Montague BID Stresses Service to Merchants, Community

jsw_img_6500_edited-1The Montague Street Business Improvement District (“BID”) held its annual meeting at Eamonn’s yesterday evening. BID Executive Director Chelsea Mauldin (photo at left) said the BID must respond to the economic crisis by providing more services to businesses on Montague in, among other things, marketing and technology. As an example of marketing assistance, she cited a program the BID developed with Pratt, in which design students have worked with one merchant on Montague to create a new image, including sign, logo and cards.

The BID will try to address the vacancy problem by promoting “pop-up stores” for which landlords will extend short-term leases either for a specific event–in this connection she mentioned master pumpkin carver and Heights resident Hugh McMahon, who would like to set up a temporary space before Halloween–or as a trial for a possible longer relationship. The BID will also seek to attract more visitors to Montague by repeating last summer’s “Pedestrian Piazza” experiment, which, Ms. Mauldin said, was successful in attracting more shoppers to the street, at least on sunny days, and also by promoting more cultural events that will get the street attention in the media. In this connection, she listed all of the newspapers, magazines and blogs (including BHB) that had coverage of the knitted cozies on Montague parking meters. She also mentioned plans for a “restaurant stroll.”

State Senator Daniel Squadron was the featured guest speaker at the meeting. He began by describing his own experience as a small business owner: before entering politics he ran a small bar and restaurant near the Columbia University campus that served “the best cheeseburger in New York” (he added that no one could challenge that statement because the place no longer exists). This had taught him the difficulties that small-scale entrepreneurs face in general, and in New York City in particular. He said he believes the state must establish policies to preserve and revitalize “urban retail corridors,” of which Montague Street is an example.

Judy Stanton, Executive Director of the Brooklyn Heights Association, asked him what the state is doing to help small businesses. Sen. Squadron said the State provides partial funding for some City programs that aid small businesses, as well as providing some direct grants. He also mentioned the Empire State Development Small Business Division. In addition, he said, there are continuing efforts to lift unnecessary regulatory burdens and restrictions on small businesses. For example, he said a new law is going into effect that will allow liquor stores to sell some non-alcoholic goods, such as tonic water and maraschino cherries. As an aside, he noted that one third of the maraschino cherries sold in the U.S. come from Red Hook. Tony Bates, owner of Bentley Shoes, complained of the difficulties he had dealing with State bureaucracy. Sen. Squadron said that anyone having such problems should contact Ellen Whelan-Wuest at his Brooklyn office, located in Borough Hall. The phone number is 718-802-3818.

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  • yo

    when rents come down, business will improve

  • nabeguy

    As much as I respect Squadron, I’m not sure I could swallow a McDaniel burger. Joking aside, I’m with Yo in regards to the rent issue. The concept of pop-up stores sounds like a reward to greedy landlords who remain intransigent on setting a reasonable price for long-term leases. As a former commercial landlord, I can understand trying to soak the market for all you can, but I also understood the ripple effect that an empty storefront can have on a community, and tried to make sure that my space didn’t stay empty for more than a couple of months. I’ve dealt with BID’s, and I applaud most of the efforts of this one, but until they get the collective landlords to sit down in a room and have a hard look at the numbers and what each of them is aiming for, a lot of what they’re doing is window-dressing.

  • The Where

    It’s time to begin a list of SHAMEFUL Brooklyn Heights landlords. If greed is their motivation, the shame brought on by the daylight shed upon them will cause their downfall.


  • No One Of Consequence

    I might agree with The Where, but the recent fiasco of Dock St. says to me that no one gives a sh*t about having their greed and shameful acts brought to light.

  • AEB

    Bottom line: greed. For a change. And the wherewithal to tolerate lost revenues to support one’s greed jones.

    Case in point: the issue of Sweet Melissa’s opening a branch in the no. Heights. It’s arrival would benefit the entire community, not only because of the product offered, but by opening the “field” to small specialty entrepreneurs.

    But t’aint gonna happen as long as the landlord in question can hold out for the highest buck. Which he will do.

    How does one apply pressure to a landlord in such situations? Refuse to rent his space?

  • nabeguy

    Nice post The Where…no, really nice post. It is truly shameful when a landlord (especially an off-site one) refuses to partner with their tenant for the sake of a community. My own experience tells me that the greedier you are in respect to your financial expectations, the more problems you have in the end, such as non-paying tenants and the legal expenses associated with evictions. Why any of these Montague Street landlords would choose to take that route is beyond my capacity for comprehension.