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BIDS making a difference in NY neighborhoods.

Manhattan Business Improvement Districts are slowly but surely taking back the streets, said the leaders of several of these BIDs at a recent luncheon of the National Association of Corporate Real Estate Executives (NACORE).

While the Times Square BID and the 34th Street Partnership have only been in existence for two years, changes are already apparent in the ambiance of both areas. It's always a cultural shock to people that Times Square is home to Morgan Stanley, The New York Times, the Schubert Organization, PolyGram Records and Ogilvy & Mather, said Gretchen Dykstra, president of the district centered on tourism and theaters.

With the additional presence of security guards and cleaning personnel, purse snatching is down 38 percent and a community based court centered on quality of life and misdemeanor crimes funnels the BID those sentenced to community service. Graffiti is also wiped off immediately, said Dykstra.

Grand Central, 34th Street and Times Square also have nomeless outreach programs. The biggest problem, Dykstra said, is those that are service resistant and the intractable homeless.

With a $5 million budget funded by property owners, Times Square is making other visual improvements. This summer, a switch will be turned on and the Great White Way will be lit with white lights for the first time.

Daniel A, Biederman, president of the Grand Central Partnership and the 34th Street Partnership and executive director of the Bryant Park BID, is often referred to as the "Mayor of Midtown." Indeed, with 100 million square feet of real estate, the area under his jurisdiction is greater than many large cities.

Grand Central has strong homeless programs and taps the formerly homeless for positions within the BID. So far, they have moved 440 people into jobs and apartments. "We treat our homeless people as consumers," said Biederman, explaining they look at the issue as an employment problem. Twenty-one million dollars in government money finances these programs that are basically self-supporting and are not paid out of the property tax assessments.

Facing store owners who had low standards and emphasized price over quality, the BIDs came up with design guidelines for signage and provides outreach help to transform neighborhood eyesores into attractive storefronts.

With the help of the New York City Police Department and its own unarmed but uniformed security, crime has been reduced by 50 percent. Taxi stands, an idea of developer Bernard Mendik, provide order for waiting passengers who were previously easy marks to the former bagmen.

Cooperating with the ragtag shoe-shiners, the Grand Central Partnership designed comfortable booths and gave them uniforms and stature.

A veritable war on graffiti has cleaned up traffic and light poles and even telephone booths. In fact, Biederman recalled they were continually perplexed by numbers written in magic markers on the telephone booths. Finally, they discovered it was the NYNEX workers themselves who were boldly scrawling the last date the booth was serviced.

Pershing Square and the area under the viaduct will soon be closed off to traffic and a restaurant will anchor a pedestrian mall.

The Bryant Park BID was conceptualized in 1984 and has since changed a park that people avoided at all costs to a place where office workers go to eat lunch and loll in the sun. The BID brought it back to life with real people, drove out the drug pushers and has hosted Fashion Week runway shows, summer nights at the movies and even a gigantic party for the Democratic National Convention at the park.

The 14th Street and Union Square area was once renowned for its discount department stores, but those businesses shuttered and drug pushers took over the park. In 1984, the 14th Street BID became the first BID in New York City. It has a relatively small budget of $800,000.

Led by Rob Walsh as its executive director, the area now boasts a world class greenmarket, while renovations and the addition of Zeckendorf Towers have anchored the area and rooted out crime. These days, its the new discount marts that are targeting Union Square and the same buildings that once housed Mays and S. Klein will be reborn with Bradlees, K-Mart and Toys 'R Us.
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Title Annotation:National Assn. of Corporate Real Estate Executives luncheon; Manhattan's Business Improvement Districts
Author:Weiss, Lois
Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Date:Jun 15, 1994
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