Flatiron/23rd Street Partnership Business Improvement District planning to expand north, west

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.

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City talks shop as lawmakers move to help mom-and-pops

Ahead of a hearing on several small business bills, City Council members including Mark Levine and Helen Rosenthal (pictured with supporters), hold a rally at City Hall. (Photos by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

The City Council is mulling a package of legislation aimed at protecting mom-and-pops that ranges from creating a registry to track storefront vacancies to providing affordable retail spaces at developments where owners collect $1 million or more in subsidies.

On Monday, the bills were debated at a hearing chaired by the City Council Small Businesses Committee Chair Mark Gjonaj, after a rally on the front steps of City Hall.

The piece of legislation that would require the city to maintain a vacancy registry is being sponsored by Council Members Helen Rosenthal, Carlina Rivera, Ben Kallos and Mark Levine as well as Speaker Corey Johnson. The registry would include the location of the property, the reasons for the vacancy, the owner’s name, contact information for the property and the day it became vacant. Property owners would be expected to register once a property is vacant for more than 90 days. Failure to register would result in a penalty of $1,000 for every week after that.

Another bill, sponsored by Rosenthal and Johnson, would require the city to maintain a database of commercial properties.

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Impacted businesses advised to file claims with Con Edison or insurance

Office of Emergency Management Commissioner Joe Esposito speaks to building owners at a meeting held on Monday. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Flatiron businesses owners impacted by last week’s steam blast were told on Monday night that they may have some recourse for their losses in the form of insurance claims or claims with Con Edison.

Representatives from the utility, the Office of Emergency Management, the Department of Health, Small Business Services and the Department of Environmental Protection offered updates on the ongoing investigation and clean-up effort during a meeting at the Clinton School in Union Square on Monday night.

Joseph Esposito, the commissioner for the Office of Emergency Management, said that as of Monday night, 17 buildings had been cleared for reoccupancy and the OEM announced that 16 additional buildings had been cleared by Wednesday morning, with 12 still needing to be cleaned and checked before they can be reoccupied.

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Bill aims to help city’s smallest businesses

July5 small biz rally gjonaj

Council Member Mark Gjonaj, the bill’s sponsor, with small business advocates, including one in a carrot costume (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The City Council’s Small Business Committee chair introduced legislation aiming to protect the smallest small businesses in the city during a rally at City Hall last Thursday.

Council Member Mark Gjonaj, a representative from the Bronx, said that his legislation is seeking to get the city to do more to support businesses with fewer than 10 employees by identifying those businesses and developing programs to help them stay in business.

The legislation would also require the city’s Department of Small Business Services to conduct an annual survey to identify those micro-businesses and help them stay open.

According to data from Gjonaj’s office, businesses with fewer than 10 employees account for 80 percent of all jobs created in the city.

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City offering free legal help to mom-and-pops signing leases

Huascar Aquino, a winner of “Cupcake Wars,” in front of his Hell’s Kitchen bakery with Small Business Services Commissioner Gregg Bishop (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

The city is throwing a legal lifeline to mom-and-pops by offering free legal help to some small businesses to help them negotiate leases.

On Tuesday, Department of Small Business Services Commissioner Gregg Bishop, along with Council Member Robert Cornegy, announced the program, which will receive $2.4 million in funding over the next two years.

The program is expected to help 400 small business owners a year who couldn’t otherwise afford attorneys, but Bishop said it can grow if the demand for free legal help is higher than expected. Attorneys, who belong to organizations like the Urban Justice Center and Brooklyn Legal Services Corporation, will be assigned to individual businesses to help them resolve disputes before they end up in court. However, the attorneys, who are expected to provide an average of 40 hours of services per client, will not represent businesses in disputes that do end up in court.

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City admits it has no way to track storefront vacancies

Council Member Dan Garodnick chairs the hearing on retail vacancy. (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

City agencies currently have no way of measuring the rate of storefront vacancies in the city, representatives have admitted.

The representatives, who were from the Department of Small Business Services, discussed the matter at a City Council hearing earlier this month led by Council Member Dan Garodnick, chair of the Economic Development Committee. At the hearing, Garodnick had been pressing the agency on its apparent lack of strategies to come up with solutions to address retail blight.

“This hearing is about the economic impact of vacant storefronts and what I heard in the testimony was mostly a variety of things SBS has done to help businesses over time, but I didn’t really hear any urgency about the problem,” Garodnick said.

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Roof painting in ST/PCV should make buildings cooler in summer

Painters at work in Stuyvesant Town (Photos by Gursimran Toor, StuyTown Property Services)

By Sabina Mollot

Early in June, Stuyvesant Town Property Services (SPS) announced that work had begun on a project aimed at cooling the complex’s buildings down in the summer — by painting the roofs.

Dubbed “Cool Roofs,” the initiative is part of a city program that debuted in 2009. For Stuy Town’s buildings, the city is footing the bill for the painting of the building roofs in white, reflective paint. (So tenants do not have to worry about a looming major capital improvement rent increase.)

An email sent to residents on June 8 said the work began that day with all of Stuy Town’s and Peter Cooper Village’s roofs to be included.

As the email from SPS notes, “during a typical summer day, flat, black asphalt rooftops can reach temperatures of 190°F. A roof treated with a specialized white coating can reduce internal building temperatures by up to 30 percent due to the sun’s rays reflecting off the roof instead of being absorbed. As an added benefit, this lessens the power needed to run A/C units resulting in less greenhouse gas emissions. Every 2,500 square feet of roof coated with the reflective paint can reduce the city’s carbon footprint by 1 ton of CO2. The program aims to coat 1 million square feet of rooftop annually.”

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