On Wednesday, the Flushing Business Improvement District discussed its five-point proposal for $500,000 in grant money for improving Downtown Flushing.
The grant is part of New York City’s Small Business Services new “Neighborhood 360” program—an investment initiative that has allocated $3 million to six commercial corridors around the city in need of improvements and support. Downtown Flushing was announced as one of those corridors back in October. Flushing BID has submitted its proposal for the money. It will find out early next year whether or not it has been awarded the grant after the award decisions are announced early next year.
According to Dian Yu, Flushing BID’s executive director, the grant money will help support Flushing’s small businesses—facing tough times due to cutthroat competition, particularly in the restaurant industry. It will also help provide resources for businesses that may be affected by the yearlong widening of Flushing’s Main Street sidewalks, a comprehensive project that will also include the replacement of catch basins, water mains and other infrastructural features.
While foot traffic along Main Street is expected to remain unchanged, Yu expects that vehicular congestion in the area could pose problems. He added that the 360 Grant was coming at a good time.
“If it takes you 20 to 25 minutes to find a parking space, or get out of a parking space, that’s how you lose customers, and that’s how you lose business,” Yu told the Queens Tribune. “We want to avoid that kind of situation during the Main Street sidewalk widening.”
To help support small businesses, Yu said, the Flushing BID has proposed five initiatives to effectively use the 360 Grant.
First, the Flushing BID will provide business retention and support. The Flushing BID will work with the Job Academy to retrain workers in Downtown Flushing—particularly in supermarkets, hotels and restaurants— to improve service quality.
Supermarket employees, for instance, could take a course to learn more about the produce and food that they sell and how to appropriately help customers. Restaurant workers will be taught how to use computer-based resources to improve features like electronic ordering. Additionally, the Flushing BID will expand translation services to support Flushing’s diverse small-business community.
In another comprehensive initiative, the Flushing BID is creating a marketing campaign called “Moving Forward Together.” The point of this initiative is to bring Flushing into New York City’s orbit as an attractive tourism center, while emphasizing the parts of Flushing that make it a unique New York City neighborhood. The idea, Yu said, is to accept that Flushing cannot compete with Manhattan’s tourist and cultural attractions, and instead to emphasize Flushing’s booming hotel industry; authentic and price-efficient Asian cuisine; and proximity to the 7 train, airports and CitiField as features that make it a convenient and must-see starting point for tourists.
“We should be part of New York City; we should utilize what Manhattan can offer, but we have our home strengths,” said Yu. “We encourage everybody: Start your New York experience over here.”
To do this, the Flushing BID will launch an ad campaign and is partnering with local stakeholders, like the Queens Botanical Garden and the Queens Historical Society, to organize tours of Downtown Flushing that will cover everything from history to food. The BID will also launch an ad campaign at nearby airports to attract incoming tourists.
Third, the Flushing BID is proposing a business reinvestment program. This is focused on providing support and opportunities to businesses—especially during the Main Street construction. The program will feature a community ad campaign, where money will go into advertising for local businesses in community newspapers. The BID has also proposed a raffle program, where money will go toward buying merchandise from businesses in the construction impact area. Those businesses can then distribute the items through free raffle tickets given out at the stores. More money will go toward investments to expand sanitation services—a likely necessity as congestion gets worse.
For the last two initiatives, the Flushing BID hopes to expand cultural performances around Flushing. For instance, the BID will utilize a partnership between Queens Theatre and Flushing Library on Main Street to bring a stronger cultural presence to the heart of Downtown Flushing. Last, the BID hopes to fund its annual street festival, moving it from the summer to the fall.
Reach Out To James Farrell at (718) 357-7400 x 127, firstname.lastname@example.org or @farrellj329.