Seventh Avenue’s business district is full of restaurants, mom-and-pop-shops, national chains and bars, but what changes can make it better, more beautiful and give it more bustle?
For the most part, according to Mitchell Szpicek the vice president of the Park Slope Chamber of Commerce, Seventh Avenue “is a bustling community and business thoroughfare” but can always improve.
The Chamber of Commerce released a district needs survey on its website for patrons and proprietors to evaluate Seventh Avenue and suggest what improvements can be made.
“A needs survey was put together to get the pulse of the neighborhood and to better understand residents, visitors and merchants needs,” Szpicek said in an E-mail. “We will evaluate the surveys and try to implement those that make the most sense from an economic and community perspective.”
Craig Hammerman, the district manager of Community Board 6, did agree with Szpicek in that the avenue is in good economic shape, but said it has had its fair share of losses.
The most dramatic changes people have experienced on the avenue, according to Hammerman, is the loss the Doe Fund street cleaning crews, who cleaned the avenue by sweeping, picking up garbage and litter and scrapping away graffiti.
“We were hearing from businesses about how difficult it had become to maintain Seventh Avenue in a welcoming, clean and attractive environment,” Hammerman said, explaining that the contract ran out and there is no money left to fund the clean up crews. “Clearly, there is no supplemental service provided on the avenue and it has become very noticeable.”
He also said that this change is something he would like to see reversed.
Merchants of Seventh Avenue also echoed that same sentiment.
Eric Mudick, the owner of , noticed that the streets are a lot dirtier since the Doe Fund has disappeared.
“It should be cleaner, it is not as clean as it used to be. Everyone tries to take care of their own, but it’s not enough,” said Mudick. “We need to have a visual improvement with more trees, manicuring the streets and beautification.”
He said that the visual changes will increase business.
“Everybody judges a business first by how it looks. It needs to be clean and appetizing. You need things to be as attractive as it can,” he said. “It will increase business, the streets cannot look like a dump.”
Ezra Goldstein, the co-owner of the said he thinks the greatest improvement would be to establish a Business Improvement District (BID).
“Unfortunately, most of the businesses on Seventh Avenue, especially the national chains, contribute absolutely nothing to the wellbeing of the community. They don’t voluntarily contribute to the Chamber of Commerce,” Goldstein said. “With a BID they would have to ante up and help out. We small businesses are supporting the Chamber…and the national chains benefit, but do not contribute.”
He pointed to Fifth Avenue’s BID and how it has stimulated the economy there and has helped locally owned businesses.
Without one, he said that the state of Seventh Avenue is “precarious” and mom-and-pop-shops have been disappearing.
Like anywhere else in the country, it has been affected by the recession, with Sette closing on Third Street, and .
Hammerman also mentioned that there is an “uncertainty that has become pervasive” on the avenue. But, he said the biggest changes on the street have been positive and progressive changes. He explained a major change that he has seen is the shared use of public space.
Recently the , the single-space polls have been and new trees have been planted.
“There is a general notion that this is public space that we are all sharing. How do we all want to experience that? There is more room from injecting more street furniture, whether that be benches, bike racks or trees,” he said. “The sidewalk is this great space where everything comes together. With some focused planning a comprehensive plan may emerge about how the avenue should be treated.”
The survey encourages anyone to participate and submit ideas about how the avenue can be positively changed.
Szpicek thinks the avenue is not in bad shape, but that is no reason not to make improvements.
“Being complacent would probably be the easiest thing to do. But in order to continue to flourish we must come together and make changes and improvements,” he said.
What changes do you think should be made to Seventh Avenue? Tell us in the comments below!