Working to help improve a growing downtown
The Yonkers Downtown/Waterfront Business Improvement District (YDWBID) covers an area of commercial and residential properties that has grown rapidly in recent years. According to a map on the YDWBID website, the area it covers is irregularly shaped, stretching to the Hudson River in the west, Chicken Island in the east, St. Joseph’s Medical Center in the south, and Wells Avenue to the north.
In the context of the new development that has taken place, the YDWBID has worked to help make the neighborhood a more attractive place to live and shop. The YDWBID is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization established in 2002.
“Back then, downtown Yonkers was a different kind of place. It was a center of work and life, but there was also an element that made people feel uncomfortable,” Sara Brody, the current executive director of YDWBID, told The Business Journals. “Commercial and residential business owners generally felt they wanted help improving the quality of life for those who came to shop, commute, or for those who lived here.”
The YDWBID describes itself as having been formed to build working partnerships, encourage investment and support initiatives for a healthier business district in downtown Yonkers.
“We’re a channel for a lot of support that new or current businesses need from the city or even just in general,” Brody said.
Today, the area covered by the YDWBID is home to more than 250 businesses. One of the neighborhood’s newest restaurants is Off the Hook, a seafood restaurant that opened earlier this year. Zuppa a restaurant that opened in downtown Yonkers quite early in the revitalization. Other well-known restaurants include X2O Xaviars on the Hudson and Guapo, a restaurant open since 2010 that serves Mexican and Cuban cuisine. Next to St. John’s Episcopal Church is the Grand Roosevelt Ballroom, a large hall for social events that can accommodate approximately 600 people. Clothing retail options include Rainbow Shop and Easy Pickins, as well as Sneaker World.
One of the crucial functions of the YDWBID is marketing. YDWBID runs publicity campaigns for its own events and also helps raise awareness of businesses in the district, many of which do little or no advertising on their own.
“A lot of family businesses don’t have the resources to devote to marketing, so we often work to help by promoting businesses so they can be successful,” Brody said.
The YDWBID also engages the community through its events. A new one, the Yonkers Downtown Farmers Market, will operate on Sundays from June to November in Van Der Donck Park near Yonkers Station. Vendors will offer various meats, produce and other foodstuffs.
“The YMCA will provide nutritional and educational programs on produce and cooking,” Brody said. “The market will reflect the many different cultures that are represented here. Additionally, the Farmers Market will accept SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) vouchers and other types of supplemental payment programs. It will take everything.
Another event that YDWBID is preparing is a two-day winter market on December 10 and 11. This would be the second time this winter market has been held in the area, and it will feature activities for children, music and vendors. selling items not usually found in neighborhood stores.
Recalling last year’s winter market, Brody said: “What we found was people were coming out of the area that we had never met before and said to me, ‘This is fantastic. We try to involve local people and provide activities to take full advantage of the potential and beauty of the area.
The Yonkers Police Department (YPD) plays an important role in maintaining security in the district. The YPD has an outpost in the area and officers patrol on foot, bicycle and car. The police make a point of establishing links with the community.
“The YDWBID meets with the police once a month,” Brody said. “We provide a one-to-one experience, whether we speak directly with the Captain and Lieutenant of the 4th District or provide a direct line of communication for members of our residential or business district who are having difficulty.”
Sanitation and beautification are important services provided by YDWBID. Cleaning and maintenance staff, the Yonkers Downtown Rangers, help keep streets and parks clean by picking up stray litter, emptying trash cans and pet bins, and washing sidewalks. The YDWBID also has a contract with a landscaping company to provide planting and plant maintenance.
“We are working closely with developers, some of whom are on our board, to make suggestions on what is needed in the region,” Brody said. “We are also trying to help new businesses moving into the area to work more easily with the building department.”
Covid remains a concern for YDWBID, and it follows New York State and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines and protocols.
“We plan to move forward with our normal slate of community events, although we are keeping an eye on the ever-changing Covid restrictions and have plans in place should the restrictions be reinstated,” a Brody said.
A goal for the second half of 2022 is to expand the area served by the YDWBID.
“It’s to our advantage, with all the new residential and commercial buildings, to expand,” Brody said. “We are also determining what the changing needs of our community are. I think 2023 will be very transitional as we continue to work to improve the quality of life in downtown Yonkers.