Civic Focuses On R’wood Improvements
The Ridgewood Property Owners and Civic Association (RPOCA) celebrated their 83rd Anniversary while discussing positive changes in the community during its meeting last Thursday, Nov. 6, at the Ridgewood Older Adult Center.
RPOCA President Charles Ober introduced guest speaker Ted Renz, executive director of the Ridgewood Local Development Corporation (RLDC) and the Myrtle Avenue Business Improvement District (BID). Renz helped co-found the RLDC back in 1978 in response to the rapid deterioration of neighboring communities.
“Bushwick was burning and there was great fear in Ridgewood that the same would happen here,” Renz explained. “So we banded together with stakeholders and businesses to make Ridgewood better.”
Early RLDC achievements include a massive 1984 capital improvements project that repaired the streets and sidewalks of Myrtle Avenue. The RLDC also implemented storefront improvement programs, planted trees along Myrtle Avenue and helped create summer youth employment programs.
Another major focus of the RLDC is the promotion of growth in Ridgewood’s industrial zones. Renz cited Ridgewood’s industrial past, when knitting mills and other manufacturing flourished.
“Manufacturing jobs are very important to this community,” Renz stated. “They were an important economic engine for Myrtle Avenue, and we hope to bring it back.”
The Myrtle Avenue BID was formed by the RLDC in 1988 in an effort to unite the commercial or business sector with the community. It is one of only 69 Business Improvement Districts in the city. The BID currently encompasses over 345 retail and service establishments along Myrtle Avenue spanning from Wyckoff Avenue to Fresh Pond Road.
According to Renz, the BID receives a budget of $406,000 in city funds for programs and services, including supplemental sanitation services, graffiti removal, beautification, marketing and special events such as the upcoming Myrtle Avenue holiday light displays.
The BID was recently awarded a business attraction grant from the NYC Department of Small Business Services earlier this year.
“This grant will help enhance our urban environment within our district,” Renz explained. As a result of the grant, the BID will be able to hire a consultant and conduct community outreach surveys.
“We hope to have a dialogue with residents and find out what’s missing in their shopping experience,” Renz added. The grant will also go toward attracting and cultivating a more diverse mix of businesses and establishments along the Myrtle Avenue commercial strip.
Renz stated he hopes the BID can work with real estate brokers and retailers to bring new retail opportunities and vitality to the area.
Local pedestrian plazas have also been a major focus of the BID. According to Renz, the BID hosts several programs at local Ridgewood plazas, including opera performances, yoga sessions, art exhibits and the recent Make Music NYC event which took place in June.
“The plazas bring people together,” he explained. “We hope to continue to enhance them and bring more programming to the plazas.”
The BID recently teamed up with the Horticultural Society of New York and the Association of Community Employment Programs for the Homeless (ACE) to plant seasonal flowers at the 71st Avenue Plaza as well as at Clemens Triangle on Cypress Avenue.
Renz thanked the RPOCA for donating supplies and daffodils during last spring’s planting events.
In August 2015, construction on a permanent plaza at 71st Avenue will begin. Improvements will include decorative paving, new furniture for the plaza and an informational kiosk that will provide historical data about Ridgewood in addition to a local business directory. The plaza will also host a new biosphere and green garden that will collect and recycle rainwater for the planting areas.
The BID also partnered with GrowNYC to form the Ridgewood Youth Market, a greenmarket that takes place every Saturday from July through November at the Ridgewood Veterans Triangle at the corner of Myrtle and Cypress avenues. The final youth market of the year will be held on Saturday, Nov. 22.
Renz spoke of potentially expanding the greenmarket to the 71st Avenue Plaza in the future.
Both Renz and Ober hope to bring a sense of history and appreciation of the past back to Ridgewood through improvements to storefront facades. The Landmark Preservation Commission is scheduled to vote on the creation of the Central Ridgewood Landmark District on Dec. 9.
They are optimistic that the landmark designation will be approved and hope the vote will also inspire local business to preserve or replicate the historical aspects of the neighborhood in their storefronts.
“We hope to keep construction compatible with the original intent and architecture of the buildings,” Ober stated. “We are trying to preserve the historical aspects and character of the neighborhood here in Ridgewood.”
Renz also credited Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan and former State Sen. Serphin Maltese with the installation of old fashioned street lamps along Myrtle Avenue.
He also spoke briefly about plans for the Ridgewood Theater. The upper portion of the theater is to be converted into about 50 housing units. However, the theater’s ground floor facade is protected and cannot be altered.
“We don’t want another 99 cents store or Walgreens,” Renz said. “We hope to get some good use out it for the community.”
In addition to the Ridgewood Theater, a proposed 120-unit housing complex with ground floor retail space is coming to Myrtle and St. Nicholas avenues, near Venditti Square. According to Renz, the structure may wrap around Palmetto Street, creating housing for commuters utilizing the Myrtle-Wyckoff Avenues transit hub.
Renz explained that there were discussions with City Council Member Elizabeth Crowley’s and Assemblyman Mike Miller’s offices about the possibility of expanding the Myrtle Avenue BID past Fresh Pond Road to the Glendale Veterans Triangle at 70th Street. The discussions are in the preliminary stages and will most likely involve the Queens Chamber of Commerce, as well as community voices.
“Myrtle Avenue is very important to the community,” Ober added, “If the avenue is strong and healthy, it helps us to be strong, too.”
The Ridgewood Property Owners and Civic Association will hold its annual Christmas concert and tree lighting on Thursday, Dec. 4, at 7 p.m. at I.S. 93, located on Forest Avenue between Madison and Woodbine streets. The group’s next formal meeting will be in February 2015.