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Lower East Side BID Looking to Triple in Size

A map showing the LES BID's current boundaries and proposed expansion area.
A map showing the LES BID's current boundaries and proposed expansion area.
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Lower East Side Business Improvement District

By Patrick Hedlund

DNAinfo News Editor

LOWER EAST SIDE — A local business improvement district is ramping up efforts to expand its boundaries to include more than 1,000 properties under a plan to triple the district's current size.

The Lower East Side BID currently covers properties along Orchard and Allen streets between East Houston and Canal streets, as well as a few blocks on Delancey, Broome and Grand streets.

Seeing a need to expand to include more businesses in the neighborhood's ever-growing retail environment, LES BID executive director Bob Zuckerman outlined a plan that would stretch the district west to the Bowery, east to Clinton Street and Attorney streets, and south to East Broadway.

"We'd love to be able to do this not just for Orchard Street," he said of the BID's core, at a meeting of Community Board 3's Economic Development Committee Wednesday.

"We feel we can do this, we are confident we can do this."

The BID primarily provides sanitation services for participating properties, including graffiti removal and trash pickup, but also offers grants to businesses for storefront improvements, website development and security cameras.

In exchange, landlords pay an annual fee that varies depending on the type and size of the property, or about $1,000 per year for a prime commercial space with an assessed value of about $483,000.

Zuckerman explained that the BID wants to nearly triple its annual budget — from about $335,000 per year to about $990,000 per year — as well as increasing the number of properties it serves from 400 to about 1,200 under the expansion.

So far, based on about 150 responses received by the BID during outreach efforts, 88 percent of property owners are in favor of the expansion, he noted.

Committee members asked Zuckerman if the BID might be biting off more than it can chew, but he countered that the district's services are currently accounting for properties outside its boundaries.

"In some way, we're already doing some of the work for the expansion area," he said, noting that the BID's marketing and promotion efforts are not limited to the current district.

The BID hosts local events such as Pickle Day, Apple Day and an upcoming Lady Gaga lookalike contest, as well as developing marketing materials like neighborhood gallery guides and a soon-to-be-released iPhone app.

Committee members also asked why the BID is looking to expand over an area that includes so many residential properties, but Zuckerman noted that residential owners only pay a $1 fixed annual fee to the BID, while nonprofit and educational organizations pay nothing.

The BID can also help encourage retail diversity in the nightlife-rich area, he added, by holding events with brokers and engaging the real estate community.

"We're very serious this time," Zuckerman added.

The BID will hold meetings on the proposal over the next two months, and hopes to ultimately earn approval for the expansion by the winter or early spring of 2012, he said.

The BID's expansion plan would need the approval of the City Council, the City Planning Commission and the City Council.