The city’s Department of Small Business Services has unveiled a Commercial District Needs Assessment (CDNA) of Coney Island in an effort to summarize the current business climate in the neighborhood and provide a set of goals geared towards improvement in the future.
The assessment, completed in partnership with the Alliance for Coney Island, includes the Mermaid Ave., Surf Ave., Neptune Ave., Stillwell Ave., and Riegelmann Boardwalk areas. It is a product of more than 447 surveys, stakeholder meetings, workers, consumers, and property owners, according to SBS.
“I’m really beyond excited to have this report,” said Alexandra Silversmith, who serves as the Executive Director of the Alliance for Coney Island. “We’ve spent the past year working on it. It provides insight into the current conditions and really unlocks opportunities in the neighborhood.”
The assessment identifies seven “challenges” in the community, including concerns about safety, a fluctuation of business in different seasons, a lack of shopping and healthy food options, underutilized public spaces, vacant storefronts, and a high proportion of storefronts in need of physical improvements.
Opportunities for growth include the activation of underused public spaces; the implementation of programming, wayfinding, and marketing to push visitors beyond just the amusement area to explore businesses on Mermaid Ave. and Neptune Ave; the improving of lighting on streets; the leveraging of diversity to promote entrepreneurship; and the building of capacity for community-based economic development corporations. The report stressed the importance of filling vacant storefronts to meet the needs of locals, noting that there are 287 total storefronts but 11.5 percent remain vacant.
The report also listed “cleaning, beautifying, and maintaining streets and sidewalks” as another opportunity, but some business owners have already expressed concern that in the event that a Business Improvement District (BID) is ultimately formed, they may end up paying for various costs associated with improving one area of the neighborhood at the expense of other areas.
“If they’re going to gather all of the funds from all of these areas, what are they going to do with these funds? If they decide to put, say, street lights on Mermaid Ave., why are people on Neptune paying for it?” Dominick Concilio, owner of Citywide Income Tax on Mermaid Ave., told Coney Island News last month when asked about the BID.
The Alliance for Coney Island has recently facilitated the effort to bring a BID to Coney Island through Small Business Services, but they say this assessment is not linked to the BID. As Coney Island News first reported, dozens of businesses on Neptune Ave. and Mermaid Ave. have petitioned the potential BID due to the prospect of additional taxes and because they feel it would favor establishments in the amusement area instead of local businesses, among other reasons.
Silversmith last month dismissed the notion that a BID would be more focused on the amusement area.
“I certainly believe that it would create a better business environment and shopping environment for businesses and residents,” she said. “Our goal is to bring growth to the businesses that are here.”
Read the full assessment here.