Overview of BIDs

Map of the Downtown Rochester District proposed for the Business Improvement District by the RDDC

AUTHOR’S NOTE: The community deserves to have access to information about how they are governed, taxed and how their tax dollars are spent. This is our current understanding of BID structure and formation. NGL, it’s pretty dry, and full of acronyms. We tried to simplify it as much as possible. If you have a correction for information listed below, please contact us with the update and citation.

A Business Improvement District (BID) is a “geographical area where local stakeholders oversee and fund the maintenance, improvement, and promotion of their commercial district.”1 BIDs have geographic boundaries made up of tax lots, and a District Management Association (DMA)

Map of the Downtown Rochester District proposed for the Business Improvement District by the RDDC

Geographic boundaries (BID)
The image at left has been used by the Rochester Downtown Development Corporation (RDDC). Red line added for emphasis and irony. They are still early in the process and have not submitted an official plan to Rochester City Council for their approval. Without this approval the BID cannot be formed.

District Management Association (DMA) – a Nonprofit organization composed of a board of directors. The Rochester Downtown Partnership (RDP) is the name of the proposed DMA. They have contracted with the RDDC to do the initial work required to create a BID. The following names are listed on the RDDC website:

ROCHESTER DOWNTOWN PARTNERSHIP (RDP) Board Composition, as of 1/14/22
Malik Evans, Rochester Mayor
Miguel Meléndez, Rochester City Council President
Adam Bello, Monroe County Executive
Jeremy Cooney, Member, NYS Senate
Demond Meeks, Member, NYS Assembly
Vincent Esposito, Empire State Development (Advisory, Non-Voting)
Rich Perrin, Downtown Enhancement District
Chris Hill, Vice President of I Gordon Corporation, (RDDC Board Chair) 
Andy Gallina, President of Gallina Development Corporation, RDDC (Appointed) 
Joe Stefko ROC 2025 (Appointed)
Bob Duffy, Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce (CEO)
Jim Brown, Floreano Convention Center (Executive Director)
Rachel Laber, Visit Rochester (Appointed)
Dawn Williams-Fuller, Downtown Property Owner
Stefanie Schwingle, Downtown Resident
Shawn Dunwoody, Community Member
Ebony Miller-Wesley, University Representative
Eugenio Marlin, Community Advisory Committee

UPDATE 6/8: The President & CEO of RDDC will serve as RDP’s Executive Director, Galin Brooks, formerly of the DowntownDC BID and NoMA Neighborhood BID will be replacing Heidi Zimmer-Meyer June 20.

It is unclear as to whether these individuals, aside from the executive director, would serve as the executive board if the BID is approved. It is also entirely likely that many of these community members have been unaware of the negative implications of a BID. According to NYS Law a BID is specifically governed by a majority of property owners.

BIDs can vary in their formation, but the above image highlights their basic design in cities with a population of under 1million.

BID Powers:

A BID has the power to levy taxes on property and business owners within the BID. Taxes are collected by the city and passed through to the BID for use at their discretion to supplement public services including hiring private security, urban design, sanitation, infrastructure, economic development and events.

BID Accountability and Transparency:

Unlike City Council or other government bodies, a BID is private and is not subject to Freedom of Information Law or Open Meetings Law. (Good news, if a BID is formed, it is subject to FOIL and OML in NYS. But not during the planning stage 🙁 ) Access to information, decision making, contracts and spending is not openly provided to the general public.

How a BID is enacted:

  1. District plans are presented and submitted to the clerk (map, proposed uses of land, improvements and costs, funding sources, proposed rules or regs for district, list of benefitted properties, and identity of the district management association)
  2. A resolution initiating the process must be introduced and passed by City Council. (UPDATE: 7/30- THIS MOTION IS CURRENTLY BEING HELD, IT IS UNCLEAR AS TO HOW LONG)
  3. Council can introduce the resolution on its own, or at the request of the association president (Galin Brooks) And a public hearing is held.
  4. Any property owner within the proposed district plan who does not wish the BID to proceed must file an objection at the office of the municipal clerk within 30 days of the hearing.
  5. The BID must be approved by either:
    • Business owners that represent 51% of the taxable property within the proposed boundaries of the district. (ex: you own Park Place on the Monopoly board with a hotel, your approval is weighted greater than the owner of St. James Place with three houses, and far more than an undeveloped Mediterranean)
    • at least fifty-one percent of the owners of property within the proposed boundaries.
  6. Council must pass a local law with a permissive referendum.
  7. If the law passes by referendum, it (and other docs) must be sent to the state comptroller for review and approval; if approved, the law is effective 

UP NEXT: Community Implications…

4 responses to “Overview of BIDs”

  1. Betsy Liano Avatar
    Betsy Liano

    I don’t understand the purpose of putting this BID into place if it takes all information and decision making out of public or representative control. Is there any way to reverse the process if it is approved?

    1. Admin Avatar

      When we look back at history, there have been many laws/systems put into place that are not equitable and take decades to reverse and attempt to undo the harm they cause. Thanks to the strong arts community here in Rochester being our canary in the coal mine, we are finding out about this BID before it becomes another “done deal”.

      If I’m reading the law correctly, unless other stipulations are put in place, the very people who vote it into existence are the only ones who can dissolve a Business Improvement District https://www.nysenate.gov/legislation/laws/GMU/980-O There have been some cases where a BID intentionally runs up debt in order to continue to exist. Without checks and balances the community is at the whim of a board that meets behind closed doors.

      The RDDC has access to 5 million dollars to get this BID up and running. We have passion and some mad organizing/creative skills and the desire for a city that works for all of its residents. That’s why we need your help to spread the word.

      Community outcry can convince the RDDC that they should abandon the BID model and find a different way to encourage more equitable economic growth in the City without a power grab. (The RDDC abandoned an attempt in 2014) But we need to speak up NOW. If the RDDC, which will be under new leadership in days, decides to continue to plow through with the plan- City Council is our only hope of defending our community from this 21st century version of redlining. We will be watching and advising the community accordingly.

      I think many people have been given a sales pitch that glosses over this fine print and they likely didn’t realize the negative repercussions. I hope that those folks will recognize that they don’t have to sign on, and they can advocate for a solution that is better for everyone’s bottom line.

      More to come in part 2.

  2. Tim Denatale Avatar
    Tim Denatale

    A legally constituted entity that spends public money, with no reference or deference to the public? That doesn’t sound either democratic or equitable. A power grab: not governance. Some other solution needs to be presented.

  3. […] A Business Improvement District (or “BID”) is a designated area of a community that has a board. This board is granted powers by City Council. These powers were entrusted to City Council by you, the voter. The Rochester Downtown Development Corporation (RDDC) has access to nearly $5,000,000 in public and private funding to “Show what a BID can do!” and get City Council to vote for it’s creation. The RDDC hid from the press and focused the public and Council’s attention on artwashed projects and events to distract the community from learning that: […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *