By Addison Poffenberger – Fordham IPED ’24
The Fordham Road Business Improvement District (BID) is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to foster the growth and vitality of the local businesses in the Fordham Road community. The BID provides technical and business support for businesses who may not have training in specific areas, employs a sanitation team who is responsible for cleaning up the district, and puts on local community events such as the fall Fordham Festival and the holiday Sparkling the Heart of Fordham events. The organization receives ample funding via an assessment, which is a small tax that all businesses within the BID pay so that they may receive the benefits that the BID provides. The BID does not just serve businesses. Consumers and residents of the neighborhood benefit from the BID’s maintenance of public spaces, such as Bryan Park, the various community events that are put forward, and the BID’s constant lobbying to the city in a bid to divert city resources to the neighborhood as needed. We are a small team, with just four staff including myself. But, having a small team creates a very tight-knit sense of community and my coworkers are one of the best parts of working here. They are all incredibly friendly, devoted to their work, and enjoy having discussions (and sometimes heated debates) because everyone’s opinion is valued.
I provide support creating direct connections between the BID and its businesses to ensure that our resources reach those who need them. Most recently, I have spearheaded the launch of our “Fordham Bucks” program. The BID paid to give out over 100 $25 gift cards that are eligible to be spent only at local businesses within the Fordham neighborhood who choose to sign up. Over 10 businesses signed up for the program and gift cards are being rolled out to Fordham residents in need. I also write our monthly newsletter that goes out to all of our members, giving them information on upcoming events and various funding opportunities they could make use of. Next on the docket will be creating a new map of the district. The current one we have dates back to 2018, and based on my surveying of the district, almost ⅓ of the businesses in the area have closed down and had a new store open up since then.
In a move completely unprecedented in the BID scene, the Fordham Road BID has started a community coalition called Fordham Forward. The goals of the new organization are to bring together various community partners in an attempt to pool resources and more efficiently tackle the problems facing the neighborhood. Through this initiative, I have been able to make valuable connections with other organizations such as the Street Vendor Project, the Office of the Bronx Borough President, and the Bronx Community Health Network. This coalition allows us to serve beyond simply our constituency of businesses and provides an avenue for us to provide the community at large access to our resources in order to give back to the people who make Fordham Road such a bustling center of commerce.
All in all, this internship has provided me with valuable career experience, as I have been given the opportunity to really show what I can do. It has also given me invaluable insight into the inner machinations of city government and how the public sector operates when it comes to policy and handling community issues. It also feels good to know that my work is helping the community to prosper.