By Brooke Schooley
Carved diagonally through residential streets in 1917, 7th Avenue South quickly became a service station-lined gateway to the Holland Tunnel, running from West 11th to Clarkson Street. You can see the vestiges of that era in the avenue’s low-rise buildings with their art deco trimmed cornices.
Today, 7th Avenue South’s wonky intersections and triangular buildings have a certain charm, but there are many challenges on this primarily commercial thoroughfare: traffic, overflowing trash cans, litter, wide street crossings, difficult sight lines and unclear rights of way—and now, like many West Village streets, plenty of vacancies. Sounds inviting, right?
Enter the 7th Avenue South Alliance (7ASA), a non-profit, volunteer-run organization formed in 2014 by a group of neighbors. We wanted to make the area greener, cleaner and safer…more plantings, less litter, more manageable intersections.
First, we worked with the Parks Department to maximize tree planting (it’s free!). We ambitiously requested 80 trees on 7th Avenue South, and we received 20. We have installed tree guards and planted tree pits with perennials south of Christopher Street and would love to extend this effort north and to commercial side streets like Bleecker, Christopher and West 4th We dream about large planters with trees on those blocks where the subway precludes tree pits (underwriters needed!).
Next, we arranged for daily litter pick-up on 7th Avenue South, Bleecker Street and beyond. You may have noticed Assane sweeping the sidewalks and emptying trashcans. This continues to be our largest expense by far and is funded by residential and merchant donors, large and small.
Now, we provide feedback to DOT on traffic and safety initiatives, particularly as the 7th Avenue South bike lane is implemented. We secured City Council funding for the replacement of cobra-neck light fixtures with Landmarks Preservation Commission-approved lights. The change-out should begin next spring, and we hope it will have a traffic-calming effect. We are also working with DOT to explore public art opportunities (underwriters needed for this too!).
Recently, we have expanded our outreach to local businesses, conducting a survey of nearly 150 merchants to learn about their customer profile, marketing practices and greatest challenges (see results at www.7ASA.org). We now communicate regularly with over 350 businesses and 50 commercial property owners (in addition to nearly 500 residents). When asked, we help steer businesses in the right direction vis-à-vis enclosed sidewalk cafe permits, DSNY regulations and liquor license stipulations.
Based on our survey, we think there is great potential for joint marketing and promotion of neighborhood merchants. To that end, we are testing a new initiative we hope will assist our fundraising as well as boost business during the traditionally slow month of January.
Introducing our West Village Neighborhood Discount Card! Present it for 10% off during January at participating merchants. Just donate $100 to 7ASA, $80 of which will be tax-deductible, and we will send you one! As a volunteer-run organization, we have no overhead—every dollar will go to litter pick-up and tree pit maintenance.
Participating merchants include: Café Clover, Caliente Cab Co., Doma na Rohu, The Duplex, Fifty, Lily Lan Chen 84 Salon, The Loyal, Maya Salon, Michele Mack Gallery, Noah Waxman, Oscar’s Place, The Pleasure Chest, Rafele, Raviolo, Spunto, St. Frank, Toby’s Estate Coffee, Ty’s Bar, Urban Vegan Kitchen and Voula!
Support beautification; drink, eat and shop local; save money. Sounds inviting, right?
Ambitiously Pursuing a More Vibrant 7th Avenue South Neighborhood
By Brooke Schooley