Local Business Improvement District Upholds Downtown
The annual report published by the Downtown Alliance, which operates Lower Manhattan’s business improvement district (BID), offers a statistical snapshot of civic improvement efforts in the square mile between Chambers Street and the Battery, and the Hudson and East Rivers.
In fiscal year 2023, the Downtown Alliance collected $23.9 million in revenue. As with all of the 76 BIDs that dot the five boroughs, the bulk of the Alliance’s funding comes from assessments levied on property owners within its boundaries. The Alliance collected $20.4 million in such assessments, along with an additional $3.5 million in fees from programs and services it provides. This budget ranks the Alliance third among all New York BIDs, behind only the Times Square Alliance and the Bryant Park Corporation, according to the City’s Department of Small Business Services, which oversees BIDs.
From this budget, the Alliance spent $4.5 million on sanitation, $3.9 million on public safety, $2.4 million on other services (including homeless outreach, horticulture, visitor information kiosks, and public art, as well as infrastructure and streetscape maintenance), and $1.9 million on the Downtown Connection free shuttle bus service. The Alliance also budgeted $4.8 million for communications, marketing, and promotion (the group acts as a local civic booster by raising awareness of the community as a desirable place to live, work, and do business) and $1.5 million on economic development and research.
The Alliance’s sanitation team of 50+ personnel provides street sweeping, power washing, snow and ice removal, graffiti remediation, and street furniture maintenance, as well as garbage removal, recycling collection, and horticultural services. In fiscal year 2023, the Alliance’s sanitation staff removed 1,918 instances of graffiti, and collected 1,080 tons of trash, 306 tons of recycling, and more than 20 tons of compost.
The Public Safety team, comprised of more than 40 security officers (recognizable by their signature bright red jackets) intervene in emergencies, such as reporting crimes in progress and reuniting lost children with their families, while also calling in violations by street vendors and peddlers (more than 1,800 times in 2023) within the district. The Public Safety group (working in partnership with Trinity Church and the Bowery Rescue Mission) helped move 111 homeless individuals off the streets and into transitional housing during the same period.
Part of the Alliance’s strategy for building a brand around Lower Manhattan is to produce events that bring the community together. These include Dine Around Downtown (the summer food fest that draws several thousand diners to an outdoor gathering of dozens of local restaurants), and an autumn concert series attended by more than 2,000 people.
Another prong in this approach is the creation of new programs that highlight the community to the outside world. A case in point is the new Filmmaker in Chief position recently created by the Alliance, which will recruit an emerging auteur whose work will showcase Lower Manhattan as an iconic filming destination. (The winner will receive a $50,000 grant, plus two months of free housing in the neighborhood.)
The Alliance also offers direct support to local businesses, such as its Get Social program, which matches Lower Manhattan small businesses with social media consultants, to provide one-on-one training on a range of platforms. In 2023, 20 local retailers benefitted from this service, as well as stipends of $1,500 each to support social media advertising.
Finally, there is advocacy. Last May, the Alliance pushed for renewal of three leasing incentives specific to Lower Manhattan: a commercial property- and rent-tax abatement, a sales tax exemption, and an energy program, which provides power at a discount of as much as 45 percent from standard rates.