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BIDs want more of a say

January 19, 2008

Crain's Business New York

THE BID MANAGERS ASSOCIATION, a little-known group of directors of the city's 59 business improvement districts, is trying to raise its profile. Barbara Randall, who became its chairwoman in June, wants the group to have a stronger voice in city government on such issues as vendor regulation and news boxes, and to be a common source for journalists.

“Why not be more visible?” asks Dan Biederman, president of the 34th Street Partnership. “There are citywide groups covered routinely [by the media] that don't have the street sense that BIDs do.”

Mr. Biederman says BIDs have received strong support from the Bloomberg administration but could have more clout with the City Council. As an example, he cites the council's moratorium on summonses for illegal signs, which he says mar the image of commercial areas. “Most people shy away from shopping in places that have very ugly signage and awnings,” he says.

The association also hopes to improve collaboration among BIDs, with smaller ones getting advice from more established BIDs, several of which have budgets in the $10 million range. Collectively, BIDs spend about $86 million a year to maintain and improve commercial strips, but the public is largely unfamiliar with them, Ms. Randall says. She wants to develop an annual citywide event to increase their exposure.

Her organization plans to launch a Web site next month provide each BID's location and contact information, as well as a private brainstorming forum for BID members.