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Sulzberger Jr., touts new Times Square BID.

The new Times Square Business Improvement District is an example of how bad times bring out the best in people and how New York does the same to those who live and work here, Arthur Sulzberger Jr. chair of the BID, told a recent gathering of the Association of Real Estate Women.

The BID, which has an operating budget of $4.5 million, came into official existence on Jan. 1.

"I see the BID as an example of neighbors seizing the initiative to improve the lot of our neighborhood, and, by extension, the lot of the city at large," he said.

The district is bounded by the southern border of 40th Street and the northern border of 53rd Street. On the east it is bordered by the first tax lot west of Sixth Avenue and on the west by the first tax lot on the west side of Eighth Avenue. It also extends to Ninth Ave on Restaurant Row on 46th. Gretchen Dykstra, formerly director of National Video Resources, a Rockefeller Foundation project, serves as its president.

The new publisher of the New York Times told the group at the Grand Hyatt the history of his family's commitment to the area. After his grandfather Adolph Ochs purchased and gave new life to the bankrupt New York Daily Times in 1896, the Times moved its offices from lower Manhattan into a larger custom-built headquarters in an uptown area known then as Longacre Square. The new Times building was the second largest in New York and the area was renamed "Times Square."

The area in that period was a "ritzy" neighborhood with up-scale hotels and restaurants, many of them frequented by the passengers of the luxury liners docked at the West Side piers. Times Square became the "crossroads" of the world, "the Great White Way."

Times Square remained the heart of New York for decades, Sulzberger said. "But increasingly, Times Square's glitz gave way to the honk tonk," he said. "Vaudeville gave way to Burlesque. And then to porn, and drugs, and crime, and despair."

The idea for the Times Square BID, he said, was actually born two years ago. It failed, however, because of petty arguments and resentment over real estate deals that failed more than 40 years ago.

Six months later, however, problems reached such a level that property owners were forced to overcome their differences and unite to solve common problems. Sulzberger credited Rusty Moore, who did all the leg work from inception to approval for the BID, as being critical to the BID's formation.

"Very briefly, these BID's are public-private partnerships that enable property owners in a commercial area to provide services above and beyond those already provided by the city," he said.

The Grand Central Partnership, he said, is one of the best known of these districts.

Owners, he explained, pay an assessment for cleaner, safer streets. Even in these tough economic times, Sulzberger said, owners believe "neglecting" their neighborhoods is more costly, in the long run, then the extra payment now.

The BID efforts, he said, do not "supplant" city services. The city must still meet its obligations. The BID, however, can provide needed extra services when the city is in a budgetary squeeze.

"... our independent efforts can mean the difference between widespread perceptions that our city is going down for the count and the sense that there is a renewed commitment to keeping our city great - block by block, neighborhood by neighborhood," he said.

Initial services that went into effect New Year's Day include: A round-the-clock, private security force of approximately 40 uniformed, unarmed personnel that are linked directly to a New York City Police department desk; a sanitation force with 30 uniformed personnel that will work on "problem areas" 17 hours a day, seven days a week; a social services director and a program that will contract with existing social services agencies and organizations to serve the homeless and other socially disadvantaged groups.

Upcoming plans include: new street lighting, taxi stands and information kiosks, and a public information campaign.

Sulzberger expressed his confidence in an economic recovery for New York and, he said, recent "record-setting" waves of immigration are good for the city's economy and its moral.

"Immigrants' strength and determination to succeed stir things up, stir all of us to rise to our best," he said.

He said the Times' recently expanded Metro Section re-affirms its commitment to the region.
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Title Annotation:Business Improvement District, Arthur Sulzberger Jr.
Author:Fitzgerald, Therese
Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Date:Mar 4, 1992
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