The NYC Department of Small Business Services (SBS) issued a report this month highlighting the significant impact of Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) across New York City, including local BIDs in Union Square and the Flatiron District.
“BIDs create vibrant, clean, and safe districts that improve neighborhoods and commercial corridors by investing back into their communities,” SBS Commissioner Gregg Bishop said. “This report highlights the long-standing partnership between the City and BIDs, working together to build a stronger New York.”
The report noted that BIDs throughout the city provide supplemental services offering sanitation and public safety that have helped shopping corridors feel safe for visitors and members of the community.
Regarding safety, the report pointed to the collaboration between the Flatiron/23rd Street Partnership and the Union Square Partnership after the steam pipe explosion in July 2018, which affected 125 businesses in 49 buildings in the Union Square and Flatiron neighborhoods. The report noted that the Flatiron BID played an important communication and coordination role, coordinating with city agencies, sharing information door-to-door and organizing a community briefing that offered updates on the incident. The Flatiron BID then partnered with the Union Square Partnership, as well as the Village Alliance farther downtown, that November to host a forum on emergency preparedness.
“Ziggy” will be on view until January. (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)
By Maria Rocha-Buschel
The Flatiron/23rd Street Partnership debuted new public art installation “Ziggy” on Tuesday during a preview of its eighth-annual “23 Days of Flatiron Cheer” season. The glowing, kaleidoscopic installation, which is on view on the North Public Plaza across from the Flatiron building, was selected through the sixth-annual Flatiron Plaza Holiday Design Competition with the Van Alen Institute and DOT Art.
The Partnership’s “23 Days” officially begins on December 1, running through December 23, and offers free performances, holiday recipes, hot beverage giveaways, fitness classes and prizes.
The launch event on Tuesday included a music performance by Kengchakaj & Niall Cade from The Jazz Gallery, pizza from Eataly, hot chocolate from Shake Shack and a prize wheel with a line spreading down the plaza, despite the misting rain and raw temperatures throughout the event.
Ziggy, which will be on view through New Year’s Day, was designed by New York-based architecture studio Hou de Sousa. The installation is composed of painted rebar and 27,000 feet of iridescent cord lit from the bottom by black light. The structure creates a winding form of 30-inch see-through walls and bench structures that passersby are encouraged to use.
The Flatiron BID is responsible for the public plazas adjacent to the Flatiron building. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)
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.
“Happy,” the seasonal installation at the Flatiron Plaza (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)
By Maria Rocha-Buschel
The Flatiron/23rd Street Partnership officially debuted the public art installation “Happy” to kick off the holiday festivities in the neighborhood this past Monday evening.
Architect Benjamin Cadena designed the installation through the fifth annual Flatiron Plaza Holiday Design Competition with the Department of Transportation arts program and the Van Alen Institute.
Cadena said that he wanted to design something that felt warm during the colder months but also that would cheer up passersby suffering from the winter blues.
“With the cold winter, I wanted to make a space that looks and feels warmer but I also wanted to project a positive object that makes you feel good,” he said. “I also wanted to do something a little different from the past installations and define a specific space, embracing the whole plaza.”
Founding Executive Director Jennifer Brown, pictured with BID Board Chairman Gregg Schenker (Photo courtesy of Flatiron Partmership)
By Sabina Mollot
Jennifer Brown, the executive director of the Flatiron/23rd Street Partnership Business Improvement District (BID), will soon be leaving her post after more than a dozen years of service. In an announcement last week, Brown said she will begin work next month as executive director of the Montclair Center BID, working in the area where she and her family have lived since she’s been commuting to Flatiron. The BID has not yet begun searching for her replacement.
This week, Brown spoke with Town & Village about the ways the Flatiron neighborhood has changed since its BID was formed in 2006, from rising commercial rents to the influx of many families.
“We would just focus on changing with the changing neighborhood,” she said. “Just enhancing services, cleanliness and safety and keeping an eye on everything going on.”
During Brown’s tenure, neighborhood public safety and clean team programs were launched, servicing Flatiron seven days a week. The Flatiron pedestrian plazas were also created in 2008, which the BID maintained. The holiday season “23 Days of Flatiron Cheer” programming was also launched along with free summer fitness and tech classes, ongoing speaker events and business assistance forums as well as other events. The neighborhood has also been promoted through marketing campaigns.
Con Ed employees accepting bagged clothing at 22nd Street and Broadway (Photo courtesy of Con Ed)
By Sabina Mollot
In the wake of Thursday’s steam-pipe explosion, the city has confirmed the presence of asbestos. Sixteen inspectors from the Department of Environmental Protection have been tasked with investigating the presence of any asbestos in nearby buildings while the site of the explosion is also being monitored.
On Friday, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation issued an air quality health advisory for the whole city through 11 p.m. The agency’s warning noted that active children and adults as well as anyone with respiratory problems reduce “prolonged or heavy exertion” outdoors.
The public is still being warned to stay away from the immediate area, where there are still emergency crews at work.
On Monday night, the Flatiron/23rd Street Partnership (BID) celebrated the launch of “23 Nights of Flatiron Cheer,” an upcoming series of free events at the pedestrian plaza with the unveiling of “Flatiron Reflection,” an architectural installation. The installation was created by the firm Future Expansion, the winner of a design competition held by local nonprofit Van Alen. (Pictured L-R) Nicholas McDermott and Deirdre McDermott of Future Expansion; Jessica Lax, Van Alen Institute; Emily Colasacco, NYC DOT Art; Isabel Meisner, Van Alen Institute; Jennifer Brown, Flatiron BID; Jorge Parreira, New Motor; Kurt Cavanaugh, Flatiron BID; Amanda Eldridge, GMS; David Messineo and Stephanie Darna, New Motor
By Maria Rocha-Buschel
The weather was appropriately windy and wintry for the kickoff of the Flatiron BID’s annual holiday festivities, known as the “23 Days of Flatiron Cheer” on Monday.
The series, offering free performances, fitness sessions, prizes and hot beverage giveaways, officially begins on December 1, but the launch this week gave a preview of the offerings to come and also served as the debut of the newest art installation on the north Flatiron Plaza, “Flatiron Reflections.”
Outdoor summer program also includes fitness classes and games
Attendees at a tech class held last summer on the Flatiron Plaza (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)
By Maria Rocha-Buschel
Public programming in the Flatiron Plazas will be back for the summer this June with free tech classes, fitness sessions, board games, crafting and other activities. The Flatiron/23rd Street Partnership Business Improvement District (BID) is launching the series with an event on the summer solstice, June 20, in partnership with the Museum of Mathematics, which is located on East 26th Street just north of Madison Square Park, and programming will officially begin the next day, running through August 11 on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.
The kickoff event, held on the longest day of the year, will be a chance for the public to participate in some math-related fun. MoMath and the BID, with the help of willing volunteers, will construct a polyhedron comprised of 12 ten-pointed stars in the north public plaza. The angles on all the stars will correspond with the angle made by the sun at its highest peak at noon on the day of the solstice.
Flatiron residents and business owners at the plaza planning workshop (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)
By Maria Rocha-Buschel
Community residents and business owners in the Flatiron District are hoping to highlight the history of the neighborhood and provide more space for public activities at the neighborhood’s pedestrian plazas.
They got to share their suggestions at a recent community workshop hosted by the Flatiron/23rd Street Partnership Business Improvement District on the future of the plazas, which stretch from 23rd to 25th Streets along Fifth Avenue and Broadway.
The workshop was held last month at the Porcelanosa building on 25th Street.
One attendee was neighborhood resident Jeanne Braun, who said the history of the area should be emphasized.
“It should be made to look like a historic district,” she said.
“Nova,” a new installation at the Flatiron Pedestrian Plaza, as viewed from the inside of the structure (Photo by Sabina Mollot)
By Maria Rocha-Buschel
A new interactive art installation on the Flatiron’s north public plaza debuted last Wednesday evening, kicking off the holiday festivities in the neighborhood.
“Nova” by SOFTlab was the winning submission in the second annual Flatiron Public Plaza Holiday Design Competition, held by the Flatiron/23rd Street Partnership Business Improvement District (BID) and Van Alen Institute, that called for proposals from design firms for a temporary holiday installation.
SOFTlab, which also happens to be a local firm located on West 27th Street directly north, worked with materials from 3M to create the crystalline installation that acts as a sort of observatory for historical sites in the neighborhood. Viewing scopes positioned in different directions allow passerby to see the Flatiron Building, Met Life clock tower, Empire State Building and other landmarks through a kaleidoscopic lens and LEDs that activate within the structure enhance the effect.
Argo Tea on Broadway is one of the businesses that has a device for public WiFi installed as part of the new program. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)
By Maria Rocha-Buschel
The Flatiron Partnership/BID announced the completion of a wireless corridor in the district on Monday, offering access to public WiFi on the street and in various businesses throughout the neighborhood.
The recently-announced expansion is bringing public WiFi to additional streets throughout the district, strengthening the signal from Sixth Avenue to Park Avenue South along 23rd Street and adding service on Fifth Avenue from 25th to 21st Streets, on Broadway from 24th to 21st Streets and on 21st Street between Fifth Avenue and Broadway.
The BID partnered with 13 businesses, including Alan Tanksley, Inc., Argo Tea, Flatiron Green Café, Marimekko, ilili BOX and others to install equipment for the expanded network.
Former Mayor Michael Bloomberg initially announced a program to bring free public WiFi to various commercial districts throughout the city in the fall of 2013. The Wireless Corridor Challenge was led by the city’s Economic Development Corporation and was awarded to five organizations in the city, including the Flatiron 23rd Street Partnership. Sky Packets, a company that focuses on providing WiFi for retail businesses, worked with the Flatiron Partnership to implement the network.
A family poses for holiday portraits at Union Square Park. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)
By Maria Rocha-Buschel
Neighborhood groups have been kicking off the holiday season this past week with events aimed at promoting local businesses as shopping destinations as well as consumer safety during a busy time of year for crime. Department of Consumer Affairs commissioner Julie Menin was on the Flatiron’s south public plaza last Thursday to remind consumers to be vigilant while shopping during the holidays and the Union Square community kicked off the holiday shopping season with free professional portraits in the pavilion on the north plaza on Sunday.
Jennifer Falk, executive director of the Union Square Partnership, said that this year was the first time portraits were offered. “We’ve been doing some new community events but this one is really to kick off the holiday season,” she said. The schedule was booked for the day and Falk noted that people were having their photos taken with family and some people even brought their pets. “We’re excited that the community is coming out,” she said, adding that this is one of the new holidays programs the Partnership is adding this season.
The Association for the Help of Retarded Children (AHRC), based in Lower Manhattan, usually takes a weekly field trip to Union Square on Sundays. They meet at the Barnes and Noble across from the north plaza and were able to get a group photo because they happened to be in the area. Leroy Dyer, the program supervisor, takes the kids on recreational trips every weekend and he said that the kids were excited that the event happened to coincide with their weekly outing.
Meanwhile, Menin was at the Flatiron Plaza doling out tips on how New Yorkers can get the most for their money during the busy shopping season. She cited the list of “10 Things Every Consumer Should Know,” which is available on the city website at nyc.gov/consumers. The list includes tips about making a budget, being alert for holiday scams and being aware of consumer rights.
Jennifer Brown, Flatiron BID executive director, speaks at the Flatiron Plaza. (Photo by Cameron Blaylock, courtesy of Van Alen Institute)
“We want to support small business and make sure that hardworking New Yorkers get the most for their money,” Menin said. She added that some of the important tips to keep in mind are to compare prices and be aware of stores’ refund policies. Parents should also be particularly aware of product recalls, which can be checked through the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission website at cpsc.gov.
“We want residents to be aware of all the great small businesses that are here, regardless of the neighborhood, but we do have a lot of both independent and national businesses in the Flatiron District,” Flatiron BID executive director Jennifer Brown noted at the event. “There’s something for everyone here. We want to encourage people to shop local and help independent businesses thrive.”
Madison Square Park is celebrating the 200th anniversary of the park’s naming in style this weekend with a historical fair and contemporary art party featuring period-themed activities and displays from the 19th and 20th centuries.
There will be popular lawn games from the past 200 years set up throughout the park, including badminton/shuttlecock, croquet for both adults and kids, jump rope, marbles, hopscotch and a 1914-inspired dice game of hearts.
The Museum of Interesting Things, which is a traveling interactive exhibition of inventions and antiques, will be at the event with a booth containing popular cultural items from the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries on display. Betsy, a Fifth Avenue Coach Company double decker bus that ran in Manhattan from 1931 to 1953 will be on display thanks to the New York Transit Museum and attendees will be able to check out the clothing and fashion from the early 1800’s and 1900’s in an exhibit from Leading Lady Costumes.
There will also be a number of performances throughout the afternoon, featuring music, dancing and magic popular during the early 1900’s. The Mad. Sq. 200 Quartet is a string quartet with alumni from the Juilliard School and will perform popular classical music from the 1800’s. The Commonwealth Vintage Dancers will demonstrate some of the line dances popular during the early 1800’s and 1900’s, all while in full costume.
The historic daytime fair will be Saturday, September 6 from 3 to 6 p.m., but after that until 9 p.m., the improvisational art organization known as TASK will be hosting an experimental, contemporary art party.
TASK was created by artist Oliver Herring and participants follow two simple rules: write down a task on a piece of paper and add it to a designated TASK pool, then others take a task from the pool and interpret it any way they want, using materials and props provided.
Madison Square Park Conservancy executive director Keats Myer recently spoke to the Flatiron 23rd Street Partnership about the fair and party.
“This event is to honor Madison Square Park’s rich history, while also celebrating the diverse and vibrant community that makes the Park so special today,” Myer told the BID.
This week the following, free events will be held outdoors in parks and other spaces open to the public.
Folk dancing at Stuy Cove Park
Folk dancing led by Christine Meyers
The Stuyvesant Cove Park Association presents an evening of folk dancing led by Christine Meyers.
The session will take place on Saturday, August 2 at 7 p.m. at the park. No experience is necessary and all are welcome to attend regardless of age or fitness level. In the event of rain the event will take place on Sunday, August 3.
Movies at Waterside Plaza
“Bend it Like Beckham”
Waterside Plaza presents the return of RCN-sponsored movie nights on the plaza throughout August. Films will be shown on August 4 (“Bend it Like Beckham”), August 11 (“Kung Fu Panda”), August 18 (“Moneyball”) and (“Invincible”) August 25 at 8 p.m. (dusk) each night. No rain date. Event is cancelled if it rains.
Additionally, on August 16 at 8 p.m., Waterside will hold its first international food festival outside on the plaza. Event occurs rain or shine.
Films in Tompkins presents screenings on Thursdays throughout the summer in the park, presented by Howl! Arts. See the Films in Tompkins Facebook page for updates.
On Aug. 7, “The Labyrinth” will be shown.
On Aug. 14, “Midnight Cowboy.”
Concert series concludes at Madison Square Park
Sister Sparrow and the Dirty Birds
Madison Square Park Conservancy will conclude the twelfth season of Mad Sq. Music: Oval Lawn Series on Aug. 6 from 7-8:30 p.m., with a performance by Sister Sparrow & The Dirty Birds. Concerts take place on the Oval Lawn of Madison Square Park. The park is located at 23rd St. between Madison and Fifth Aves. Concerts occur rain or shine and are appropriate for the whole family. Visitors are encouraged to bring a blanket and picnic (no chairs allowed. For more information, visit madisonsquarepark.org.
Traveling theater in the East Village
“EMERGENCY!!! or The World Takes A Selfie,” a musical comedy about a New York EMT worker, will tour city streets, parks and playgrounds. A local performance will be held on Aug. 2 at 2 p.m. on First Ave. and 10th St. (Photo by Jonathan Slaff)
Theater for the New City presents “EMERGENCY!!! or The World Takes a Selfie,” a musical which will tour city streets, parks and playgrounds throughout the five boroughs from Aug. 2 to Sept. 14. The Sat., Aug. 2 show at 2 p.m. will take place in front of TNC, First Ave. and E. 10th St. The running time is one hour. Shows will take place at different sites in the five boroughs, returning to the East Village community for two performances in September. In this musical, a New York EMT worker is on a workingman’s grand tour of the world and decides to tackle global problems the way he does emergencies of his NYC beat. Every day, an EMT worker becomes inextricably entwined with the private lives of all kinds of New Yorkers, with all their personal crises. The hero of this play ministers to the widest variety of human beings, from vaudeville entertainers to ladies of the night to planet-saving protesters to occasional investigative journalists, one of whom makes him a sidekick for a worldwide expedition through trauma, violence, spying and accidental wars on a global scale. The music varies in style from bossa nova to hip hop to musical comedy to Gilbert & Sullivan.
On three consecutive Saturdays in August, nearly seven miles of NYC’s streets are opened for people to play, run, walk and bike. Summer Streets provides space for healthy recreation and encourages New Yorkers to use more sustainable forms of transportation. In 2013, more than 300,000 people took advantage of the open streets.
A rest stop along the route will be located at East 25th Street and Park Avenue South. Additionally, the DOT will be offering free bike helmet fittings on East 24th Street and Park Avenue South on Saturday, August 2 from 7 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Fittings will also be offered during Summer Streets on August 9 and 16. For details, visit nyc.gov/summerstreets.
For even more events going on this week, including concerts, theater, kids’ events, art exhibits, burlesque and walking tours, see Town & Village’s Around & About section.
To find out about free events taking place throughout the city, see our Cutting Corners section.
For health related events, including free fitness classes, support groups and screenings, see Health and Fitness.
General Assembly will once again present tech workshops at the Flatiron South Plaza. (Pictured) A workshop held last year (Photo courtesy of Flatiron/23rd Street BID)
By Sabina Mollot
In recent years, summertime in the city has become synonymous with concerts and other events at parks and neighborhood spaces, and the Flatiron District is no exception.
However along with traditional events like fitness classes and outdoor theater, both of which are being offered in the Flatiron pedestrian plazas, the Flatiron/23rd Street Partnership (BID) is also bringing back another popular activity: tech workshops.
For the past two summers, the Partnership has partnered with local company General Assembly to give classes on a variety of tech and business topics outside on the south plaza.
The first workshop in a three part series took place on Tuesday, July 8 and the remaining classes will take place on July 15 and 22 at the south plaza, located on Broadway between 22nd and 23rd Streets. On Tuesday, July 15 at 6 p.m., “Rules of Engagement: Moving Consumers from Awareness to Advocacy” is the scheduled class aimed at teaching social marketing strategy. On Tuesday, July 22 at 6 p.m. “Inbound Marketing Solutions: Marketing on a Budget” will focus on how to generate leads and improve traffic with a limited marketing budget.
Jennifer Brown, the BID’s executive director, said the tech workshops were part of the organization’s mission of helping the local business community, which really got underway after the recession. So far the events have been a hit locally with around 30 to 40 attending when the weather is favorable. Sometimes people register in advance, but other attendees just happen to be walking by and sit down once they see what’s going on.
“The topics are interesting for people across different industries, like marketing,” said Brown. “Last summer they did a workshop on perfecting your pitch. That’s helpful no matter what your profession is.”
General Assembly, like the other groups and businesses the Partnership is working with on the programming, is donating its services, and classes are free for those who attend. The company also offers classes at its two locations, but, noted Brown, “People typically have to pay for them.”
As for the other programs, on Wednesdays, instructors from Flatiron fitness studios will be teaching exercise and yoga classes, sponsored by Athleta, on the south plaza. Upcoming fitness classes are: “Barreless Core Fusion” with Exhale on Wednesday, July 16 at 6 p.m. and “Shanti Flow with Yoga Shanti” on Wednesday, July 23 at 6 p.m.
On Thursdays, the Peoples Improv Theater (The PIT) will take the stage at the north plaza, on the west of Madison Square Park. House teams will perform a brand-new musical made up on the spot on July July 17 and July 24 at 6 p.m. each evening. PIT performers have worked the Flatiron plaza crowd before for holiday programs in December.
Brown said the decision to offer fitness classes was inspired by similar seasonal programs now running at Union Square and Bryant Parks as well as the fact that the Flatiron neighborhood has become home to many fitness and yoga studios.
“We’ve been talking about working with them for years now,” she said.
New recycling bins with solar-powered trash compactors have been installed in the Flatiron pedestrian plaza. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)
The BID pays for its programming as well as its other projects like maintenance of the pedestrian plazas and beautification of the neighborhood. Tree pit guards were recently implemented throughout the district and three new recycling bins with solar-powered trash compactors were installed in the plazas, paid for out of a $350,000 annual budget as well as other revenue. The BID gets some income from two food kiosks on the plazas and also gets a fee, along with the city, when the plazas are used by companies for promotional events. If there’s a movie shoot, the BID will usually get some sort of voluntary monetary contribution. Most of the years since its creation though, the expenses have been more than what the budget allows for.
“The revenue has varied over the years,” added Brown. “We had a small surplus a couple of years ago.”
But the expenses have also changed. Initially, the BID arranged for plantings twice a year. These days, it’s four times a year. Maintenance of the BID, handled by its own sanitation, public safety and gardening crews, is done throughout the BID district, the borders of which are 21st and 23rd Streets and Third and Sixth Avenues.
The exception is Madison Square Park, since it’s maintained by the Madison Square Park Conservancy. Brown said the BID’s programming also tries to complement and not duplicate that of the conservancy, which is now running a summer concert series as well as events for children in the park. (See Town & Village’s Around & About section for details.)
For more information about the Flatiron Partnership’s events, visit http://www.discoverflatiron.org.