PARK SLOPE — The owners of toy shop Norman & Jules wanted to capture "the charm of old Park Slope" in their storefront, so they crafted it out of vintage wood, brass and glass.
But soon after opening in September 2012, they realized the carefully curated aesthetic was no match for a formidable foe: Seventh Avenue.
Garbage quickly piled up outside the store, which sells a thoughtful selection of mostly wooden toys, and the sidewalk planter filled with cigarette butts and food wrappers.
"It's kind of ironic how much thought we put into the beautification of our store, and we end up sweeping trash," said co-owner Courtney Ebner, who opened the store with her husband Avi Kravitz.
Now the frustrated business owners say they've found a way to solve their trash troubles.
They're among several merchants on Seventh Avenue who want to form a business improvement district to pay for street cleaning and other beautification. They say the city doesn't do enough to keep the avenue spruced up, so they need to step in to make up the difference with private funds.
Backers of the BID are now gathering support for their plan, which must be approved by the City Council. If they succeed, property owners would pay a yearly fee based on the size of their building — the minimum charge is $700. The money would go into a fund that would pay for services like trash collection and sidewalk sweeping, nighttime security, and street beautification.
The BID, which would have an annual budget of roughly $300,000, would also help market Seventh Avenue businesses and put on festivals and events to attract shoppers.
To move forward, organizers must win support from more than half the 300 property owners on Seventh Avenue between St. John's Place and 16th Street.
Organizers held the first of several public meetings about the BID on Thursday, and got a positive reception — no one spoke out against the plan.
The BID has the support of New York Methodist Hospital, whose annual fees would be among the highest because of the size of its facility, and it has strong backing from the Park Slope Civic Council, a nonprofit that advocates for neighborhood causes.
City Councilman Brad Lander noted that business owners are already burdened with fees, and some gripe that their taxes should cover services like street maintenance, so they're reluctant to put money toward a BID. But Lander said merchants would pay a "relatively modest enough" fee for the BID, and get a high return on their investment, because they'll control exactly how the money is used.
"That's a good offer for this community and a relatively rare one," Lander said.
Even if the BID wins broad support, it wouldn't go into effect for at least a year, said Mark Caserta, a consultant working with BID supporters.
For the owners of Norman & Jules, it can't come soon enough. When they first opened, they kept the front door ajar to create a welcoming atmosphere, but had to stop when they were overwhelmed by the stench of trash wafting in from Seventh Avenue.
"We do so much to keep our store beautiful," Kravitz said. "I used to sweep, and I've given up. I can't keep up with the garbage."
The next public meeting about the proposed BID will be held Tuesday, March 5, 7 p.m. at Greenwood Baptist Church, 461 Sixth St. For more information check out the proposed BID's website.