Union Sq. and Village Alliance BIDs plan to grow


By Albert Amateau

The Union Sq.-14th St. Business Improvement District, the city’s first BID, is working on an expansion that will more than double both its area and the number of its participating properties.

In addition, the Village Alliance, the BID covering Eighth St. and St. Mark’s Pl., is also looking to expand northward in the Central Village.

The Union Sq.-14th St. BID was organized 20 years ago to include all the properties around Union Sq. and on both sides of 14th St. between Sixth and First Aves. The expansion area would extend to Seventh Ave. along 14th St. and from the west side of Sixth Ave. to the east side of Irving Pl. and Park Ave. S. from 15th St. to 20th St.

“Even before we started working on this more than a year ago, property owners have been pleading with us to expand and include them in the bid,” said Karen Shaw, executive director of the BID of the Union Sq. Partnership, the bid’s official new name. “The tangible benefits, like street cleanliness and neighborhood marketing, have been visible for years, and now, with Mayor Bloomberg very supportive of BIDs, the time for expansion is right,” said Shaw.

Honi Klein, the Village Alliance’s executive director, was out of town and unavailable for comment, but Rebecca Koopman, an employee of the Alliance, confirmed that the expansion is being planned. In addition, the Alliance will be taking out a public service ad in next week’s Villager announcing a meeting to inform property owners of the plan, Koopman said.

In addition, the mayor’s strong support of BIDs has also encouraged members of the 23rd St. Association to propose a new Madison Sq. Flatiron BID that would pick up on 21st St., the next block north of the Union Sq. expansion boundary, and extend to 29th St. between Third and Sixth Aves.

“We expect to complete the formation process by September,” said Sharon Ullman, president of the 23rd St. Association and head of the Madison Sq. Flatiron BID steering committee.

The expanded Union Sq. BID, covering more than 24 million sq. ft. of building floor space and including more than 5,500 businesses, would be among the largest in the city.

Among the new businesses that would be included in the expansion are ABC Carpets on Broadway at 19th St. and Paragon Sports on 18th St. and Broadway. Businesses in the Historic Ladies’ Mile District stretch along Sixth Ave. including Bed Bath and Beyond will also be part of the enlarged Union Sq. district.

“People in the area outside of the present boundaries really considered themselves part of the BID as the neighborhood developed around them,” said Shaw, “We see the expansion not as creating a new identity but recognizing the existing identity.”

The Union Sq. BID’s first public meeting on the expansion will be from 6-7 p.m. Wed. Feb. 18 in the Washington Irving High School auditorium, 40 Irving Pl., between 16th and 17th Sts. For more information, phone the Union Sq. Partnership at 212-460-1208.

The Village Alliance will hold its first public meeting for its proposed extension between Ninth St. and the south side of 13th St. on Sixth Ave., University Pl. and Broadway at 8:30 a.m. Thurs. Feb. 19 in the third-floor auditorium of 113 University Pl. For more information, phone the Village Alliance at 212-777-2173.

The Union Sq. BID has received state funding from Assemblymembers Deborah Glick and Steven Sanders for new lighting and has just published a full-color, four-by-nine-inch guide, “Next Shop: Union Square,” with 62 pages listing virtually every business in the expanded district.

There are 46 existing BIDs in the five boroughs and 11 new districts are currently in formation. BIDs, supervised by the city Department of Small Business Services, require the participation of at least 51 percent of the property owners and 51 percent of the assessed valuation in a district, but organizers aim for much a much broader consensus. The districts provide supplementary services, like sanitation, public safety and visitor assistance, marketing and promoting districts as commercial destination, improved lighting and signs and providing services for youth and homeless people.

BIDs are funded by an added assessment on property, which landlords may pass on to commercial tenants. Residential properties are assessed at a lower rate than commercial ones, and properties owned and occupied by nonprofit groups do not generally pay an assessment.

“We’ve completed the first phase of a process that takes a total of nine months and we’re confident of getting very broad support,” said Shaw.