"When I was a child in the Seventies, then coming of age in the Eighties, New York was a dangerous place," recalls Abe Unger, government professor at Wagner College and author of a new book, "Business Improvement Districts in the United States: Private Government and Public Consequences,” published by Palgrave Macmillan.
"Leadership in New York started thinking about how they could rebuild New York without the kind of federal aid that had been given back in the Sixties in the Great Society programs," Unger says in this video interview, "and what they came up with was reinvestment in neighborhoods from the private sector."
Unger explains how business improvement districts were created to revitalize urban neighborhoods with additional taxes designed to fund extra sanitation, security and redevelopment controlled by the BID boards.
He also talks about the challenges to democratic principles posed by the way private, nonprofit BIDs are set up, using public tax dollars for private purposes.
"I believe that BIDS are successful and useful, and I do believe in their ongoing existence," Unger says, "because they actually have, bottom line, improved the quality of lives in the neighborhoods they serve. All I'm suggesting is that their boards be expanded to include the voices of local community members."