Have you ever wondered what (or who) makes your favorite neighborhoods so wonderful? Just a short walk from The Yard: Gowanus, Park Slope’s Fifth Avenue hosts a vibrant collection of shops and restaurants, radiant streets, and an energy that attracts residents and visitors alike.
So, what exactly contributes to the area’s charm? Introducing the Park Slope Fifth Avenue Business Improvement District, a.k.a. the Park Slope 5th Avenue BID. Not only does the Park Slope 5th Avenue BID ensure that the area stays sparkly clean, but they also provide support and guidance to local merchants and host an array of community events throughout the year.
We spoke with newest members of The Yard: Gowanus, Park Slope 5th Avenue BID leaders Mark Caserta and Joanna Tallantire, to dig a bit deeper into what the BID is all about. Together, they’ve been running the BID for six years!
Check it out:
So, what does a typical day look like for you?
Joanna: Every day is different in this job. Sometimes it requires us going to meetings in another borough, but we always try to work in a walk on Fifth Avenue. We take photos around the neighborhood for Instagram, talk to merchants, and then come back and do follow-ups. We usually start the morning at The Yard and have a coffee and then head out on the town.
What’s the best part of running the BID?
Joanna: I love going out onto the Avenue to talk to all of the merchants. Sometimes there’s nothing to talk about, and other times there’s an issue to resolve. I learn from these issues and become more capable of helping other merchants facing similar problems.
Mark: Definitely the outreach and helping the merchants. I’m on the NYC BID Association that oversees all 76 BIDs in the city. I’m the Secretary of the Board, handling the public policy issues at City Hall that directly help small businesses. As a former small business owner myself, it’s important to me to make things better for them.
What do you think people don’t realize about the BID?
Joanna: Most people don’t realize what we do. People think the street cleaners work for sanitation, and they don’t connect the holiday lights, the street fairs, and other community-focused events with us. We need to keep reminding people that the merchants are the ones sponsoring these events.
Mark: I don’t think people realize how difficult it is to be a small business. Even if your shop is successful, your expenses are quite high. Small business owners have to pay a good chunk of the property taxes through their leases, which can add up to $20,000 per year, and rent increases every year. Minimum wage has gone up, which is amazing but also means that the cost of staffing has skyrocketed on top of other expenses. Plus, stores are now competing with Amazon. There are people that go into a shop and take a photo and then go home and buy it on Amazon, which does nothing to support the store. The city also has a lot of regulations that we fight on behalf of small businesses.
What are some of your favorite spots you’ve discovered since you moved into The Yard?
Joanna: Lunch at Olivier Bistro was also lovely.
What are some highlights we can look forward to this year?
Joanna: It’s the beginning of event season. We’ve got A Taste of Fifth coming up on April 10th, which is about showcasing our restaurants and bars. You can buy a ticket for $60, and $20 of that $60 goes to one of fifteen charities that you can choose from. There will be free booze, a speakeasy, jazz music, a DJ, lots of dancing, and a pop-up special.
A pop-up? That sounds intriguing.
Mark: It’s a great food event, but we thought we’d throw in a surprise, so every year we coordinate a flash mob with Spoke the Hub Dancing. We have a trigger song and we all suddenly show up in costumes on the dance floor.
Can you give us a hint about what your costume will be like this year?
Mark and Joanna: Sparkly.
What else is coming up?
What do you love most about The Yard?
Joanna: I like the openness. [Laughing] If I’m fed up with Mark, I can take a walk around and sit somewhere else if I want to. It’s very comfortable and relaxed. Plus, Nick looks after us. You can ask him anything, and it’s sorted very quickly.
Mark: I like having a place to put my bike. I no longer need to lock it up on the street. And a place to put our cart with posters and flyers for the neighborhood.
We love having a place to call our own, too, and even more so love sharing it with you!
Special thanks to Mark and Joanna for chatting with us and for dedicating their time towards the wellness of the Park Slope area and its small businesses. We love having these two at The Yard and can’t wait to see how our communities will go hand and hand this year.
Don’t forget to grab your ticket for A Taste of Fifth on April 10th so you can try the best eats in the area (and check out Mark and Joanna’s sparkly costumes).