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BY WILLIAM KELLEY | As we begin our 20th year in operation, the Village Alliance would like to thank our neighbors, merchants and friends for your continued support. Last year was a particularly challenging one for our merchants, in light of the lengthy power outage and damages caused by Hurricane Sandy. But the spirit of resilience and cooperation shown by the community during the crisis and the subsequent recovery was, and continues to be, truly inspirational.
The Alliance is busy year-round caring for trees, tree pits, hanging baskets and other public landscaped areas in the Central Village. In 2012 we cared for trees along Sixth Ave. and also repaired much of the crumbling bluestone pavers that have become a nuisance for businesses, property owners and pedestrians alike. This past fall we secured the support of Community Board 2 to request a city budget line item to replace the bluestone with more durable concrete that is attractive and easier to maintain. However, we have a long road ahead to make this funding request a reality.
In 2012 the Village Alliance piloted a visual-merchandising grant program for businesses to make storefronts and window displays more attractive and competitive in the retail marketplace. The initial project at Economy Foam & Futon, at 56 W. Eighth St., was recently completed. The windows were provided with attractive vinyl signage and a modern art display highlighting the store’s main staple of foam. We look forward to our next project at 29 W. Eighth St. and to working with other merchants as projects are identified.
The Alliance is pleased that the city’s Department of Transportation approved our request to extend metered parking times on Eighth St. from one hour to a maximum of two hours, allowing more time for shopping and dining on the commercial corridor. This has been a desire of merchants for many years and we anticipate the change will be made during the first half of 2013.
For the past 10 years the Village Alliance has utilized the Police Department’s Paid Detail (staffing by off-duty police officers) to cover two fixed posts three to four days per week. After a detailed program evaluation in 2012, our board and staff agreed that a private contractor would accomplish more than Paid Detail for our public safety program in several key ways: by acting as an extension of the Alliance’s staff during evening hours to provide additional eyes on the street; by regularly checking in with merchants to assess safety concerns; by interacting with visitors, noting concerns, answering questions and requests for directions; and by providing constructive feedback in daily reports to inform meetings with police and property managers.
This past fall, the Alliance issued a request for proposals (R.F.P.) for a public safety contractor, and recommended Archangel Security International, which began full coverage five days per week this January. Archangel’s telephone dispatch can be reached at 347-432-6572 for any nonemergency safety concerns. (Emergencies should always be referred to the police at 911.)
With the launch of the new villagealliance.org in 2012, the Alliance has created a single online destination from which you can plan your Village adventure. The site is a free opportunity for local businesses and cultural organizations to have additional Web presence, offer incentives to residents and list events. We have also created fun and unique neighborhood itineraries as well as a new blog, the Village Beat, to showcase the vicinity. Also in 2012 we launched a Twitter feed (@VillageAlliance) and Facebook page (Facebook.com/TheVillageAlliance), which continue to organically grow at a rate of about 10 percent per month.
Last September the Village Alliance produced the 10th Annual Taste of the Village benefit for Washington Square Park, offering an opportunity for local restaurants to connect with and provide samples to more than 400 guests at our most successful event to date. Together we raised almost $50,000 for park sanitation, horticultural and public safety services.
To raise awareness among residents of the importance of patronizing the Village’s small businesses, last fall the Alliance implemented three new “shop local” campaigns. The first, a Back to School promotion targeting thousands of N.Y.U., New School and Cooper Union students, was distributed during each university’s Welcome Week. Second, the Alliance created a succinct and user-friendly shopping-and-dining map for the district. And finally, our first-ever Village Holiday Gift Guide featured one-of-a-kind gift ideas found throughout the Central Village. The Village Alliance distributed thousands of maps and gift guides to local apartment buildings, businesses, tourist and university information centers, and also through social media and villagealliance.org. If you would like a copy of the Village Map & Guide, stop by the Village Alliance Information Center at 8 East Eighth St.
Looking ahead in 2013, the Village Alliance will focus on placemaking activities, retail-attraction initiatives and community events in addition to improving our core services. The city will begin construction on a redesigned Astor Place/Cooper Square this spring, and we will be conducting interviews and workshops on programming ideas in preparation for unveiling this new civic space in 2014. Our “Positively 8th Street” retail open house event is slated for spring, along with plans for a Village Coffee Crawl to coincide with the opening of Stumptown Coffee Roasters. A multiday festival celebrating the unique cultural heritage of Eighth St. is also planned for summer.
Kelley is executive director, Village Alliance