Volume 76, Number 6 | June 28 - July 4 2006

Karen Shaw

Shaw to leave Union Square business group

By Albert Amateau

After four and a half years as executive director of the Union Square Partnership, Karen Shaw has told the group that runs the city’s first Business Improvement District that she will step down at the end of the week

Shaw, who came to the BID after service in Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s administration and before that in the Koch administration, has agreed to serve as special consultant to the partnership during the reconstruction of the north end and plaza of Union Sq. Park.

Danny Meyer, co-chairperson of the Partnership, announced Shaw’s decision at the annual meeting on June 21. Meyer paid tribute to Shaw’s accomplishments as executive director, particularly her involvement in the park plan, which the BID co-sponsored with the Parks Department.

Shaw would not comment on her future plans and Meyer said she told the BID board of directors that she “expressed the desire to refocus her energies and interests beyond the Partnership.” Meyer said the board was grateful that Shaw agreed to carry through on the park project as a special consultant.

Jim Gabbe, Partnership president, said the board has hired a consultant who specializes in finding executives for not-for-profit organizations.

In 2001 after David Gmach resigned as BID executive director to join Con Edison, it was nine months – until January 2002 — before the BID found and hired Shaw to replace him. Gabbe, however, said he expects the current search to be completed in about three months.

“There were political complications then, a new city administration was on its way in. There’s nothing like that now.” Gabbe said. Christine Brown, current assistant director under Shaw, indicated last week that she was not a candidate to replace her boss.

BIDs, which are funded through taxes on property owners in the district, are largely independent but they are supervised by the city Dept. of Small Business Services.

Shaw was involved from the beginning on Union Square Park north plan, which received tentative approval in May from the city Art Commission. Construction on the project, including a playground three times larger that the current one and a renovated pavilion with a private restaurant that will operate from May to October, could begin before the end of this year.

The seasonal private restaurant aroused considerable opposition from residents and elected officials who do not want private commercial use of park property.

In addition to nurturing the north park project, Shaw won praise for attracting destination businesses like Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s to the neighborhood.

Her single setback was the failure last year to win sufficient support for a proposal to expand the coverage of the BID to double its current area.

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