...as BIDs grow in size and scope, so do complaints about them. "They are cartels for landlords," said Moshe Adler, an adjunct professor of urban planning at Columbia University. "Make no mistake, BIDs may help small businesses when it suits them. But their fundamental role is advancing the interests of property owners."
Big BIDS are increasingly influential players at City Hall. Carl Weisbrod, the founding president of the Alliance for Downtown New York, the nation's largest BID, with $17 million in annual revenue, now heads the Department of City Planning. The Times Square Alliance was the driving force behind City Council legislation adopted earlier this year that corralled Elmo and other street performers into a designated corner of the pedestrian plaza. BIDs also lobbied the city to crack down on the fraudulent clothing- donation bins that once riddled streets and now are pressing to rein in street vendors.
Before the City Council approves a new BID, landlords must agree to perpetually fund the organization via assessments on their properties, typically a few hundred dollars per month depending on square footage and sidewalk frontage. Usually these expenses are passed on to commercial tenants through higher rents. By law, BID boards are controlled by landlords, which doesn't sit well with some business owners. "In a country that was founded by a revolution against taxation without representation, it's clear this is a huge issue," Alex Duffy, founder of a nonprofit theater in Brooklyn, said at a City Council hearing last year.
There is also evidence that BIDs hurt some retailers. A study published in the Journal of Planning Education and Research in 2014 showed that sales and employment at shops within New York City BIDs fared worse than at those outside the districts. The study's author, Stacey Sutton, a professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, said it could be that BIDs help make neighborhoods more desirable, which attracts new shops and puts pressure on existing merchants to compete.
Yet BIDs continue to proliferate throughout the boroughs. Some 25 are currently being created or expanded, and the city plans to double the number of full-time staffers who oversee them. Mayor de Blasio lauded BIDs last February when he signed a bill expanding several of them. "It will mean more and better services locally, clean and inviting streets, initiatives that help our small businesses to attract more customers," he said.