Otis Bill Improving Openness and Accountability of Business Improvement Districts is Signed into Law

Assemblyman Steve Otis (D-Rye) is pleased to announce that his bill, A103351A, to enhance the accountability and openness of Business Improvement Districts (BIDs), was signed into law by the Governor on August 19th. The new law allows owners and tenants of real property located within a BID to receive written notice of the timing and purpose of management association meetings, as well as copies of the minutes of those meetings upon request.

BIDs have become an effective and important tool in the revitalization of New York’s downtown retail and commercial areas. Real property owners and tenants agree to charge themselves an assessment over and above any property tax levied by a municipality or school district to serve their mutual benefit. These assessments are used to fund a variety of improvements, including enhanced security and sanitation services, streetscape beautification and special events.

Because BIDs are public/private sector partnerships governed by not-for-profit district management associations (DMAs), they are not considered public entities subject to the state’s Open Meetings Law. Nonetheless, DMAs have broad authority to propose expenditures and spend district charges, often amounting to millions of dollars, for initiatives and services designed to increase business activity, further the enjoyment and safety of the public or otherwise promote and enhance the district.

“By signing this bill into law, the Governor has taken positive steps to improve the accountability of Business Improvement Districts to the property owners and tenants who comprise the membership of a BID,” said Otis. “Given the quasi-public nature of BIDs, it is important that BID activities be conducted in an open manner. This law codifies what should be the practice of any BID – that it provide its members with timely information about meetings, proposed expenditures and other BID policy decisions.”

Senator David Valesky (D-Oneida), who sponsored the Senate companion measure, S7969, said: “Property owners within a BID will now receive notice of DMA board meetings, copies of the meeting agendas and minutes, and the opportunity to attend board these meetings. This law will help to ensure that the activities of the BID are performed in an open and transparent manner.”

Otis’ bill passed the Assembly unanimously on June 8, 2016. The Senate passed the measure on June 14.