Its no surprise that New York City is home to the largest collection of BIDs in the nation. Nearly $100 million dollars worth of services are generated by the city’s 64 BIDs. While many of these BIDs offer typical services such as trash collection, lighting infrastructure, security and beautification projects, one NYC BID is working hard to go beyond the traditional call of duty. The Alliance for Downtown New York offers creative and cooperative programing aimed to serve local businesses, the local underprivelaged population, and even the New York City police force.
The Alliance, founded in the mid 1990’s, is located in lower Manhattan’s financial center. Situated in Manhattan’s Central Business District, The Alliance takes care to provide amenities fitting to members of the bustling business community. Current initiatives funded by BID assessments include the creation of an internet wireless network, as well as the establishment of commercial hotspots such as Winter Garden and 60 Wall Street. The Alliance boasts: “we have also been working with different levels of government to create a Wireless Redundancy communications network throughout all of Lower Manhattan – a system that will make Lower Manhattan the place to be for business continuity”. The BID also helps businesses aspiring to locate in this commercial epicenter to find appropriate property and to network with property owners. The BID puts potential downtown businesses in touch with local potential funders and with local organizations providing technical business assistance. The Alliance has taken an approach that would behoove all BIDs nationwide; to adapt the projects of the BID, and the spending of the assessment on projects and initiatives in-line with the character of the area. It is important for BIDs to understand the intrinsic character of the area, and thus understand what elements of the area should be built upon. A one-size-fits-all approach to BIDs will not work as well as a tailored, area-specific and creative allocation of assessment funds.
One such creative program of the Alliance is its Private Security Scholarship Program formed in conjunction with City University of New York's Borough of Manhattan Community College. Initiated in 2000, the aim of this scholarship is to allow those serving on the BIDs security team to pursue training, and eventually to become a New York Police Department officer. "'Our Private Security Scholarship Program is a win-win proposition,' says Eric Deutsch,President of the Alliance for Downtown New York". In addition to providing education to those who might not otherwise be able to afford college, this program helps the Downtown Alliance recruit and develop a more skilled and committed workforce and improve the quality of security services it provides throughout Lower Manhattan". BIDs are no strangers to claims of gentrification and of neglecting local low income residents, but this scholarship program speaks to the ability of BIDs to both serve businesses and local residents. The BID is also able to recruit top-notch, dedicated security officers who are looking to take advantage of the program. While this particular BID may have access to financial resources not easily accessible to other areas of the nation, this strategic partnership with the NYPD and local college shows just how innovative BIDs can be, and that creative thinking, as much as dollars can bring about real change.