Flanked by heaps of vegetable pakora, crispy spring rolls, pizza and more from local restaurants, business owners, civic leaders and other neighbors gathered at Lark Café (1021 Church Avenue) for the Church Avenue Business Improvement District’s annual meeting last night to discuss everything from safety improvements for shops in light of recent armed robberies to beautification efforts and goals to improve the commercial strip.
To kick off the event, Deputy Inspector Richard DiBlasio, commanding officer of the 70th Precinct, urged owners to contact the precinct about a free crime prevention survey, during which an officer will come to the business and advise owners on how best to make the site safer. To do so, individuals can call the precinct’s crime prevention team at (718) 851-5504 or email community affairs at 70PCTCommunityAffairs@nypd.org.
In addition to going to spots where there have recently been armed robberies, DiBlasio said the precinct tries “to go to locations that weren’t victims to prevent them from becoming victims.”
“With the crime prevention survey, the businesses who have done it said it’s been remarkable,” Church Avenue BID Executive Director Lauren Elvers Collins added. “He’ll tell you, for example, your camera should be two feet lower or your tip jar should be there. It’s very, very helpful.”
The commanding officer too noted that crime is down (according to city statistics, the seven major index crimes, which include murder and robbery, have dropped by an average of about 8 percent compared to last year) but stressed that police are working to catch the individuals responsible for the recent commercial robberies.
“We hope to get the perpetrator sooner than later,” said DiBlasio, who added that he has “moved some police officers down to this end of Church to cover these commercial establishments.”
Collins then briefed the crowd on the the accomplishments of the Church Avenue BID, which has 165 members, including 107 storefront businesses, and runs along Church Avenue from Coney Island Avenue to Flatbush Avenue. (For those who don’t know, the city has 70 business improvement districts, which are public-private partnerships that help to pay for such services as supplemental sanitation, security, marketing, business development, and more.)
Some of the accomplishments Collins mentioned included:
- The annual street fair, which was held in April and included an Caribbean fashion show, martial arts demonstrations, pet photography, a custom bike exhibit, $1 food samples, and more.
- The BID launched a $45,000 Caribbean campaign through a grant awarded by the city’s Department of Small Business Services, which allowed them to host the Caribbean fashion show, hold an open-air concert, and more.
- Neighborhood beautification efforts, including the BID funding a supplemental sanitation team from the Doe Fund, who work seven days a week, seven hours a day sweeping, picking up trash, and removing snow and excess rain water (something that always comes in handy, but especially on days like yesterday.) There was also the Clean Church Avenue neighborhood beautification day, organized along with the Flatbush Development Corporation, at the end of May, when more than 55 adults and children painted over graffiti and picked up trash.
- The $3.6 million Church Avenue streetscape project, which is being funded by the city Department of Transportation, former Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz and current Borough President Eric Adams, and Councilman Mathieu Eugene. The project is expected to begin in the summer of 2015 and includes replacing all the sidewalks in the BID, building curb extensions and replacing catch basins.
- In December 2013, the BID was awarded its second NY Main Street storefront restoration grant from the state Office of Community Renewal – and was the only city organization to be given this grant in 2013. The $200,000 grant provides funding for storefront restoration, and the BID is now in talks with several candidates for the program and expects to begin the project early next year.
During the gathering, Councilman Eugene; Community Board 14 District Manager Shawn Campbell; and Eileen Newman, representing Borough President Eric Adams, spoke and expressed their support for the BID, stressing the important work done by Collins, Deputy Executive Director Katie Mirkin, who also attended the meeting, and everyone at the organization.
As for the BID’s goals for 2015, Collins said they include:
- Improving the current sidewalk sales strategy.
- Review and evaluate current zoning to better support vending on the sidewalks of the BID by both BID businesses and outside vendors.
- Advocate for improvements to the physical landscape of Church Avenue, including the streetscaping project, the storefront restorations, subway station repairs, and exploring the feasibility of installing benches and plants along the avenue.
The meeting concluded with the drawing of raffle prizes, which included two Lark Café tote bags and a $25 gift certificate from Lark.
Congratulations to the BID for all of their accomplishments this year, and we look forward to seeing what happens in the coming year!