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Episode: 335 |
Dan Biederman :
Remaking Urban Environments:
Episode
335

HOW TO THRIVE AS AN
INDEPENDENT PROFESSIONAL

Dan Biederman

Remaking Urban Environments

Show Notes

Dan Biederman was the driving force behind the redevelopment of Bryant Park in New York City and the creation of the 34th Street Partnership and Grand Central Partnership.

Millions of New York City residents and visitors have visited from his efforts to rethink the urban environment.

In this episode, Dan shares stories of what it took to make the Bryan Park Redevelopment a reality.

We also discuss the work that his firm does in other cities across the country.

To learn more about Dan’s firm, visit: https://www.brvcorp.com/

One weekly email with bonus materials and summaries of each new episode:

Will Bachman 00:02
Hello, and welcome to Unleashed. I’m your host Will Bachman and I’m incredibly excited to be speaking today with the man who’s behind the Grand Central partnership 34th Street partnership and the Bryant Park redevelopment. Dan Biederman, who also runs a consulting firm. Biederman redevelopment ventures. Dan, welcome to the show. Thanks very much well, so Dan, as a adopted New Yorker has been living in New York since 2001. It’s really a thrill to speak with you behind some of the most important public spaces in New York. Could you just give us a bit? Let’s let’s dive into the story of Brian Park. What happened there? And along the way, I hope to understand what is a business improvement district. But But tell us a bit of the story of Brian Park.

Dan Biederman 01:00
Brian park in the early 80s was a disaster area 500 felonies a year and the year before we started working on it in 1979. Well known as a place you didn’t want to go. And it was falling apart. There was graffiti there were urine and feces everywhere. Drug markets at every entrance. So clearly, something had to be done. The Rockefeller Brothers decided to do something, they hired me to fix it. They had no particular ideas about how that got done. And I came up with the scheme of having it privately financed and privately managed. unique among 1900 parks in New York City, some of them have private support, but none of them are completely privately managed and finance. So

Will Bachman 01:51
what Central Park has the Central Park Conservancy,

Dan Biederman 01:54
right? Correct. It’s a very, very different business model of the city still pays for a quarter of the cost of Central Park, Central Park Conservancy, which has done a fabulous job does raises the money from philanthropy Bryant Park, there’s no philanthropy and no government money. We raise all our money from business arrangements with brands and surrounding property owners and operators of our food concessions.

Will Bachman 02:21
Okay. And a lot of most listeners will be familiar, but just if you’re not, you know, Brian Park, it’s kind of right behind the New York Public Library, right there between sort of between Fifth Avenue and Sixth Avenue at what 42nd and Fourth Street right in the center of town.

Dan Biederman 02:42
Yes, it couldn’t be better positioned in the central business district. It’s right in the center of the only public space really. That’s green, and as a public park, right in the middle of the CBD.

Will Bachman 02:54
And hearing this history from you. It’s it’s, it’s hard for me to imagine because my whole time living in New York since since 2001, it’s always been this beautiful green space, where there’s, you know, move, you know, movies outdoors in the summertime. In fact, my very first date with my wife was was watching Casa Blanca at Bryant Park. And then there’s the concerts and all ice skating right in the in the in the wintertime. Yeah. And the merry go round. So it’s incredible space now. So tell us what, how did tell us the story. I’m sorry, I interrupted, you please keep going.

Dan Biederman 03:34
We started slowly, we started programming, as we call it, which is giving people reasons to be there, to kind of push the drug sellers and the muggers out, that was brave effort by the people who did it. And by us, because we had to supervise, cleaning up the litter removing the graffiti, putting beautiful plants in and then renovating the landscape architecture. And then gradually throughout the late 80s, early 90s starting to raise enough money from business arrangements that there would be adequate adequate funds to to maintain it that way. So the worst part about it was the politics, which were very tough and they are given then would be worse. Now, I don’t think the same thing could be done today. And that’s evidenced by how much grief I get from the lawyers who worked for the city who say they’d never do another deal like this. And I think that’s wrongheaded. So it took almost a decade to get the business and legal arrangements put in place, and only a few years to get the area turned around as far as crime and disorder

Will Bachman 04:53
and help help us understand where does the money come from? Like why do companies contribute and who contributes to the funding of it.

Dan Biederman 05:06
I shouldn’t really describe this pre and post COVID. Because COVID is scrunched down our revenue budget. But prior to COVID coming in, we had a $21 million annual budget. I’ll describe where that comes from the winter activity, the ice rink and, and market that you mentioned 10 or 11 million in revenues from that from ice skating rentals and great support from Bank of America, which is our name sponsor. They’ve been fabulous. And then several million about three or four from concessions that operate in the park and sell food and drank two and a half million dollars from the surrounding businesses. Oh, the real estate owned by many companies, some national some New York. And then a variety of other sources. We charge people to run commercial events there. We rarely do that. We sell material, licensed equipment and the like. and few other miscellaneous sources. So total of 21 million COVID is present.

Will Bachman 06:18
Yeah, let’s let’s literally Yeah, let’s let’s focus pre COVID for a while, just because that changes so many things. But in terms of the commercial events, I think Fashion Week takes place there. What what sort of other events do you have in the park?

Dan Biederman 06:30
No, we had Fashion Week from about 1993 to 2010. It got too big for the park. So we offered it to Lincoln Center, which ran it for five years, and now they’ve spread out over town. So no more fashion week it was good for the park. Someone comes controversial because it took a lot of space. Eventually, it just outgrew us. And the events. It’s not an event Park we distinguish between parks with everyday amenities and things that draw people all the time and ones that rarely do big events. An example of that would be Centennial, Olympic Park and Atlanta, it’s really an event Park, there’s almost nobody there the rest of the time. And we try not to be an event Park. So there if you go into Brian park in an average day, you’ll be able to do any of the following things. This is in the summer, spring, summer, fall, play ping pong, participate in a reading room where there’s books and newspapers and magazines. For us, all free of course, play board games. Practice on a putting green play button. The European game you see in Paris and the south of France. Ping Pong, reading, reading room events with authors and screenwriting workshops in the like yoga yoga classes. Many concessions knitting, knitting lessons, language lessons. So the aim is that anytime you’re there, you can find something to do that would further one of the interests. You might have birdwatching classes, I’ve only got about half half the way through all the things we have.

Will Bachman 08:28
So the dollars that come from, like local real estate owners, how did that work? Is that just purely voluntary? I mean, I can imagine their rationale for contributing, which is hey, if the park is good, and clean and free free of crime, it’s going to make our real estate more valuable. But there’s of course a free rider problem of you know, let the other guy pay. So how do you how does that work of collecting funds from local real estate owners?

Dan Biederman 08:58
That’s where the national vehicle cold Business Improvement districts come in. We were the first to set up a large business improvement district for only the purpose of improving a park at Bryant Park. And then the ones I did at Grand Central and 34th Street were later. And this is proven districts collect money from property owners solely devoted to a stated purpose. You have to get political approval to do it. We had to go out and convince all the surrounding property owners to support it because there’s a lengthy public process to get one set. So the surrounding owners have changed but the biggest supporters of that two and a half million now are Ivanhoe Cambridge and Heinz which one of the biggest buildings Brookfield which owns a couple of buildings. Durst which owns the Bank of America building and bank of america itself as part owner of They’re building. Tishman spire, which owns 11, West 42nd and PBC, which on 450 2/5. So there are several others. But those are the buildings that contribute on a roughly, I think we’re talking currently about 18 to 20 cents per square foot basis. And as you said, they’re added value for their buildings rents go up when there’s something that’s pleasant next to them. And they can collect those rents if they support the park generously.

Will Bachman 10:34
So how does that work this? Explain to me a little bit more about a business improvement district. I’ve certainly heard of them before, but never really got the inside scoop of how they operate. And did you have to get all of the businesses to say yes, or is it like a majority and then they are all have to contribute some tax to it, just walk me through what is a business improvement district,

Dan Biederman 10:58
you set up a boundary and within that boundary every owner must pay. And that eliminates the free rider problem you mentioned. But to set one up, you don’t have to get every single owner to approve it, it has to be a substantial majority of otherwise the government won’t move it forward. The government then collects the money and redistributes it to an entity that’s set up to manage the funds and manage the programs and the case of Brian Park. It’s called the Bryant Park management Corporation. Grand Central his grand central Partnership, which I set up in 1985 and 34th Street partnership near Penn Station, set that up in 1989. And they both still exist, I don’t run Grand Central anymore, but I run 34th Street and Brian Park. So they hire a staff and we handle everything that would make the neighborhood better. This is the pattern we said we were really the first to do this on this major scale. So security sanitation, streetscape, which includes lighting and plantings and street signs and, and the like trashcans. Much better streetscape than you see in the rest of the city. Social Services, in some cases, Park operations are 34th Street project runs to small park several in Greeley squares. So really, in place of government in those neighborhoods or on top of government, you have an entity that’s going to make sure things are well run.

Will Bachman 12:36
What? How does the governance work for the real estate owners who are kicking in the I get to vote on board of directors? Or does the city do that? How does the governance work?

Dan Biederman 12:51
The directors are chosen, provoked by the city involved. But basically, the staff says Would you like to be on the board given you’re contributing substantially to this, and then the board meets periodically and manages the staff. The board tends to be in most piece of state legislation that govern this, a majority of property owners, some tenants, both office and residential, and then some city officials.

Will Bachman 13:28
Okay. And I’m actually a little bit surprised at, at how small how small percentage of the budget is actually contributions. And that you know, how much of it you’re able to raise from admission fees or other sorts of fees. And, you know, how you’ve been able to, you know, largely kind of sell fun for the most part.

Dan Biederman 13:54
Yeah. And not every district or Park improvement effort is set up this way this. I was started. This initial support came from the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, and the President of the fund, a brilliant guy named Bill deedle. On my first day of work, said, you know, the worst grantees we have are the ones that come back constantly for support. The best we have are the ones who get our initial support, and then figure out a way to pay for their efforts through other funds. So try to be like that. So I took that to heart and fit my background better. So we don’t, we just decided not to do philanthropy, not to compete with social service programs and churches and dance groups and everybody else who does charitable fundraising. And we’re in, it’s somewhat easier. We’re in the middle of Midtown Manhattan where people want to be visible, but this technique has worked all over the country where we’ve advised clients how how to how to do it.

Will Bachman 15:03
Now, you mentioned that the attorneys from the city said they’d never do a similar deal. Talk tell us about some of the particularities of the deal that you have with the city. And what are the things that they wouldn’t do today.

Dan Biederman 15:18
There’s a set of papers that have gotten progressively weaker, but we still cope with it, because just by virtue of the of the project have been worked out, well, nobody really bothered. But there Initially, it was a set of papers, there’s a lease on a portion of the park, and a management agreement on a portion of the park, which has now become a license. And those papers require us to do certain things in order to keep control remove, letter, remove snow and ice, maintain the capital plant. And the environment. For such deals, as I mentioned, was hostile. In the 80s. When we did it, there were a lot of people opposed preservation groups, Parks groups, once they saw that it was good, they changed their minds, and many of them became supporters. But as one of my attorneys jokes, the only people in New York who don’t like the Brian Parker arrangement are a few lawyers in the corporation Counsel’s Office. And you know, it’s just a matter of sticking with the old way of doing things, I guess you could say,

Will Bachman 16:31
Okay. Can you give us a little bit of a play by play of some of the steps that it took to get these agreements in place? I mean, it sounds almost like it could be a, you know, a sequel to the the power broker by by Robert Caro, you know, detailing some of the law alignment building that was required to get different groups on board. Can you tell us some stories from that time?

Dan Biederman 17:01
Yeah, my my chairman. For Bryant Park, Andrew High School, who was the chairman of timebank, when we started, very famous and prestigious guy in New York, when he would talk about his frustration about how long it was taking, would say, everybody in the Western Hemisphere and his brother has reviewed these plans. And he was a journalist. So he spoke that way. And there were meetings with the community board, which, coincidentally, I happened, I had been the chairman of that’s a local effects zoning review group that it’s given control over such changes in midtown Manhattan. as Andrew and some other board members said, we have to hang out in church basements and get the approval of these community groups. There were interesting meetings with people who would contribute in the short run to the improvements of Brian park that were necessary there was a famous woman he had ended help to was a huge backer of the New York Botanical Garden. When we went to her for garden funding, she decided she didn’t like our garden consultant. So she said, I’ll give you money for lighting instead, which is three times as much. So there are a lot of a lot of twists and turns on such things. I still, most of the controversy happened in the mid 80s. And I still have grudges about who didn’t back me into did back mean from them. But it was a very difficult political process. And the sad thing is the part could have been in place much earlier than it was as a result of how lengthy the political process was,

Will Bachman 18:56
and what types of stakeholders were opposed to the park and and what were their the rationale for opposing the idea.

Dan Biederman 19:07
One of the bad things about it is somebody said to me, otherwise thing in the middle of this process, you know, a lot of those people who are posing your plans for Bryant Park haven’t set foot there and two decades, but the most of the opposition came from the preservation community. And a little bit from kind of university professors and the like who said no, this is a very dangerous precedent. There will be a tendency to favor rich people and the like, and that’s the opposite. That’s happened. The people who need the public spaces like this are not wealthy. The average income we believe in Brian Park is about $55,000 a year. So they don’t have Private clubs to go to generally or huge backyards, their houses or, you know, fancy restaurants. And Brian Park is their is their home. But it was it was, there was more opposition from the left than from the right. And it’s mostly taken care of in the 80s. As time went along some of the groups that it opposed us, some of the parks groups particularly became allies and said, this is really good. These guys are paying attention to courted culture, and all the things we thought they wouldn’t care about. And it has become a very democratic with a small D space. A lot of people use it and very diverse and massively occupied, it’s the most busy per acre park in the world. 700 people per acre, which is way more than anything else. It’s kind of famous for buisiness, the Tuileries, Trafalgar Square and when they’re nowhere near us in terms of crowding large groups and

Will Bachman 21:11
and what were the preservationists concerned about.

Dan Biederman 21:18
We were going to build some kiosks and a restaurant because there were certain places in the park that just could not be improved without some activity that was year round. And the restaurant in front of the back wall of the New York Public Library was something we had to fight for for three or four years, we really thought it was necessary to have some winter activity and some revenue. And there were some preservationist who were dead set against that.

Will Bachman 21:47
I see. How did you What did it take to finally get either people on board or to get sufficient approval that you were able to move forward?

Dan Biederman 21:58
Just persistence, and Otherwise, I’d say public relations wise, we didn’t really control the environment, we just had to patiently go to public meetings and make our case and hope that in the end, it would be approved. Very smart zoning specialist Steve Lefkowitz advised us and he had an interesting chart, he would draw what they call a two by two and the investment banking world and private equity world where, you know, four quadrants, he said, the world is divided into projects that are good ideas and bad ideas, and then supported by powerful people or powerless people. So he said, the projects backed by powerless people that are bad ideas in the first place almost never happened. And at the opposite, he said, the ones that are bad ideas backed by powerful people happen about a quarter of the time, despite themselves and good ideas, backed by people who don’t have a lot of power only happen about that often. But the projects backed by that are good ideas. And he said making Brian Park, accessible to the public and pleasant and full of activity and safe is a great idea. And he said you have the Rockefellers behind you and the property owners, the near public libraries so and I’d catch the mayor at the time, so powerful people want it to happen. So it’s going to happen, so stop worrying. But I did worry every day.

Will Bachman 23:25
I mean, this that same two by two, which I love, probably applies to projects within corporations as well.

Dan Biederman 23:35
Every time I describe it to somebody, they say, hey, that’s smart. I’m gonna use that. There was a deputy mayor under Bloomberg, who said I’ve never heard that, but that’s really right. So

Will Bachman 23:48
I’m afraid that the 25 percents probably a little bit too low that if it’s a bad idea by a powerful person, it might be more than 25%.

Dan Biederman 23:58
I try to fit it into my scheme Westway, I thought was a bad idea. powerful people were behind it, it didn’t happen. And the 42nd Street trolley was a great idea. But powerful people weren’t behind it. So it didn’t happen. So I think generally, Lefkowitz was right.

Will Bachman 24:14
Tell us a little bit about the 34th Street partnership, a different and different type of arrangement? Is that one also a business development Improvement District and just tell us what that one’s all about.

Dan Biederman 24:26
Yeah, that 34 streets principally funded by the business improvement district, the assessment there is higher, it’s about 35 cents a foot. And we on the first day of our work there, we removed all the graffiti that accumulated over a couple of decades. Started sweeping litter would have been ankle deep litter by the end of the day, the city just did not do a good job. picking up litter on the sidewalks and curbs. We put a force out there to do it. And

Will Bachman 24:54
and I think you can still see these folks and I’ve always wondered about this, which is those are the folks wandering around and they have The head of the vest on that says I think 34th Street, you know, Improvement District on it. Yes. I always wondered like, you know, what is this? So now Now I know,

Dan Biederman 25:10
alright, the those those are the equivalent of what were called the white wings way back. Nobody remembers this, you’d have to be about 80. But the city had wide clad workers picked up litter until the 60s or so. And they went out of that business. And as a result, the streets were filthy for a couple of decades and we put that back in and we pay for it led to 1000s of employed people because a lot of districts emulated us.

Will Bachman 25:38
Great. Okay, so you have folks picking up litter, clean graffiti, what are the part what’s the other aspects of the business improvement district for 34th Street?

Dan Biederman 25:47
Well, we took over Harold and Greeley square parks and run them very much like we run Brian Park, we replaced the very unattractive streetscape. And those are the things I mentioned that lamppost trash cans, street signs, these are all appointments, the way we’ve done them, you wouldn’t see anywhere else in the city. We paid for that, using some debt that we undertook. And that $25 million of improvements over the first few years. And that’s a major function. We maintain all that stuff. We don’t ask the city to maintain it. And then we have security for us, which is an unarmed force reporting in effect to the NYPD. And they intervene in crimes and have crime came down massively between our first days and five or 10 years in we reduce crime with the city having done a very good job at that time. under Bill Bratton principally, we reduce crime by 90 95%. And it’s creeping up now, given all the disarray that the newspapers and others have covered. But it’s still nowhere near what it was.

Will Bachman 27:07
Yeah, speaking of horsing really square I, I like the empanada place that you have there. I always enjoy that. Are. So you mentioned taking on debt. So tell us a bit more about business improvement districts? Do they kind of last forever? Do they have a certain charter they can take on debt? I assume based on future expected, you know, payments by the local just? What is it like a like a company? Is it like an actual private company? Or is it more of an authority like the Triborough Bridge Authority? What what it? What are these things?

Dan Biederman 27:45
They’re nonprofits organized under New York State law to represent the property owners. And as such, they have the ability to incur that the cost and the ability to repay it because they are the debt payments are backed by the value of the office buildings. So not many, I almost nobody in the country has emulated me in doing that. I thought they would. But we stepped in where the city wasn’t with regard to capital improvements. And the district’s generally continue on a couple of them have been terminated nationally. But generally they if they’re created in the first place, they’re filling a role that was very much necessary in the minds of the property owners.

Will Bachman 28:37
Do you typically see some resistance from like the parks department of a city because to some degree, they’re giving up power? They’re giving up control over, you know, some prime parks in their network. So how do you navigate that?

Dan Biederman 28:53
depends on the particular city that’s involved. And who the commissioner is we most of the commissioners have been supportive of us. There are such plans that can be killed. By kind of lukewarm attitudes by the mayors involved I would, we worked in so many cities just off the top of my head Portland was very able guy, but he I think he really wanted to run it in house. And he smoothly took on a project we were running in the neighborhood near Lloyd center and turned it into something they would run and it didn’t turn out all that well, despite good intention. And a few other cases, there have been parks commissioners who didn’t want to tap and I have my eye on something now for a client I won’t disclose in San Francisco where the price Commissioner is terrific. And he would already have told us he would cooperate in private management and funding of a space that’s technically under his control right now.

Will Bachman 30:00
I mean, these are to some degree. So thanks for explaining that they’re nonprofits. To some degree, it’s almost as if we are taking a little part of a city and and adding on a layer of self government to it. And with kind of taxing ability and the ability to provide services as an additional layer to a normal city government. I just it’s kind of fascinating. I never knew this was going on. Yeah, that’s a fair description. So let’s talk a little bit about some of your work outside of New York City. So your your firm has done consulting on projects across the US and around the world. Tell us about kind of how you’ve grown in the type of projects that you that you support.

Dan Biederman 30:48
Generally, they involve public space in some way or other sometimes public parks, sometimes downtown plazas that are more gray than green, sometimes privately owned spaces that the public can use, like a plaza that’s been required as part of a entitlements process for real estate development. So pretty well known spaces. You know, the Clyde Warren park in Dallas, which is over a highway didn’t exist before is probably the best park in the southwest gets mentioned more often than Riverwalk in San Antonio, Texas, which is big, big achievement because that’s a great project. And Salesforce Park is an interesting one on top of a Transit Center in San Francisco. Nobody ever anticipated a bus terminal would have a park on top we we manage the programming there and several other aspects including the horticulture, and some more conventional public park spaces, one in Houston, levy Park, used to be lackluster and kind of dull, and one in Greensboro. lebaron Park, which was a parking lot before Pittsburgh, same thing parking lot into Park. It’s right in front of the University of Pittsburgh and called schenley Plaza. So we’ve been in different regions. It’s been very interesting to work with different governments. We’re working on a tiny one now in Nashville called Church Street Park, that has been dominated by people sleeping there and committing crimes there and they would like that to change.

Will Bachman 32:36
And typically who is engaging your firm’s services?

Dan Biederman 32:42
I would say over time, this depends on how the economy is doing. But over time, mainly real estate developers, some downtown organizations, foundations, and the like that was the case in Greensboro, sometimes government and the centrist thing sideline we have in professional sports, professional sports franchises that have arenas or stadia that are not in full use all the time, obviously. So the public spaces, they would like to be lively rather than dead. They’d like to be a good factor in the community. So we started with the New York Jets and then work with the Packers in Green Bay, which was a challenge because it’s such a small town, and then plan Atlanta, the Falcons and a big project in San Francisco with the Giants adjacent to their stadium.

Will Bachman 33:38
So you’re trying to make use of the areas right around the stadiums or make it so people can go in the stadiums. What sorts of things are you doing in in and around the stadiums.

Dan Biederman 33:49
Varys Green Bay in Atlanta, it’s the areas right next to the football stadiums. The Giants it’s a separate area, they’re turning into a real estate development with very nice residential and office buildings. And the we’re doing an interesting project with a professional sports team now that has nothing to do with their arena. The Detroit Pistons hired us to help neighborhood parks they had moved from the suburbs to downtown Detroit, but felt they wanted to be received as a great supporter of neighborhood parks that were forgotten. So we’ve been programming all summer in the face of COVID, which was very difficult. A lot of these neighborhood parks five of them specified by Mayor Duggan and it’s been a great project with tons of challenges because of COVID.

Will Bachman 34:42
What have you learned that has been surprising or counterintuitive about what will actually draw people to parks. I imagine that there’s been things that you tried that you were excited about that turned out to be kind of duds, and then things that maybe you tested and surprised you how popular they were. So, you know, if you read the powerbroker, Robert Moses had these very strong prejudices about what people should be doing outside, you know, exercise and swimming in the ocean and, and, you know, open spaces. And so he and he was not typically very open to, you know, kind of community input. I’m interested in what you’ve tried and learn and what’s been surprising to you, as you’ve worked on programming for these different places?

Dan Biederman 35:33
Well, several interesting things. One is, first of all, the measure of success, obviously, is the number of people in your space, but also the number of women as opposed to men, the higher the percentage, you have a females, the better your park is, they have much better sense of what’s unsafe, and what’s safe. So if you, Brian Park used to be 90%, male when it was dangerous, and it’s now about 60%, female, so women vote with their feet, they’re very alert to threats to their security. So when you count, you have to count that way. That’s one of the interesting things we learned from one of my mentors, William H. White, Jr, who always said just when you go into spacious wants to improve to female and male counts, and you’ll learn a lot. Interesting thing about programming and the question you ask is sometimes you think you’re going down, the crowds will be extremely small at the beginning. And there’s this odd phenomenon where after two or three years, you’re still getting small crowds, and you say, is it really worth it to have this event we’re only seven or 11 people are coming in. But then sometimes after year three, it goes crazy. So that was that’s been true. And Brian on a few programs that are very large now, which which

Will Bachman 36:53
one’s popular after a few years.

Dan Biederman 36:58
The reading room had very few visitors early on, and then it became very popular, the counts of the events to yoga didn’t exactly have that profiled started with very small numbers, I think 35. So it’s free yoga classes, twice a week. We didn’t do them this year because of COVID. But we will next year, and that is now before COVID. That was about 1300 at peak flow. It’s the biggest yoga class I was in I was in Ottawa one day, and they had yoga in front of the capital of Canada. And I was I was watching and I said, I really wish that I had some assistance here because I like to count to see if they’re as big as we are. I don’t think they are but it’s quite busy. People all over downtown Ottawa, the yoga mats going to the front of the Capitol. But others it’s it’s more steady. We’ve had a few that we just decided weren’t worth it. I’m trying to think of them not many. But and games, that’s another one that’s been patiently building we have 45 or so games, other than chess, and backgammon, which are always in Bryan Park. These are board games like monopoly and risk and Settlers of Catan and park cheesy and Chinese chess and they we have an attendant who encourages people to play and give them the boards and it’s all complicated. Now we have to wipe them due to COVID and the like, but next year, I think it’ll be back to normal and steady and slow increase.

Will Bachman 38:36
That’s cool visitation. Anything that you can recall trying that that actually didn’t didn’t work and you ended up cutting it.

Dan Biederman 38:47
I’m trying to remember if there’s a particular program that we don’t do anymore, most of them just by strength of effort we did get to work. Let me think there’s one that’s we thought we were going to terminate. I was in Malmo, Sweden with my family and I saw a game being played on a line by some Swedes, which turned out to be cube KU bb, which is a Viking chess, as they call it in Scandinavia. That took forever to catch on but I think eventually did and we’re not running it this year because of COVID. But I it’s got its own little devoted group of people. Everything is eventually taken off.

Will Bachman 39:35
I got to play me some some Viking chess, that sounds pretty awesome. So getting back to your consulting firm, when use get pulled in by whether it’s the developer or the local government, do you then you know, as consultants help set up a business improvement district is that often the kind of the end product that you’re trying to get to so itself sustaining?

Dan Biederman 40:02
No, generally not. Sometimes we’re fixing a public space that’s already within one other time, this is just not appropriate for the financial setup. But currently, we’re negotiating with a neighborhood in Nashville, where we would set up a business improvement district, it’s a hot neighborhood not far from downtown. And there are some public spaces that would benefit from that. But generally, it’s a more diversified group of revenue sources, we pride ourselves on that we tell the clients, you need seven sources, two or three of them are not going to work out and not raise much money. So you got to work on the other four, and then come up with some other ideas. So Brian Park has, as I said, revenue from that five different directions coming in. And we always felt in the case of a recession, we would be able to substitute one for the other COVID has been so devastating to groups in New York and elsewhere, that we’ve had to really be inventive, how to keep the Bryant Park programming and operations going.

Will Bachman 41:13
of the decades being involved with Brian Park and other landmark improvement districts, New York City and elsewhere, as there’s been a lot of satisfactions, or is there any kind of story that comes to mind, if something that that was particularly important to you something someone said to you, or, you know, an anecdote or something that you witnessed that, that made you just really proud of your life’s work.

Dan Biederman 41:42
Oh, well, I’m gonna quote, the nicest comments are the ones you get from your adversaries. Because you people who like you, you know, already are gonna say nice things, but occasionally I won’t name them. But occasionally, somebody has been an enemy, makes a concession. And those are the ones I and I’m nice about it. And there have been a few of those. And then of course, you talk to your family all the time more candidly, my wife had this. And she’s been with me from the beginning, I met her just before I started Brian Park. She’s a fine arts lawyer, and but as become expert in our field, and actually handle the legal work now for the RV. And she said in about when I was despairing of getting the company up and running, she said, You know, this was the early O’s. She said, if if you just stopped and retired now, just the turnaround of Brian Park, forgetting all the big ideas and the stuff in other cities, that’s enough, you can just be proud of your career. So that’s nice. I didn’t agree with her. But that was a nice comment from a close in source who actually can be a very tough critic when she sees something she doesn’t like, and what we’ve done. She actually led to one of the great improvements in the winter, which is the Winter Village when she kind of suggested that we might run it. So it was more attractive to people approaching the the winter activities.

Will Bachman 43:15
Yeah, the Winter Village is awesome. Dan, you mentioned BRV. Where can people find your firm online, they want to learn more.

Dan Biederman 43:25
We have a great website vRv Corp, B as a boy artisan radio v as in Victor corp.com. And all the projects we’ve done are described in there. And there’s some mention of Brian Park and 34th Street in New York and Grand Central. But interesting A lot of people have told me it’s fun to go through it because whatever city they’re going to kind of God’s them as to what might be fun to visit while they’re taking time off from work.

Will Bachman 43:53
That sounds like a fantastic idea. Next time you’re traveling, check out the work of BRV see how they touched the city that you’re going to and learn a little of the background behind some of the public spaces that you’re visiting. Dan, this was such a pleasure and privilege to speak with you. Thanks so much for coming on the show.

Dan Biederman 44:13
Thank you very much. Well, thanks for your good questions.

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