Monday, April 27, 2015

MetroTech metastasizes: BID expanding to "Brooklyn Cultural District," Ratner's malls (but not Barclays Center)

The current boundaries, before expansion, end at Fulton St.
Would you believe that Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Center mall might be considered part of MetroTech?

Well, once the planned expansion of the MetroTech Business Improvement District (BID) is enacted, it will be.

Instead of starting a new Business Improvement District (BID) from scratch to encompass the Barclays Center/Atlantic Yards, Forest City Ratner's malls, and cultural institutions nearby--as was proposed but ran aground in mid-2013--a different solution has emerged.

The MetroTech BID, run by the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership (DBP), which is heavily influenced and led by Forest City, is expanding--in a rather jagged form to the southeast--to "create a maintenance entity covering areas of the newly-established Brooklyn Cultural District."

That includes the Atlantic Center and Atlantic Terminal malls, the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM), BRIC, Theatre for a New Audience, and other cultural institutions. The expanded BID would also support programming at two plazas near BAM.

The extended boundaries are in jagged red outline; note
that only part of the MetroTech BID is pictured; also,
this map reflects an expected FAB Alliance expansion
The boundary does not include the Barclays Center or any other part of Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park, though the expansion sets up the possibility that the BID could expand further.

In essence, while adding services that may well be welcomed by visitors and the entities involved, the extension of the BID also helps concentrate power in a private entity run by property owners, not public agencies.

Forest City Ratner's Ashley Cotton chairs the MetroTech BID, which has several other Forest City representatives.

Public hearing May 5

As disclosed in a recent announcement from Community Board 2, a public hearing on the BID expansion will be held at 6 pm, Wednesday May 5.

That's prior to the next regularly scheduled meeting of the CB 2 Economic Development and Employment Committee, at Jonas Board Room, Metcalfe Hall, Long Island University, Flatbush and DeKalb avenues.

The Committee may make a recommendation to Community Board 2, which would be considered at CB 2's May 13, 2015 general meeting. The expansion ultimately must be approved by the City Planning Commission and the City Council.

A new extended shape

Nudge the inset (red) one block to the east, and see how
 the BID continues (jagged red outline) to extend to the SE
The expansion would extend the MetroTech BID, which is currently an irregular square centered around MetroTech plus a wedge to the southeast, further to the southeast in a very jagged form.

The oddly shaped growth--I'd call it a metastasization--would squeeze the BID between not only two BIDs run by the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, the Fulton Mall Improvement Association and the Court-Livingston-Schermerhorn BID, but also BIDs that might plausibly have expanded to encompass parts of the expansion area.

Those other entities are the FAB Alliance, the Atlantic Avenue BID, and the North Flatbush BID.

The BID extension includes a small segment to the east along DeKalb Avenue that vaguely suggests an reversed Florida and one to the southeast that looks like a more rectilinear Central America.

Because this is a BID expansion, rather than a launch from scratch, a quieter public process ensues. A public hearing was apparently held in November 19, according to the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, but it was hardly publicized, as far as I can tell.

According to the New York City Department of Small Business Services' (SBS) management guide for BIDs, the steps for increasing BID boundaries are mostly parallel to the 11 steps necessary to create a BID and obtain legislative approval.

The statement of need

The Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, which did not respond to my queries, has issued a statement on its web site:
The Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, which oversees operations for the MetroTech BID, is working with local stakeholders to create a maintenance entity covering areas of the newly-established Brooklyn Cultural District. A steering committee of MetroTech BID Board Members and stakeholders from the Brooklyn Cultural District was established, and after lengthy discussions and community engagement, it was decided to expand the MetroTech BID by creating a “sub-district” encompassing the area from DeKalb Avenue to South Portland Place along Flatbush and Atlantic Avenues. This area includes several destinations including BAM, Theatre for a New Audience, Mark Morris, BRIC, and the Atlantic Terminal, Mall, and Center. In addition to these attractions the Brooklyn Cultural District will also see several new marquis [sic] public spaces come online in the next few years, including a completely renovated Fox Square and a new 16,000 sq ft plaza as part of the BAM South Site on the corner of Lafayette and Flatbush.
In order to maintain these areas, this “sub-district” will have its own budget and assessment roll but will become part of the MetroTech BID. The MetroTech Board of Directors approved to amend the MetroTech BID District Plan to allow for this proposed expansion. The steering committee which led the expansion effort will host a public hearing on November 19 from 5-6pm at the Learning Library Center at LIU Brooklyn, Room 124 (enter on DeKalb Avenue between Flatbush and Hudson).
Note that the "preliminary boundaries of expanded BID," as noted in the graphic above left, more precisely represent the preliminary expansion zone of the BID.

Actually, that map isn't big enough to show the full BID's western section. Above right, I've attempted a mash-up to show the future shape of the BID.

Expansion budget

The proposed budget of $771,533, according to a document shared by Community Board 2 District Manager Robert Perris after my inquiry, includes:
  • $165,873 for sanitation
  • $58,500 for landscaping
  • $47,550 for maintenance
  • $46,550 for the Arts Plaza (next to Theatre for a New Audience on Ashland Place)
  • $161,800 for the South Site Plaza
  • $50,000 for programming
Most of the remaining sums would go to administration and reserve.

According to the document, the four cultural organizations represented on the Steering Committee (BAM, BRIC, Mark Morris Dance Group and Theatre for a New Audience) have discussed offering contributions of $2,500 each to serve as a seed fund for cultural programming in public spaces, to work on such programming, and have suggested discounts for residents of buildings located in the BID, and potential community use of cultural spaces for meeting and programming.

Perris told me, that according to the feedback he's heard, most property owners favor the BID because it will give them more services. Some residential property owners within the boundaries have expressed concern about the assessment, but they're a fraction in the sub-district. 

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