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Saturday, May 30, 2009

U.S. MID-ATLANTIC: The Power Of Dedicated Individuals - the 23rd Street Association

by Bruce Newman
U.S. Mid-Atlantic Bureau Chief

(New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, Washington, DC)

Having received weekly notices from the 23rd Street Association for several years, I decided to interview Miriam Cohen, its secretary and board member and Robert Schwartz, its managing director to examine this organization in greater depth. Both Miriam and Robert are very passionate and committed towards this association. This association is truly a terrific example of how a small group of dedicated individuals can create a growing and vibrant community.

Can you please provide a little background about the 23rd Street Association?

The Association consists of both business and residential members. Its footprint extends across Manhattan from river to river and between 17th and 32nd streets. We are committed to both businesses of all sizes and area residents, although our primary focus is towards the business community.

We have 3,000 people and 100 organizations as members. Our relatively small size has allowed us to remain focused and to concentrate directly on the needs of our members. In fact, we are about to distribute a new survey that will help us maximize our abilities to service the small business marketplace, particularly by refining our networking events to concentrate on the issues and areas most relevant to our potential attendees.

How long has the 23rd Street Association been in existence?

We are currently celebrating our 80th year. The reason we have survived for such a long period of time is largely due to our commitment to community. We’re a voice in the district for our members as well as an important outlet for those outside who want to do business within our footprint.

How have you been supportive of the business and residential community?

Our weekly newsletter informs business owners and residents of events in the community including opportunities to hear local government leaders like Manhattan Borough President Scott Springer and the wonderful happenings held in Madison Square Park. We also lend our voice on local issues. Right now, for example, landlords in the Chelsea area are forcing out many artistic and cultural groups so they can bring in renters who can afford higher rents. The Association is working with our sister group, Destination: Chelsea, and the community board to find a working arrangement for all parties.

We also represent the role of ombudsman for people within our working area. The parking problems in our area are enormous and there are traffic issues that grow worse each day as new buildings bring more cars and users of public transportation. The Association is an advocate for the needs of residents, real estate owners, and small businesses who suffer from these problems. We are working very closely with the Manhattan.Chamber of Commerce, the Greater New York Chamber, The Flatiron/23rd Street BID and other New York organizations to find the necessary solutions.

How frequently do you hold events? Are they often networking events?

We have regular networking meetings 4 to 6 times a year. We’re big on exchanging business cards through events that afford business owners the opportunity to introduce and promote themselves and their services while generating relationships between our members. Occasionally, we also invite guest speakers to these meetings.

In addition, we have done several special events including cinema nights and wine and cheese gatherings for our residential members. We also participate in events in conjunction with other organizations, one such example being our support of holiday celebrations in Madison Square Park.

What are some of the services available to members?

First, we publish a weekly newsletter to over 4,000 subscribers about happenings in the neighborhood. We have worked hard to make the newsletter informative and to incorporate many ideas from our members. We also make sure that the Association’s website is up to date, reflecting upcoming events on our calendar, keeping up an archive of full articles continued from our newsletter and perhaps most importantly, making certain that member-to-member discounts are current. These include promotional pricing for copying services, reduced rates for restaurants, car rental discounts and reduced prices on goods and services at local retailers.

One critical service that we’re still working on is obtaining a group discounted rate from health care providers. Since many of our members are small businesses, the premiums are likely to represent significant savings over their current plans or will help insure employers and employees who have previously not had any coverage at all.

Member benefits also include free advertising in our newsletter and a listing on our website. Furthermore, some of our networking events are only open to members.

We have also begun to do some training for members. Baruch College, one of our active members, has held seminars and supplied speakers in a number of business subjects.

It seems like you have a tremendous amount on your plate. How do you generate income?

Generating income is a big problem, especially in this economy. We currently have very limited funds – mostly from membership dues - and a lot to accomplish. All of our board members serve on a volunteer basis. Robert, for example, puts in on average over 25 hours of work per week and receives no remuneration.

We also generate some income from our events although the funds net very little and, given the current economic downturn, we have not asked for or received significant contributions despite being a 501C non-profit organization.

To achieve our many accomplishments requires an extremely proactive and passionate board of directors. This commitment is one of the major differences between our organization and many others. Our business model reflects our ability to reach out to small businesses and channel our passion towards helping them.

Our very reasonably priced membership is based on the size of an organization and provides access to a wide range of discounts, as well as free advertising and a listing on our website for businesses.

Yearly membership rates are:
Residential members: $95
One person businesses: $195
10 person businesses: $595

Our Soles4Souls nights are great events we hold twice a year. The price of admission is a pair of gently worn shoes that is then distributed to people who really need them. Actually, Robert runs these charity events through Eneslow and brings the 23rd Street Association in as a sponsor. It’s all about helping and empowering people.

Soles4Souls is a great idea. Do you do other charity events?

Through Eneslow, one of our sponsoring members, we support a number of great causes such as the American Diabetes Association and Hereditary Neuropathy Association, and the Arthritis Foundation.

Finally, why should people join or create an association such as yours?

Consider how a group of passionate and focused people can make a difference. We have helped both businesses and residents in our association. Through our efforts, people promote their businesses, take classes, network, receive ombudsman help and support a variety of social causes. It only takes a small core group of people to achieve terrific results.

The 23rd Street Association: email:, web: .

Miriam Cohen is the Secretary and serves on the Board of Directors the 23rd Street Association. She can be reached at: 212-255-3037.

Robert Schwartz is the president of the Eneslow The Foot Comfort Center and the Managing Director of the 23rd Street Association. Bob can be reached at 212-477-2300.

If you know of a networking group or association you would like to recommend for one of my articles, please contact me by email. - Bruce

Bruce Newman, an expert on consulting, is the mid-Atlantic editor for The National Networker and the Vice President at The Productivity Institute (PI), LLC. The Productivity Institute locates, evaluates and supplies outstanding consultants, matching their expertise to the specific consulting requirements of any company. In addition, PI also provides a Critical Factors Needs Analysis (CFNA) that identifies a company’s productive and non-productive costs, thereby increasing their positive cashflow and financial flexibility. Subscribe to our informative and free newsletter (circ 7,000+), receive our RSS feed, and read our blog. Bruce can be contacted at

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