New local BID will have its business cut out for it
By Albert Amateau
A new business improvement district is being planned for the fast-changing Meatpacking District between Gansevoort and W. 15th Sts. west of Hudson St.
“We’re about six months into what is usually an 18-month process,” said Annie Washburn, executive director of the Meatpacking District Initiative, a coalition of landlords and business leaders in the changing district, which is sponsoring the new BID.
“We’ve had really great response from everyone, including Friends of the Highline and the Whitney Museum, as well as the business interests,” Washburn said.
David Rabin, president of M.P.D.I. and a restaurant and nightlife owner, said most of the major landlords of the area are involved, a few with only one or two properties but many with multiple holdings in the area.
Among the interests active in the proposed BID are Andre Balazs, who is building the Standard Hotel at 848 Washington St., the Meilman family, the Romanoffs, Taconic Realty and the Little W. 12th St. Corp.
“We are still formulating our mission statement,” Rabin said of the budding BID. “But on a personal level, I’d like to see cleaner streets, more regular garbage removal and a comprehensive marketing program, because I think that many of the larger news organizations and some of the blogs have taken a very facile approach to covering the area and are missing out on some of the terrific developments — some great shops, some great restaurants, some great salons and service businesses and the unique nature of this area as a vibrant 24/7 ecosystem, which functions with relative harmony among all the various constituents.”
One of the BID’s tasks will be to reassess the recently imposed traffic configuration for Gansevoort Plaza, the 8,300-square-foot, cobblestone intersection where Little W. 12th St. meets Gansevoort St. and where Greenwich St. becomes Ninth Ave.
“Though I believe the new configuration was well-intentioned,” Rabin said, “it has been very poorly received on an aesthetic level and is causing numerous late-night problems, including traffic backups and increased noise.”
M.P.D.I. is surveying and analyzing traffic movement in the area.
“We are going to advocate for substantial adjustments once we complete our analysis,” Rabin said.
“We want to make sure that owners of nightlife venues make their best efforts to encourage their customers to be respectful of surrounding residential neighbors,” Rabin said. “And we’re working on new signs that we hope our members will prominently display thanking customers and asking them to try to keep the noise down.
“One thing we can’t really control is the rapid escalation of lease costs,” Rabin said. “We can only hope that some of the more enlightened landlords see a value to maintaining a vital mix of uses in the area and keep rents reasonable for some small businesses, so we don’t end up only with chain stores.”
BID’s traditionally augment sanitation, safety and visitor information services, as well as street lighting and marketing services in their districts. The services, financed by an assessment on property owners based usually on the square footage of the property, are intended to add to, rather than replace, city-provided services.
The city’s Department of Small Business Services supervises BID’s, which must report annually to the city. A BID by law must have the approval of 51 percent of the property owners in the district; but as a practical matter, all BID’s try to win the approval of all property owners.
It is still much too soon to predict what the assessment rate would be, what priorities the BID would set and what the precise boundaries would be, Washburn said.
But in the meantime, M.P.D.I. is planning to bring the four-day Food Network New York City Wine and Food Festival to Pier 54 on the Hudson River at 13th St. from Oct. 9-12.
Presented by Food and Wine and Travel & Leisure magazines, the festival will bring together culinary luminaries from all over the world, as well as the Meatpacking District.
“It won’t involve any street closings,” Washburn said. Tickets will be $40, not including tax and tips. The event will benefit two hunger-relief programs, Share Our Strength and Food Bank for New York City.