Peekskill’s new Business Improvement District (BID) Director understands that he is stepping into a position that represents a number of challenges. The BID was audited by the state comptroller land found to be dysfunctional; it has beenby a former Chair many times (and in the comments of many Patch articles); and it has struggled to draw participation from the downtown business owners who pay the $100,000 worth of taxes each year that provide the BID’s budget.
Jason Angell was hired as the new BID Director, a part-time position, about two months ago. Angell, 34, is the former Executive Director of the Working Families Center, a non-profit “think and act” tank that works closely with the Working Families party. While there, he oversaw the development of the Green Jobs- Green Homes New York program model, which was signed into state law in Oct. 2009 as the Green Jobs, Green NY Act. He was raised in New York City but often spent time with his family in Garrison, where he and his wife are now living and starting a sustainable farm. He is also currently teaching political science at Bronx Community College.
Angell says his experience at the Center, as a small business owner (owning the farm), crafting the Green Jobs model, working to grow local economies, and his work while earning a Masters in Public Administration from the Maxwell School at Syracuse, equip him with the skills needed to run the BID. Read his full biography here.
In an interview with Patch, Angell used an African proverb to explain his feelings about his new job.
“A journey begins with a first step,” Angell said. “I acknowledge there are mixed feelings about how effectively the BID has been run over past few years.”
Angell’s first goal is to get business owners involved with the Business District Management Association, which runs the BID. “I’m not going to come in and say this is everything that should happen,” he said. “One of my priorities is to get out and reach out to bid owners in downtown and make connections, and hear from them about their thoughts on how it can be improved.”
The BID was responsible for the which involved 30 downtown businesses that offered discounts to customers with a “Merry” button. It also featured downtown trolley tours of decorated homes and businesses, and the which packed the downtown with jolly Santas on Dec. 17. Angell saw success with the campaign, which he organized during his first few weeks on the job, but said he sees an opportunity to do much more for the next holiday season and viewed this year's campaign as a “jumping off point” for next year.
Over the 16 years the BID has been in effect, it has been responsible for bringing the Peekskill’s Farmer’s and Flea Market to Bank street in the summer, for aesthetic improvements in the downtown, for outdoor festivals like Jazz Fest and for attracting Main Street grant money.
Angell said he hopes to improve upon the successes the BID has already seen. In an analysis of the BID budget that Angell performed in order to create a five-year plan he found that for every dollar the BID invests in the farmer’s market they get a more than $2 return. The farmer’s market is a good place to “take advantage of the diversity of Peekskill,” he said.
Angell explained his vision of the farmer's market as a Hudson Valley Brooklyn Flea, which is a popular flea market in Brooklyn that features local food and drinks, as well as crafts and arts.
He also envisions the BID helping to make Peekskill known as a leader in public art, which would be a good way to pull people into the downtown, he said.
In regards to the state audit which highlighted administrative and organizational problems of the BID, Angell said that, “part of (a solution) is making sure we have good transparency for members, in terms of budget spending, and to be as transparent as possible. (We need to work to) promote businesses and the downtown as much as possible.”
Angell is working with the 11 current BID Association Board members and hopes that BID members start coming to the meetings to provide input. Any property owner or tenant in the downtown district is a BID member. However, tenants must prove their occupancy in the district in order to vote in the BID election and property owners must not by in tax arrears in order to vote.
“We are not a healthy BID until we can prove that BID members are participating,” Angell said. “I am really calling upon business owners and BID members to put the past behind them and to come down, participate in meetings on the first Tuesday of the month and to come to annual meetings with ideas on how BID can serve them. And to run for election.”
There are two tenant board member spots vacant and three property owner spots vacant. The BID will have an annual meeting on Feb. 23 when the election will take place. After the BID association board is elected by the BID members, they will then appoint the chair and other positions.
Angell plans to visit as many BID members as possible in the next month to encourage them to participate in the election and BID activities. He is also working with the current board to create a 2012 plan to present to members at the Feb. 23 meeting. The meeting will be held from 6 to 9 p.m. at a location to be determined. BID members will receive information on the meeting and elections in the mail in the coming weeks.
What do you think the BID can do to help downtown Peekskill? Tell us in the comments and take our poll.
Editor's Note: Information on the BID elections has been added to this article.