East Midtown Partnership Set to Energize, Beautify Area in Coming Year

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City Comptroller John Liu presents Rob Byrnes with an award for his service to the district at East Midtown Partnership’s annual meeting in December. Photo courtesy of EMP.

East Midtown Partnership is on a mission to make East Midtown a better place. One of 67 Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) in New York City, the partnership funds beautification projects, sanitation, park maintenance and other programs beneficial to the East Midtown district, which covers most blocks between East 49th and 63rd streets and Madison and Second avenues. The partnership recently held its 10th annual meeting to celebrate its accomplishments over the past year. Now, the BID is looking forward to new programs and services that it intends to launch in 2013.

“This is going to be the year we take our marketing and beautification initiatives to the next level,” said Rob Byrnes, president of East Midtown Partnership since it began in 2002. His hope is to strengthen the local community by continuing to build business relationships between East Midtown retailers and commercial tenants, and to make East Midtown a more attractive place for people to work, shop and visit.

Byrnes was particularly excited about the partnership’s work at Tramway Plaza. The small park on Second Avenue, the district’s only accessible public space, was infested with rats last year, so East Midtown Partnership hired an exterminator and worked with the city’s Parks and Recreation Department and other groups to put lids on trash cans and change trash liners several times a day. The exterminator recently called Byrnes to report that the rat population had been reduced from 38 active burrows to zero active burrows.

“We want to make [Tramway Plaza] something people want to go to, not walk over to Third Avenue to avoid,” Byrnes said earlier at the annual meeting, emphasizing that keeping the rat population in check would require constant monitoring. “We only have one park, and we’re in there for the long haul.”

In the coming year, Byrnes said, he hopes to organize concerts in the park, and perhaps public art exhibitions. Currently East Midtown Partnership is working to arrange a Friends of Tramway Park public volunteer group to run the park and its future activities.

Two other projects the partnership is pursuing are an East Midtown dining passport and bookings for the partnership’s new conference room. The passport, which will be free, will provide discounts and special offers at participating restaurants in the district to help build customer bases. The conference room—in Byrnes’ words, a “community room”—is a renovated and expanded space at the partnership’s Third Avenue office that can now be used to host Community Board meetings, police precinct meetings and other community functions.

East Midtown Partnership, like all city BIDs, receives its funding from a mandatory tax on all commercial property in the district. New York City’s BIDs invest $100 million into community programs and services annually, and East Midtown Partnership operates on a budget of a little over $2 million.

Part of that revenue in 2012 went to installing recycling bins for newspapers across the district—a project that Byrnes called “the epitome of what we’re supposed to be doing as a business improvement district” and hopes will become a model for the rest of the city—and to holding networking events to encourage residents and commercial owners to buy local. “Everything you need is in East Midtown,” Byrnes said, quoting the partnership’s marketing strategy.

The BID also funds the district’s sanitation, security and homeless outreach programs. At the partnership’s annual meeting, George McDonald, founder and CEO of the Doe Fund, a nonprofit transitional work service, praised the partnership for its assistance. “What a wonderful public-private partnership it is that we have here,” he said. “You go one step beyond what your purpose is as business folks, to add this extra element of helping people at the bottom of our economic ladder grab a hold of that first rung.”

Visit the East Midtown Partnership website, eastmidtown.org, for news about the neighborhood and upcoming projects.

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