As the city’s restaurants and shops look to bounce back, they’re contending with some serious quality-of-life issues.Nearly 20 percent of the city’s hotels are providing shelter for homeless New Yorkers. The impact on the surrounding streetscape is hard to miss.“When you’re in the business as long as I’ve been, you get to recognize what somebody on heroin looks like,” explained Dan Biederman, head of three business improvement districts in Midtown. “There are a lot of street conditions we’ve never seen in all of our years of running the BIDs.”Barbara Askins, head of the 125th Street Business Improvement District in Harlem, concurred. She said she now has to ask several loiterers to step aside — instead of the usual one — so she can enter her office building.Some stores covered their windows with plywood at the start of the shutdown and more boarded up after looting broke out. Biederman said perhaps a quarter of his districts’ stores that erected plywood have yet to remove it.Although that is temporary, he fears store owners and landlords will replace their open, grated-style barriers with unsightly solid gates that he spent years trying to banish.“We’re quite worried owners and tenants will put solid gates back in once the plywood goes down,” said Biederman, who runs the BIDs for the areas around Bryant Park, Grand Central Terminal and 34th Street. (They should not: According to a 2009 city law, solid gates left in place may remain until July 2026, but only see-through gates may be installed.)Biederman joined Askins and Jessica Lappin, president of the Alliance for Downtown New York, Wednesday evening for a TRD Talks webinar to discuss issues facing BIDs. Restaurants were allowed to open for outdoor dining and retail shops for curbside pickup June 22 as the city entered phase 2 of reopening.Lawmakers had planned to allow indoor dining to resume on a limited basis on Monday. But this week Gov. Andrew Cuomo pushed that back indefinitely, saying it’s not yet safe given how the virus typically spreads.Lappin, a former City Council member, said restaurateurs are already despondent, and the longer timeline means fewer will be able to stay in business.“It took the city an awfully long time to come up with rules for outdoor dining, which I’m glad that they did and we’ve been working with them, but it’s not that complicated,” she said. “I think it’s going to be grim and I think a lot of these restaurants won’t survive.”Crime statistics are also on the rise, which has many concerned that New York is sliding back to the “bad old days” of the 1970s through the mid ’90s.“It’s not all the way back to the way it was, but the signs of it getting there are changing every day,” Askins said.The panelists agreed that with cuts to the city budget, businesses will look more to BIDs to provide services.Contact Rich Bockmann at [email protected] or 908-415-5229 This content is for subscribers only.Subscribe Now
CT sector plays a huge part in society. Changing any rules due to Brexit would be ‘unfair’ and will come at a costThe uncertainty over Brexit reminds us that recent action by the EU has put Section 19 of the Transport Act 1985 and community transport (CT) into turmoil.The permit system was designed to allow voluntary organisations using small buses to operate with certain exemptions, including for drivers not to require a full D1 licence. The DfT’s predecessors and the EU were in agreement that ‘non-commercial’ and ‘not for profit’ were synonymous.Filling a gapOver the decades, as local authority budgets and commercial service provision – especially in rural areas – declined, the CT sector increasingly filled the gap preventing loneliness and isolation for those most in need.For some, being able to take a bus to the supermarket, shops or doctor is their only opportunity for social interaction.When people can travel, rather than be cared for at home, there are public savings in health and social care. However, there is a transport cost and that is why the contribution of the CT sector is so valuable.Regardless of size of the CT, their charitable status ensures all surpluses are reinvested in the communities, further reducing the burden on the taxpayer.Some commercial operators have claimed that they have been unfairly undercut when bidding for contracts. But in any world of competitive tendering the pot is fixed. Higher contract costs would mean less transport overall and society’s most vulnerable affected.‘Huge backlash’Over the years, the CT sector has been increasingly propping up services in place of a mostly absent private sector.Thus, when in July 2017, the DfT attempted to redefine the 1986 arrangements and in particular the definition of ‘non-commercial’, it is not surprising that there was a huge backlash from those most affected.The government has encouraged a cottage industry to grow and fill the gaps caused by the withdrawal of commercial services and cuts in local authority spending. Changing the rules now unilaterally is unfair and crucially will cost the wider public purse more.If the CT sector is annihilated it is likely to lead to fewer transport opportunities for housebound and isolated people. The change commercial sector’s gross margin will barely be noticed.Onerous standardsThe case for increased regulation can be justified in dealing with performance failings – however the CT sector barely registers on any measure of vehicle prohibitions, poor driving standards or killed and seriously injured.In fact, the requirements for MiDAS are much more onerous than for Driver CPC and I recall – and as I told the Transport Select Committee – that when we ran an open competition for London’s Dial-a-Ride, none of the commercial operators met the pre-qualification standards whereas the CT operators did.For these reasons, there are no grounds to make any changes. And this applies no matter which EU we are in.