BID-ding on 86th Street

It’s interesting living in what is, essentially, a shopping district. I live on 86th Street in Brooklyn on a block of the 86th Street B.I.D. A “B.I.D.,” for those of you who don’t know, is a “business improvement district.” This name implies that somewhere there’s some agency or something that would try and improve business on 86th Street, but as far as I can tell, the only thing they do is provide the guys who empty the garbage along the street with coveralls that say “86th Street.”

Seriously, though, there are B.I.D.’s all over the city, mainly in the larger commercial areas–Times Square, the Fashion District along 7th Avenue, Herald Square, probably even Harlem. If I understand it correctly, these things serve as mini-chambers of commerce, and they probably compete with each other too, though I really don’t see how the street that I can live on could ever compete with Times Square. Not that I would want it to. I don’t really think there’s a building tall enough here for the gigantic ball to drop from at New Year’s, anyway, unless maybe they wanted to drop it into the river from the Verrazzano Bridge. But that probably wouldn’t be quite the same.

It’s very interesting for me to walk out of my building and cross the street and suddenly be able to walk to literally anything that I need within a matter of minutes. Within 10 blocks of me, there are (at least) 3 grocery stores, 3 gyms, 58 billion nail/hair salons, a Cingular store, a Verizon Wireless store, an AT&T Wireless store, at least 10 other generic cell phone stores, countless bodegas and newsstands, a huge discount department store called Century Twenty-One, three Subway sandwich stores, two Dunkin’ Donuts shops, a Staples, a Gap, three or four perfume stores, a McDonald’s, a Burger King, a Popeye’s chicken, two Starbucks, a branch of the Brooklyn Public Library that sucks and is closed all the time, and dozens and dozens of bars, lounges, clubs and restaurants, 98% of which I’ve never even set foot in.

I have noticed, however, a couple of key things missing from Bay Ridge. (That’s the name of where I live–Bay Ridge. Yes, it’s part of Brooklyn, but you could also write “Bay Ridge” on the envelope if you were going to mail me a letter and it’d still get here. You could also write “Brooklyn” and you could even write “New York,” because all of them are right. I guess that’s the magic of ZIP codes.) We don’t have a Kinko’s, which is a tragedy. I’m sure that there are hundreds, if not thousands, of people in the immediate area who would appreciate having the ability to make copies on the fly, not to mention the added convenience of being able to send and receive faxes without installing a pesky second phone line.

There is also no large Barnes & Noble type bookstore nearby–the closest one is in Park Slope, which is very nice, but it involves taking a subway and then a bus to get to it. I want bookstore convenience within mere blocks of me, confound it! So if you’re looking for a business opportunity, see if you can franchise one or both of those in Bay Ridge. We’re right on the precipice of Brooklyn, and Staten Islanders are here constantly, so it would be a worthwhile investment.

Living in a B.I.D. does have its downsides, though. For starters, it can be frustrating to try and brave foot traffic outside. To get to the bank, which is about 500 feet away from the front door of my building, I usually have to carry a cattle prod or taser, mainly to chase away the bag ladies that will lunge at me in an attempt to pry my Coke can from my hand. And don’t even think about trying to go to the post office, ever. The non-86th Street B.I.D.-ers invariably invade the post office every morning, just because it’s convenient to their shopping expeditions. I’m pretty sure that people have died waiting in line at that post office. It would explain the smell, anyway.

Even though I essentially live in what is, for all intents and purposes, an outdoor mall, it’s pretty cool to walk a block away from the bulk of the hustle and bustle, take out my key and escape up to my own little (overpriced 1 bedroom) world (with hardwood floors) where all of the commerce happening below doesn’t impact me or bother me at all, except for when the police drive by or ambulances go wailing around the corner, or that group of morons that drag race down 86th Street show up. Aside from all of the ambient New York noise, it’s my own little sanctuary. Just try to ignore the fumes–you don’t smell them at all after a while.

—2003