with the local precinct.
The BID has also taken on streetscape design and safety projects, with the most prominent being the plazas that have been in place for about the last 10 years. Mettham said that the Partnership is attempting to make the temporary plazas permanent through a capital reconstruction process with the city but the BID plans to continue hosting programming on them.
Although the BID provides a number of services that city agencies also offer, by law, current city services can’t be reduced as a result of BID services, which would supplement city services in the expansion area as they do within the Partnership’s current boundaries.
All neighborhood BIDs in the city are non-profit organizations but the Department of Small Business Services oversees the BID program and any changes to the boundaries are subject to government oversight and need to be made legislatively. The Flatiron BID is currently in the outreach phase in the expansion process and will be holding meetings to inform the public and gain support for the plan. Mettham said that he expects the plan to go through legislative authorization by next fall, and BID services could then be implemented in the expansion area by early 2021 if the plan is approved.
The first meeting is scheduled for Thursday, October 10 at 6:30 p.m. at the New York Seminar Center, 71 West 23rd Street.