To this end, DBS and BID boards of directors must take a more aggressive role in BID oversight. In the case of DBS, the vast majority of BID managers said they were pleased with DBS services. They felt that DBS staff provided guidance during the approval process and made helpful suggestions about improving BID operations. However, it is not enough to simply attend board meetings and make periodic phone calls to BIDs. DBS, as it is contractually mandated, must make a concerted effort to independently assess BID operations. As this report has demonstrated, there are too many instances where greater oversight of BIDs has been required by DBS.
Equal burden must be placed on the BID board of directors. It is essential that they become more involved with the activities of their organizations. The discrepancy revealed in the Committee's outreach survey regarding the opinions of BID board and non-board members indicates that board members are not sufficiently in touch with BID property owners and property managers to achieve optimum service delivery. BID boards of directors are charged with the financial management of the BID. They must exercise greater authority and act more proactively than in the past to ensure that their BID's fiscal health and operational well being is maintained. Each director must recognize her/his responsibility to aggressively inquire about her/his BID's management and operations. The Committee implores all board members to ask tough questions about such issues as complaints, staff salaries, and the effectiveness of BID programs.
DBS and BID board members and managers can easily utilize outreach surveys and spot reviews of BID records and contractors to improve day-to-day BID oversight. And, in cases like the Jamaica Mall, where DBS itself acknowledged some serious problems, DBS must take action and, if necessary, mandate changes. Simple oversight by BID boards and DBS could prevent future scenarios like those that occurred in the Jamaica Mall, the GCSSC and the East Brooklyn BID from being repeated in the future.
While DBS needs to take a more aggressive role, it is hampered by staffing limitations. Currently, in addition to the Assistant Commissioner for Neighborhood Development who oversees the BIDs, there are only two DBS staff members with full-time BID responsibilities, one DBS staff member who has 1/2 time BID responsibilities, and three other staff members with only limited BID responsibilities. Collectively, these staff members must speak to each BID on a weekly basis, attend BID meetings, monitor BID budgets, and provide guidance to any BID going through the establishment process. With 34 BIDs now in operation, and at least 39 other areas expressing interest in establishing a BID, the degree of service that the current DBS staffing levels will be able to provide is questionable. This will be especially critical for newer BIDs, which require closer attention than long-standing BIDs. Current DBS staff acknowledged they are already, "stretched thin."
Given this reality, BID boards of directors and BID staff must make a greater effort at conducting oversight and outreach. If BIDs are to be vital parts of the community, and not simply an additional tax on the property owners, BID boards and managers must pay more attention to reaching out to people in the district and ensuring the proper management of their organizations.
While the Committee was conducting its review, the BIDs formed an independent BID association with the hopes of improving BID operations. The Committee certainly applauds this effort, and hopes that the association will be an effective monitor of BID activity. Furthermore, the Committee recognizes its own ongoing oversight responsibility during the approval process, when BIDs seek increases in their assessments, and to periodically conduct reviews such as have been detailed in this report.
As long as there is vigilant BID oversight, the Committee acknowledges that BID's supply a valuable contribution to the City of New York. If that oversight is not maintained, however, it will become necessary for government to seek increased forms of regulation to protect the investments of its citizens in this new micropolis.