Explora kicks off

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Explora kicks off

Story and photos by Robin Elisabeth Kilmer

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“This is a call to action to explore the attractions of Northern Manhattan,” said BID Director Angelina Ramírez.

Like every enclave throughout the city, northern Manhattan is a place full of favorites.

Everyone has their own preferred park, bakery and lounge.

And this past Mon., Apr. 2nd, the Washington Heights Business Improvement District (BID) celebrated the launch of Explora, a marketing campaign that aims to get New Yorkers and area residents alike to enjoy the many delights within Northern Manhattan.

“It opens the door to the rest of the community,” he said of the park, which draws hundreds of thousands of visitors a year.Among some of Rey Polanco’s favorite places to explore are Baker’s Field and the Cloisters, and especially Fort Tryon Park.

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Ariel Ferreira (center) announced that Dyckman Street was working to be recognized as a BID this year.

Polanco manages State Farm Insurance on West 181st Street and is part of the Washington Heights BID, which supports businesses on and near the commercial thoroughfare and throughout northern Manhattan.

Eduardo López, who also works at State Farm, said that Demoya Cigars was one of his preferred destinations.

But López noted that one of his favorite things about Northern Manhattan wasn’t necessarily a place, but the area’s vibe.

“Everyone’s walking around with a happy face,” he said.

At Monday’s kick-off event at La Marina, BID Director Angelina Ramírez wore one of the biggest smiles.

“This is a call to action to explore the attractions of Northern Manhattan,” said Ramírez.

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“This is the time for us,” said Assemblymember Gabriela Rosa, with Community Board Chair George Fernandez.

“The bottom line is to drive foot traffic to Northern Manhattan,” she said in front of those gathered at La Marina that night.

The dining area was packed, as business owners and members of the community enjoyed food, libations, live music and a spectacular view of the Palisades and the George Washington Bridge.

Several upcoming events will draw attention to the neighborhood, including Restaurant Week in May and Culture Month in June.

The Explora marketing campaign is sponsored by Healthfirst, the Harlem Community Development Corporation, and has also received $50,000 of seed money from the city’s Department of Small Business Services (SBS).

The campaign will present visual reminders on the streets in the form of light pole banners.

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“This has been a long time coming,” said Mike Fitelson.

The designs, a series of deeply saturated images with various drawn depictions of life in northern Manhattan, were designed by a team at the School of Visual Arts, which included students Cecil Mariani and Laura Lin and professor Mark Randall.

There will also be promotional tote bags and buttons, as well as 60,000 printed maps that will be distributed throughout New York City.

The maps tout many of the scenic spaces in Washington Heights and Inwood, beginning at the Hispanic Society at 155th Street and ending at the Dyckman House in Inwood.

While the materials will be dispersed citywide, Ramírez sought to clarify that this was not a tourist campaign—as there are many local wonders that Northern Manhattanites have yet to explore.

She called for input the help promote small businesses and community events.

“Let us know what is going on,” she said to those gathered.

It was also announced that night that Dyckman Street is currently under consideration to become its own Business Improvement District.

“We’re trying to get it done by the end of the year,” said Ariel Ferreira, the project manager for the proposed Dyckman BID.

It would stretch from La Marina to Nagle Avenue, and include streets several blocks off Dyckman.

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Small Business Services Deputy Commissioner Elizabeth De Leon said, “[This] is a community that understands organizing.”

Local elected officials also showed their support for the marketing project, which was launched on the 30th anniversary of the Washington Heights BID.

“We are unifying in one voice in an effort to promote Northern Manhattan,” said Councilmember Ydanis Rodríguez.

“I want to commend the business community for putting its money where its mouth is,” said State Senator Adriano Espaillat.

“This has been a long time coming,” added Mike Fitelson, Program Director for the United Palace of Cultural Arts. He was cited with a commendation that evening for his work in the community, and commended the work of Ramírez in bringing the campaign to fruition. “We’ve been talking about this for years.”

Elizabeth De Leon Deputy Commissioner, Small Business Services of New York City, observed, “It’s a nice surprise that Washington Heights was the second BID (in Manhattan). It’s a community that understands organizing.”

“I really believe this is the time for us,” added Assemblymember Gabriela Rosa. “We want empowerment, and we want to grow.”

For more information on the Explora campaign, please visit www.whbid181.org.