Skip to content
Join our Newsletter

Smith Street Stakeholders Discuss Strategies for Improving Quality of Life at Open Meeting

Community members in Cobble Hill weigh in on whether to set up a local Business Improvement District

Smith Street residents agree they want the best quality of life for their adjacent neighborhoods. But how it should happen? Well, that remains to be seen.

On Wednesday, April 19, The Smith Street Alliance— a group of residents, business and property owners that live along Smith Street— held an open meeting in Cobble Hill to announce a proposal to bring to the area a Business Improvement District, a city-designated geographical area where local stakeholders oversee and fund the maintenance, improvement and promotion of their commercial district. Currently, there are 76 BIDs in New York City. 

If established, the Smith Street BID would tackle various quality-of-life issues like sanitation and safety on Smith Street in Boerum Hill, Cobble Hill and Carroll Gardens. However, the announcement at the meeting was met with a mixed reception, with some questioning how a BID would deliver on these promises of improving quality of life.

And without enough votes by June 30, when their current funding ends, the chance for a BID could be lost.

As mandated by the NYC Department of Small Business Services, the Alliance needs 51% of votes in favor of the BID to pass. Right now, the group has 21% of votes in favor of the BID. 

Dawn Casale, a local business owner, resident and Alliance member said that without a waterfront or park nearby, small businesses and the art and culture community could benefit from a BID.

“The term Business Improvement District is a total misnomer because it’s not really just for businesses,” Casale said.

“If you have any investment in the community — you live here, you work here, you own here — it benefits you too.”

Alliance Member Sarah DeFalco. Photo: Provided/Kathi Littwin Photography.

Like other BIDs in the city, the Smith Street BID, if approved, would be funded by commercial and residential property owners in its designated area. 

Money for the BID would be collected through the New York City Department of Finance, and 100% of the proceeds would go toward servicing that district. The new BID would operate at an incremental budget of $350,000-$400,000 over five years, using a pre-set formula to determine the fee rate for different commercial and residential property owners in the area.

Casale said gaining property owner support is the biggest challenge as they foot most of the assessment fee. 

“We want every group of stakeholders to be represented: Business owners, residents and property owners because there are different needs that aren’t always conflicting,” Casale said.

One resident at the meeting expressed concern that the group's push to make the neighborhood more vibrant and festive would only exacerbate the concerning noise problem created by restaurants and street fairs.

Council Member Shahana Hanif attended the meeting. Photo: Provided/Kathi Littwin Photography.

Another attendee said the BID would be a solution without a problem and that sanitation issues should be taken care of by the local property owners individually.

On the other hand, one long-time Smith Street resident said they would appreciate the BID’s ability to fill in the gaps concerning trash removal and street sweeping as another deterrent to the growing rat problem. Several local business owners at the meeting also said they welcome the idea of the BID's support in boosting foot traffic.

Council Member Shahana Hanif has been a Smith Street BID supporter since the start of her term representing District 39, which includes Windsor Terrace, Borough Park and Gowanus, among others.

“I see the incredible value of having a BID for this corridor which has high foot traffic, is bustling with local businesses and can benefit from an organized effort,” Hanif said.

“A key component of having a strong BID is having a strong community,” Joanna Tallantire, executive director of the Park Slope Fifth Avenue BID said.

“A BID supports not just local businesses, but entire neighborhoods, and serves as the eyes, ears and voice of the people it represents,” Saloni Sharma said.

Addressing shared pain points at the community meeting is one way the Alliance aims to engage community voting.

“It’s about opening up those conversations, getting the word out and a call for votes which is the only way this moves forward,” Casale said.

If you are a stakeholder in the Smith Street area, cast your vote here.

Natasha Knows

About the Author: Natasha Knows

Natasha “Knows” is the CEO and founder of Natasha Knows, LLC a small business consulting company.
Read more