By Helen Klein
The approval of the City Planning Commission has propelled the Fifth Avenue Business Improvement District one step closer to becoming a reality.On February 8, the commission voted to support the BID at the Department of City Planning (DCP) headquarters at 22 Reade Street in Manhattan. Noted Chairperson Amanda Burden, at the time, “This BID is very important for the commercial corridors in this area. The BID will help area business owners speak with one voice while providing amenities that are vital to improving retail viability.”“We are very pleased,” remarked Basil Capetanakis, the president of the Fifth Avenue Board of Trade, the merchant organization that had originated the BID proposal. “At last, finally, all of the hard work is almost done and it is coming to fruition. I think this is going to be the best thing that could happen to Fifth Avenue.”The BID is proposed for a 20-block length of Fifth Avenue, between 65th and 85th Streets. At one end, it will join up with the Sunset Park BID. At the other, it will meet the 86th Street BID. The BID has already garnered the support of Representative Vito Fossella, State Senator Marty Golden, City Councilmember Vincent Gentile and Assemblymember Matthew Mirones.Basically, a BID is a public-private partnership in which property-owners assess themselves to pay for a range of amenities. These include four supplementary sanitation workers to sweep and clean Fifth Avenue, eight hours a day, seven days a week. The BID also plans to organize special events, put up holiday lighting, plant trees and flowers, and create a website for the BID with links to the websites of individual merchants along the strip. The BID would also tackle the issue of vacancies.The services provided by the BID are over and above those provided by the city. “The idea,” noted James Clark, who has headed up the BID steering committee, “is to make Fifth Avenue very attractive for people to shop. Hopefully, we’ll be successful.”While some property owners might balk at the idea of paying additional money for services, the cost to property owners, Capetanakis contended, would be repaid, in terms of having an avenue that is more conducive to shopping and strolling. “Even if they have to pay a little more, they will gain a lot in improvements to the avenue, and in improvements to their business,” he opined.The proposed budget for the Fifth Avenue BID is $338,000 a year, with assessments calculated on front footage. The annual assessment for a 20-foot storefront would be $824.38, which amounts to $2.26 a day. The support for the BID among merchants and property owners has been clear-cut. Of the ballots received by the city’s Small Business Administration (SBA), 89.5 percent were in support. SBA is the city agency charged with overseeing the formation of BIDs around the city.The effort to form the Fifth Avenue BID began approximately 14 months ago. However, the Fifth Avenue BID has moved forward relatively rapidly. With the approval of the CPC under its belt, the proposal must be examined and approved The next public hearing, said Clark, would be held at the City Council. “We expect that will be in late May or June,” he said. “For that, we will be sending out certified letters to all the property owners – that’s one of the requirements – to give them another opportunity to say what they want to say.”There are currently 51 BIDs in the city of New York.