Flatiron BID executive director steps down after twelve years

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.

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Flatiron BID to hold free tech workshops, other events

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)

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)

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.

Water main break on 23rd Street and Fifth Avenue (updated)

whirlpool

Flooding from the water main on the northeast corner of 23rd Street and Fifth Avenue
Photos by Sabina Mollot

By Sabina Mollot

A water main break on Friday morning before 11 a.m. sent rivers of water gushing throughout the street on Fifth Avenue and 23rd Street and inside the Q/N/R subway station, where trains stopped working.

Outside of Madison Square Park, on the east side, cars driving south found themselves having to get past a seven-foot-wide whirlpool. Naturally, tourists continued to stand around anyway to take pictures of the Flatiron Building, as firefighters responded to the scene.

The 36-inch water main was from 1915, according to William Podstupka, one of the MTA workers at the scene. An official agency spokesman couldn’t confirm the main’s age, though, explaining, “the MTA doesn’t own the water main.” Podstupka, however, said the main had caused 36,000 gallons of water to spurt out and that workers were just hoping to have the situation under control by Friday evening.

The break caused N and Q trains to stop running between 57th Street and Dekalb Avenue and R trains to stop running between Queens Plaza and Whitehall Street.

Update: As of 1:55 a.m. on Saturday, normal N, Q and R train service has resumed in Manhattan. According to an official NYC alert, straphangers should expect residual delays and traffic near East 23rd Street and Broadway.

Additionally, the Department of Environmental Protection was on the scene to address problems with water pressure in the area as a result of the break. If anyone still has low water pressure, Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who sent out an email alert via the Flatiron BID, said the DEP is tracking complaints via the 3-1-1 system.

Stroller

Passersby slosh through the water on the northwest corner of 23rd Street and Fifth Avenue.

23rd Street NW corner puddle

Flooding at around 11 a.m.

workers

Three hours later, workers remain at the scene.