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How Can the Seventh Avenue Business District Improve?

The Park Slope Chamber of Commerce is asking the community to suggest ways to improve the avenue.

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!

 

Tom Licciardello Paintingbytom.com January 11, 2012 at 01:15 PM
A couple of strategically placed municipal parking garages or lots are desperately needed. Maybe even underground parking. I hate to say this, but some stores might have to be eliminated (and there are quite a few garbage stores around). Even some trees near Prospect Park might have to get cut down. Not many, just a few. It's a great way for these stores and restaurants to survive and the neighborhood to thrive. Us contractors need them too to work on your homes. It would cause less traffic and congestion looking and waiting for a spot that can take an hour to find. JMHO, Tom
Jim January 11, 2012 at 02:30 PM
Tom could not be more wrong. 7th Avenue needs better transit, more bike lanes, and more turnover in the existing metered parking spaces. The avenue could also use more trash bins, street sweeping and better care of the sidewalks by merchants. Otherwise, I think 7th is a perfectly nice shopping area.
Driver January 11, 2012 at 04:17 PM
We need fewer, slower cars on 7th. Make the street friendlier and safer for pedestrians and people will feel like lingering and shopping. Right now 7th is a cut-through for people going to and from Flatbush Ave and the Prospect Expressway. Other ideas: - Short loading zones (5 - 10 minute spaces so people don't have to double park). - Bike lanes. The street is too wide. 5th is narrower and has bike lanes and sharrows. - Bulb outs. The street is too wide for older people to cross quickly and safely. Make it harder for cars to take corners quickly. Overall, we need better enforcement. The NYPD should stop ticketing cyclists in Prospect Park and start ticketing drivers on 7th!!!
Susan E. January 11, 2012 at 08:00 PM
5th Avenue has had bike lanes for years and is a thriving boulevard. Lots of new businesses have opened up there, despite the recession. There are a few vacant store fronts, but far fewer than on 7th, and fewer chain stores. It's a very vibrant part of the neighborhood. The idea that anyone would be against a bike lane on 7th because it would kill business is absurd. Yeah, people will still double park in it, but that's nothing a few tickets couldn't solve.
Parksloper January 11, 2012 at 08:41 PM
Let's not turn this into a pro-bike anti-car debate yet again for gods sake. It's disingenuous to say Leaf N Bean had rent problems since they themselves were quoted as saying "We are behind on rent and our landlord even lowered it for us, but we cannot catch up,” said Karen Hue, co-owner." They've been around since 1973 so perhaps they got a little stale, people want something different. While Sette closed, in a few days we will have the much anticipated Talde opening. There were a few openings recently across from John Jay and the cute quaint cheese store right next to Sette. I agree with Eric on Seventh in that the avenue needs sprucing up ( so does PPW!). More trees, flowers, less garish signage ( looking at you Dunkin). And someone needs to do something right now with the abandoned eyesore building on 3rd st. People should not be allowed to have their home in such disarray for an extended period of time, especially on a main avenue.
Susan E. January 11, 2012 at 09:27 PM
Agreed, Parksloper! I was merely responding to Sheila, who said a bike lane on 7th would "cripple" it. That hasn't been the case anywhere else. If anything, 7th Ave should look to 5th for some ideas - the park on 3rd down there is getting fixed up, they have new garbage cans, and many businesses have benches. All stuff that would help 7th. Trees and flowers are great ideas, too! And, yes, I'd love to see that building on 3rd be fixed up. The scaffolding has been up for as long as I can remember. How is that allowed?
MITCHELL SZPICEK January 11, 2012 at 11:02 PM
Great ideas! Now go to http://www.shopseventh.com/ and fill out the survey. Thanks!
Paul January 12, 2012 at 03:28 AM
As for the clean sidewalks I believe we business owners can all take care of our piece of storefront real estate. I agree that we could use more trees and flower patches, or shrubs, anything fresh and pretty. Re: bike lanes, I leave that up to people who know more about traffic flow and local need for that than I do. I believe that some notorious sidewalk garbage offenders, eg. people who always put furniture and mattresses out on the sidewalk any day they please, and often in front of businesses that are conveniently close, there could be better enforcement of the pick up rules, more fines for the real culprits. And the street lights could be prettier and more closely spaced than they are now. And working at all times. The new parking meter machines are ridiculously expensive, there need to be permits for business owners to use these spaces without running to the curb every hour to pay 2 more dollars, and often miss the cut off time because business matters are interfering. And those meter cops don't give you a break. I spend way too much money on parking tickets ever since the meters got installed. Paul Goebert / Cafe Steinhof
David Hawkins March 07, 2012 at 04:05 PM
Why should business owners be allowed to park forever? They should take the subway and leave the spaces for customers.
NewYorkBuilt April 11, 2012 at 03:06 AM
I think the Business Improvement District should promote how much business in dollars is lost hourly in the District by store owners and employees who tie up parking spaces for hours preventing paying customers from shopping. I think the District should encourage the creation of a community box office for event and program sales in Park Slope and neighboring environs. I think that the slowing of traffic even more, the increase of circulator shopping jitneys that are electric or low carbon impact to move people north south as well as east west would help bring in more business.

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