Michael Blaise Backer, executive director of the Myrtle Avenue Brooklyn Partnership– comprised of the Myrtle Avenue Revitalization Project LDC (MARP) and the Myrtle Avenue Brooklyn Business Improvement District (BID)– announced on Thursday that he will be stepping down.
He will leave the Partnership at the end of April to serve as a Deputy Commissioner at the NYC Department of Small Business Services (SBS).
Known by some as “The Mayor of Myrtle Ave” but by most as “Blaise,” Backer is hugely responsible for helping transform Myrtle Avenue from an undeveloped strip, where corner stores and fast-food takeouts traded places with boarded up storefronts, into the commercially vibrant corridor it is today.
When Backer first took the job at the Partnership eleven years ago, one in every five storefronts on the Brooklyn business strip was empty– an improvement, even, from ten years prior, when Myrtle Ave was so barren and danger, it was nicknamed “Murder Ave” by longtime locals.
Today, the vacancy rate on Myrtle Avenue between Flatbush and Classon avenues is less than 5 percent, with a 71 percent of the business minority- and woman-owned and 95 percent locally-owned.
Backer expanded the organization’s budget from $255,000 to $1.2 million. Blaise also worked closely with community stakeholders, elected officials, and city agencies to spearhead Myrtle Avenue Plaza, a $7M capital project to reconstruct the streets and sidewalks on four blocks of Myrtle Avenue between Hall Street and Emerson Place.
“Blaise has been critical to the growth, development, and great success of MARP and the BID,” said Pratt Institute President Thomas F. Schutte, who has chaired the boards of MARP and the BID since their inception.
“He’s inspired and led key neighborhood initiatives and community planning programs that have ultimately improved Myrtle Avenue with tremendous results. We wish Blaise the best and know he will excel in his new role.”