On the Record With Betty Cooney
by Jeffrey Harmatz
Oct 02, 2008 | 2776 views | 0 0 comments | 71 71 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Though the Graham Avenue Business Improvement District may be one of the smallest in New York City, stretching from Broadway to Boerum with a few side streets in between, Executive Director Betty Cooney says that it packs the biggest punch.

“I think we go beyond what a lot of BID’s do,” she said, pointing out numerous times that the organization and the businesses it represents have assisted each other in times of crisis. “We had a family at P.S. 257 who lost their home to a fire. The school connected the BID with the family, and a furniture store owner on our board of directors donated furniture.”

She says that the Graham Ave BID is just as often a matter of families as it is business.

Cooney was born and raised in East New York, where she still lives. After several years writing for local newspapers, she continued to be active in the community by working with the BID.

BIDs unify neighboring businesses in a common area by providing security, sanitation and social services that strengthen not only the shops, but the surrounding community. “It’s not enough to have strong businesses,” said Cooney. “Without a strong community to back them up, they won’t exist.”

In addition to the traditional BID services, the Graham Avenue BID organizes a farmers market, large-scale annual festivals, and works with local schools to connect them with educational opportunities.

Coming from East New York, Cooney sees similarities between the neighborhood she was raised in and the stretch of Graham Avenue that runs through East Williamsburg.

“There are some areas in New York City that get forgotten,” she explains. “They don’t get the attention that other neighborhoods might get. It’s crucial in this and other areas to help the community at large get valuable services."

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