City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito (second from left) is accompanied by City Councilmember Robert Cornegy, Jr. and Michael Lambert, executive director of the BID for a stroll and tour of Fulton Street
(l to r): City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito with Smokey Island Grille Co-Owner Tai Walker, City Councilmember Robert Cornegy, Jr., and Michael Lambert, executive director of the Fulton Street Business Improvement District
(l to r): City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito with Smokey Island Grille Co-Owner Tai Walker, City Councilmember Robert Cornegy, Jr., and Michael Lambert, executive director of the Bed-Stuy Gateway Business Improvement District

Thursday afternoon, City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito made a lunch date with City Councilmember Rob E. Cornegy, Jr. and Michael Lambert, executive director of the Bed-Stuy Gateway Business Improvement District.

The plan? A stroll down Fulton Street in Bed-Stuy to soak up the sounds, sights and vibes of the fast-developing commercial corridor.

The three met up at the newly opened Smokey Island Grille on Fulton St and Nostrand Ave, where the Speaker chatted with the restaurant’s co-owner Tai Walker about his experience as a new business merchant.

The three made themselves a hot plate of yummy Jamaican food to-go, and then it they were off on their leisurely stroll!

They walked east along Fulton, as Cornegy and Lambert shared with the Speaker some of the highlights of the business district, including the areas retail diversity, emerging markets and recent beautification efforts.

Michael has worked very hard on retail diversity because there was a time where there was nothing but hair salon, nail salons, liquor stores, said Cornegy. But now, as you can see, there is a great degree of retail diversity.

City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito (second from left) is accompanied by City Councilmember Robert Cornegy, Jr. and Michael Lambert, executive director of the BID for a stroll and tour of Fulton Street
City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito (second from left) is accompanied by City Councilmember Robert Cornegy, Jr. and Michael Lambert, executive director of the BID for a stroll and tour of Fulton Street

Im dying to set up a BID in my district, said Mark-Viverito, waving to passersby. We have a business corridornot as big as thisbut we want to preserve and have it thrive in the same way.

Cornegy also talked about some of the recent challenges some of the businesses have faced with the longstanding construction along Nostrand Avenue that has caused traffic congestion, impeded parking and, in some cases, depressed retail sales.

But its wrapping up now, actually, said Lambert. Theyre going to do the final paving of this stretch Saturday morning.

After stopping into a few more storefronts to greet the owners, the group ended the short tour at Cornegys office at Restoration Plaza, where they had lunch in the councilmans conference room.

City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito (second from left) is accompanied by City Councilmember Robert Cornegy, Jr. and Michael Lambert, executive director of the BID end their tour of Fulton Street at Restoration Plaza
City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito (second from left) is accompanied by City Councilmember Robert Cornegy, Jr. and Michael Lambert, executive director of the BID end their tour of Fulton Street at Restoration Plaza

I didnt know much [about Bed-Stuy], said Mark-Viverito. So it was good to take a walk and a stroll and check it out. And its a great way to gain an appreciation, because every neighborhood is unique. So obviously the goal and function of a BID changes because the needs of each neighborhood are very different.

But really whats amazing in this BID is the vibrancy of the family of businesses. Its very diverse. So the importance of the BID is so much more so here. Im trying to get a BID in my district in East Harlem, she said.

But keeping a diverse mix of mom-and-pop shops with larger retail is important. And I think thats what a BID is really good at doing– standing in strong support of the community to keep that diversity in existence which becomes threatened when a neighborhood grows quickly as this one has.

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