Ann Benedetto moved into Tribeca in 2002, shortly after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and it has been an adventure for her and her store ever since. A Uno Tribeca, a high-end women’s clothing store, has seen flooding, construction, hurricane Sandy, and most recently, a crane collapse all within a block.
Ms. Benedetto has also seen Tribeca evolve from a friendly neighborhood with families, pets and small business owners, to a place where only big name businesses can afford the rent. Despite the changes and difficulties, A Uno has survived long enough for Ms. Benedetto to realize it was up to her to begin to make a difference in maintaining the small business, family feel that once defined Tribeca.
Ms. Benedetto recently formed the Tribeca Alliance Partnership to help local business owners in their neighborhood. Their goal is “to build a strong and unified voice that will help conserve, grow, and support the small businesses in Tribeca.” The Broadsheetinterviewed her about what she hopes will come out of this alliance.
The Broadsheet: How did the Tribeca Alliance Partnership start?
Ann Benedetto: In October, I went to a meeting and was introduced to some people from the Manhattan Borough President’s Office. I was then invited to a round table meeting where I met with many officials from all different parts of the City government, including City’s Small Business Services and the Manhattan Borough President’s Office. They said to me, “Ann, if you want to make any impact whatsoever you have to organize.” So one day, I took my little dog and we walked around Tribeca, went into different stores and asked if they would like to join this organization. We started off with about 50 people; I’m up to about 150 now, despite starting only seven months ago.
The Broadsheet: Who benefits from the Tribeca Alliance Partnership?
Ann Benedetto: Our focus is to really help small businesses in Tribeca.
The Broadsheet: What is the purpose of the Alliance?
Ann Benedetto: There are several things that are happening here. First of all, the rents are extraordinarily high. We have at least 100 storefronts that are empty because only big businesses can afford the rents. Another problem is the real estate tax. This is something that Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, is trying to work out. Also, scaffolding and construction effect small businesses. We don’t have visibility. I took this storefront because of the windows. The visibility was my advertising budget basically. But the scaffolding is taking away that advertising. We want to try to change these things.
The Broadsheet: What do you want to see the Alliance accomplish?
Ann Benedetto: We are seeing if there are ways to keep the integrity of Tribeca, which has been a mecca for families. When I first took my store, we used to have restaurants on either side and we got a lot more traffic because of that. But now, we have Citi Bank and HSBC on either side, and it takes away from our traffic. We don’t want Tribeca to turn into another place where only brand names are going to be. We don’t want a Dunkin’ Donuts or more banks.
The Broadsheet: Who makes up the organization?
Ann Benedetto: We have a group of five that are helping to organize: myself serving as president, along with Anne Marie Bennick, vice president, Joanne Hirkaler, secretary, Michael Oberther, treasurer and David Grubb, who helps with IT. We just need to grow the numbers of residents. They help give us a voice. Without them we couldn’t make a difference.
The Broadsheet: What has been your biggest challenge personally?
Ann Benedetto: I am not an organizer. I’m a merchant. My skill sets are the store and trying to make it look good. Putting myself out there in this way has surprised me more than anything else, truthfully.
photos by Robert Simko