Diaspora

Talks, walkthroughs underway to develop Little Haiti BK business district – Haitian Times

The Haitian Times
Bridging the gap
BROOKLYN — Nearly four years ago, Little Haiti BK in Flatbush became the 18th micro-ethnic neighborhood across New York City. At the time, politicians and community leaders made promises of forming a Business Improvement District (BID) to promote measures like business development, public safety and sanitary streets. 
Now, efforts to turn the idea of a BID for Little Haiti BK into a reality are underway, local partners and politicians say, albeit slowly. Some see the timing as opportune with the city’s newly-installed administration in place, and are looking for guidance from the Small Business Services, SBS, the agency that would approve the BID.
Conversations and walkthroughs to engage business owners about buy-ins and residents have taken place so far, said Joan-Alexander Bakiriddin, chairperson for Community Board 17, where Little Haiti BK falls. Local politicians have been involved in the BID discussions and plan to continue conversations with newly-appointed SBS Commissioner Kevin Kim for support. 
“There needs to be a conversation with the business owners, the merchant’s associations and SBS now that we have a new commissioner who is going to walk us through the process of being approved,” said Rodneyse Bichotte Hermelyn, New York State Assemblymember for the 42nd District, which includes Little Haiti. 
To be approved, BID supporters must address several challenges, including defining the proper geographical limits, persuading  stakeholders to cooperate and outlining a feasible budget. 
With two other existing BIDs in the district — Flatbush Avenue BID  from Parkside Avenue in the north down to Cortelyou Road and the Church Avenue BID from  Coney Island Avenue to Flatbush Avenue — supporters of the BID must also ensure there’s no overlap. 
Little Haiti BK’s BID would run from Nostrand Avenue and Glenwood Road to the intersection of Flatbush and Foster Avenues, Bichotte Hermelyn said.
In terms of budget, Bichotte said funds for the Little Haiti BID would start on the smaller side and then build over time, though she did not cite specific figures. By comparison, the budget for the Church Avenue BID is $203,000, while Flatbush Avenue BID’s budget is slightly larger, at $386,000.
Bichotte Hermelyn said that building a BID now would be especially helpful to the community, as several businesses have had to shutter as a result of COVID-19. 
“With a BID, jobs will be created and people can support businesses, like buying fresh fruit from the Caribbean that they normally would have to go far to get,” she said. “The Consumer Price Index increases and impacts the whole surrounding, including taxes, the value of homes and the value of schools.”
Rita Joseph, District 40 city councilmember, said she is open to a new BID focused on cleanliness and safety in her district, which covers Little Haiti and several other neighborhoods.
Little Haiti BK has a good sense of what the community wants and what the businesses need,” said Lauren Collins, executive director of both the Church Avenue and Flatbush Avenue BIDs. Other BIDs would be willing to collaborate with a Little Haiti BID once the specifics become more concrete, she added. 
Experts: Trust, formal body needed to launch BIDs
BIDs can be hard to get off the ground for a number of reasons, experts said. A coherent organization and a tangible vision are paramount in order for a proper plan forward to form.
“The cases I’ve seen where BIDs often take longer to form are because the lines of communication have not always been clear,” said Rachel Meltzer, an associate professor  at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design. “BIDs tend to form in places where a local community group has gained trust and traction to lead it through.”
A steering committee, or group of local stakeholders, must be created to formalize the boundaries, budget and services, experts said. 
“An informal group can be difficult to organize and move forward, so it’s really important to have a group of thoughtful steering committee members,” said Roxanne Early, director of the city’s BID program.
Early added that each BID is different and must take their community and location into account in the process.
“A lot of the work that creates the conditions for a successful BID proposal would be the connections businesses have to each other,” she said. “It’s the lived experience of being there, and it’s very place-dependent.”
Larisa is a reporter for The Haitian Times covering politics, elections and education primarily. A graduate of the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY, she has interned at CNBC and the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network. She is also a recipient of a 2021 DBEI Fellowship by Investigative Reporters & Editors. Larisa can be reached by email at larisa@haitiantimes.com or on Twitter @larisakarr.
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by Larisa Karr, The Haitian Times
February 15, 2022
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