III. Methodology

The Committee employed a multi-faceted approach to its review of BID operations. This examination began on April 6, 1995 when Chairman Berman sent a letter to all 33 BIDs requesting documentation detailing their operations and expenses. This documentation included, among other things, budgets, audit reports, contracts, annual reports, and lists of staff salaries.(26) A follow-up letter was sent on August 18, 1995 requesting minutes and board of director attendance records for all FY '95 BID board of directors meetings.

Council staff also conducted in-person interviews with each of the 33 BID managers -- those individuals who are responsible for the day-to-day management of the BIDs. These interviews were designed to identify the extent and nature of BID contracting procedures, outreach mechanisms, complaint resolution processes, means of performance assessment, and perceptions of government and self-regulation. Additionally, to obtain a first-hand look at BID activity, Council staff was taken on walking tours of all 33 BIDs by the BID managers.(27)

During the summer and fall of 1995, Council staff also conducted a phone survey of 404 BID property owners and property managers (hereinafter referred to as "respondents"). This number represents more than 6.5% of the approximately 6,190 properties which were assessed in New York City during FY '95. The purpose of this survey (hereinafter referred to as the "outreach survey") was to determine how those who are most directly affected by the BIDs -- those who pay the assessment and work within the BIDs -- perceived BID efforts. The respondents were selected from DOF property owner lists.(28) Council staff also spoke to personnel at DBS who guide proposed BIDs through the approval process, oversee BIDs, and provide all BIDs with ongoing support. Finally, several published studies regarding New York City BIDs were reviewed, including reports from the New York City Economic Policy and Marketing Group and the New York City Partnership.(29)

Taken together, the Committee's research design sought to capture the full range and dimensions of New York City BID operations.(30) It is important to note, however, that while this report included a review of financial data, the Committee's purpose was to evaluate BID operations and performance -- not to perform a fiscal audit. The Committee notes that the New York City Comptroller's office and the New York City Audit Committee have committed to undertake this important task on a limited basis.(31)


  1. All subsequent budget figures are derived from the BIDs’ FY 95 approved budgets and financial documents supplied by the BIDS.
  2. Chairman Berman wishes to acknowledge the cooperation of all 33 BIDs and DBS throughout this review.
  3. Percentages drawn from the outreach survey that are identified in this report reflect the responses of those individuals who answered the specific question or questions being discussed.
  4. "New York City's Business Improvement Districts: An Evaluation," New York City Economic Policy and Marketing Group, 1994 (hereinafter referred to as BIDs: An Evaluation); "New York City Business Improvement District Survey: A Report by the New York City Partnership,” The Atlantic Group, 1993 (hereinafter referred to as Partnership BID Survey); and The BID Manual: Establishing and Managing a Business Improvement District, New York City Partnership, 1995 (hereinafter refereed to as the BID Manual).
  5. The Committee’s research revealed that while many BIDs provided a range of services, three specific areas of service delivery--security, sanitation and promotions/marketing--were common to most of the BIDs. Accordingly, the Committee’s review concentrated on these areas. Although social services are not offered by most BIDs, the provision of social services by some BIDs has received a great deal of attention by governmental agencies and the media. The Committee included social services as part of its review.
  6. "City Hall Agency Will Review the Audits of Business Zones,” The New York Times, April 22, 1995, p.27. The New York City Audit Committee, comprised of representatives of the Mayor, Comptroller, and Public Advocate, indicated that it will prospectively receive all financial statements, including independent auditors' reports and the auditors' management letter comments on a yearly basis, and review these materials on a rotating basis. In discussions with Council staff, representatives of the Comptroller's Office indicated that they will audit BIDs on a limited basis.