Honi Klein leaving Village Alliance; Kelley to lead BID


By Albert Amateau

Honi Klein, executive director of the Village Alliance business improvement district since it was organized, is retiring next week after 18 years.

A passionate advocate for the Village as a residential and commercial community, she led the approval processes that resulted in the BID’s formation in November 1993, the $2.1 million streetscape renovation of Eighth St. in 2001 to 2002, and the expansion of the BID’s boundaries in 2006.

A resident of Greenwich Village since she graduated from Simmons College in Boston, Klein served until 2001 on Community Board 2, which covers the Greenwich Village area between 14th and Canal Sts. and between the Hudson River and the Bowery/Fourth Ave.

“Anyone who knows Honi knows she’s a force of nature,” said Lynne Brown, New York University senior vice president and executive committee member of the Village Alliance board of directors. “As a founder of Village Alliance and its engine for almost 20 years, Honi has helped transform and revive the Eighth St./St. Mark’s Place corridor and now the University Place corridor, and she has always been ready for the next idea.”

“Honi Klein has been very committed to the Village and the Village Alliance and she will be missed,” said Bill Abramson, of Buchbinder & Warren and a member of the Alliance’s board of directors. “We’re now looking forward to a new era and new leadership with a fresh perspective on the challenges that face Eighth St. today,” Abramson added.

The new executive head of the BID will be William Kelley, for the past three years director of economic development of the Union Square Partnership, the BID that centers on Union Square Park and 14th St.

“The Village Alliance has been the standard bearer for the Eighth St. and Central Village business community for nearly 20 years,” said Kelley, who takes over on Mon., Feb. 14. “I am honored to join the team and eager to build on that rich history to help take the organization to the next level.”

Klein told this newspaper she would continue to participate in issues that affect the neighborhood that she has always loved.

“I came to the Village right out of college,” she recalled. “It’s the only place I ever wanted to live.”

She worked as a fashion consultant for Abraham & Straus, a major department store in Brooklyn, and then became a fashion journalist with Women’s Wear Daily and later with McCall’s magazine. Her concern about commercial and residential conditions in the neighborhood prompted her to apply for a community board seat, which Carol Greitzer, then councilmember for the district, appointed her to in 1985.

Klein focused on Eighth St. after the late Norman Buchbinder, a major property owner on the street, called a meeting of merchants and residents in 1990 to consider problems that included graffiti and commercial vacancies.

“I told Norman I would work one day a week as a consultant to organize merchants and property owners,” she said. Klein shepherded the group through the process that led to the creation of the Village Alliance BID in 1993.

Graffiti was the first problem that Klein tackled; she called on the Bowery Mission, which allowed its clients to work on scrubbing street furniture and buildings.

Klein then undertook an Eighth St. market study in which merchants indicated that the sidewalks were too narrow. She helped secure a $2.1 million federal grant for a new streetscape.

“I had 11 public hearings on the design and it took two years,” she recalled. The sidewalks were widened, new historic lampposts were installed and, Klein noted, “We still maintained two lanes of traffic, and parking on both sides of the street.”

For the past eight years, the Alliance has conducted the Taste of the Village event in Washington Square Park, and over the years, the Alliance has donated more that $350,000 to the park’s improvement.

“People ask what the connection is between the BID and the park,” Klein said. “It’s really the only public destination in the Village, and it’s just across the street from the BID on Fifth Ave.,” she explained.

Klein also guided the expansion of the BID along the University Place corridor, which became official in November 2006. Now, a total of more than 44 blocks are included along University Place between Eighth and 13th Sts., along Eighth St. and St. Mark’s Place between Sixth Ave. and Second Ave., and along Sixth Ave. between W. Fourth and W. 13th Sts.

The area’s next major project is the city’s $6.5 million redesign of Astor Place and Cooper Square, the northern part of which is within the BID’s eastern end.

“Honi is a hard act to follow,” said Shirley Secunda, a public member of the Alliance board of directors. “She’s done a wonderful job and we were surprised in November when she announced her retirement. But we’ve had a few months to search for someone able to replace her,” said Secunda, who is also head of the Community Board 2 Transportation Committee.

Kelley, a former member of Community Board 4, which covers Chelsea, holds a master’s of urban planning degree from New York University.

“We are thrilled that William is bringing his extraordinary talent and energy to the Village Alliance as our new executive director,” said Martin Dressner, president of the Alliance board of directors. “We’re confident that under his leadership, the Village business community will continue to flourish and achieve great success.”