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East Midtown Partnership Launches the Passport Program!

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Hilary JM Topper

Hilary JM Topper


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Hilary Topper ON AIR

Special Guest: Rob Byrnes, President East Midtown Partnership

Listen as Rob Byrnes talks about new initiatives going on in East Midtown including the new Passport program, which provides cardholder discounts at restaurants, retail shops, professional services, health clubs, and more throughout the East Midtown district!



0:07 Intro

From business blog to marketing and motherhood, we are live. Hilary Topper On Air!

0:14 Hilary Topper

Hey there everyone! It's Hilary here and you're signed it to Hilary Topper On Air on Blog Talk Radio. Today's guest is Rob Byrnes. He is the president of East Midtown Partnership and he's here to discuss the launch of the new passport program. So, just stay tune and listen up because he's got a lot of really good information to share with us. He has been with East Midtown Partnership since 2002. Before we get in to the show, a little bit about me. I'm President and CEO of HJMT Public Relations. This is a firm I started 21 years ago with a baby on my lap in my one bedroom apartment. Today, we represent national and international clients and have offices in Melville, Long Island and in New York City. Our firm focuses on helping others to get to know your business by offering the following services: Public relations, social media, video production, graphic design and event planning. We also have a ton of free offers on our hjmt.com website including a new podcast that we just put up on inbound marketing. Another white paper that's entitled: How to get to your content to the top of the Facebook newsfeed. We have information on LinkedIn and Twitter and lots of other social networking sites. So, just check out our website at hjmt.com. We just added another seminar date on June 14. We're going to be having seminar in our office on social media and how to use it as a tool to actually generate business leads. So, if you'd like to come click on the link on our HJMT website and don't worry if you get blocked out because we're really limiting this. This is a very, very small group workshop.

2:19 Hilary Topper

We have them every month. So if you're interested just sign up or email me we can get you in. I'm also a blogger with more than 35,000 unique visitors to my blog, hilarytopper.com, and if you haven't checked it up, please do so. I've write about being a mother, an entrepreneur, in life and general and I'm gearing up for the __02:44__ on this Sunday. So I'm very excited about it and I was told by Myrtle Beach that I'm going to be meeting the major of Myrtle Beach and also Ali from the Biggest Loser so I'm really excited about that and that will be my next topic for next week's blog. I also blogs at Blogcritics where review products and services and the blogs for the patch. I love to run, play golf and just enjoy the outdoors and my favorite thing to do is to spend time with my family. So, Hilary Topper On Air focuses on current events, interesting facts, running a small business in life and general. We hope you're signed in every Thursday at 2 p.m. and in 7 p.m. to hear our show and today show is live. So if anybody out there wants to call in and have a question, please do so. If you miss the show, don't worry you can always catch it on blogtalkradio.com/hilarytopper or you can visit my blog hilarytopper.com. And now gives me great pleasure to introduce you to Rob Byrnes. Hey, Rob! Welcome to the show!

3:52 Rob Byrnes

Thanks, Hilary! I don't if I'm worthy you're gonna be meeting the mayor of Myrtle Beach and I'm just...

3:56 Hilary Topper

(Laughs). Very excited!

3:57 Rob Byrnes


4:00 Hilary Topper

(Laughs). So, tell me, how do you get involved with this Midtown Partnership. Before we get into the passport program, I really wanna hear about how you got involved.

4:12 Rob Byrnes

Sure. Well, I had -- in the previous career I've worked up in Albany and largely to the state assembly, largely on economic development issues. When I moved to Manhattan in the end of -- in the late 90s it kind of continued on with that with the couple of local development corporations. Eventually, I heard about this business improvement district was gonna be opening its stores supply and here I am for the last 11 years.

4:45 Hilary Topper

Great. And tell me about some of the programs that you have been doing. I know that you just recently put out -- I guess it was six months two year ago or recycling program. Can you tell a little bit about some of the programs that you guys offer.

5:01 Rob Byrnes

Yeah. I think the first thing is trying to be helpful is for your listeners to understand what a business improvement district is. Business improvement district or BID is basically is self-taxing units, geographic units back in the late 90s until we came in to existence in 2002. The property owners and business owners in this area of East Midtown Manhattan banded together and agreed that they wanted to pay a little bit extra money for extra services. So, we -- I basically run the management company that coordinates our services. So, we provide extra street cleaning that the city does not provide. We provide extra trash pickup in addition to what the city provides. We have a security control out there. We do homeless outreach on top of what the city provides. And we also do beautification and we plant over 93 beds in the district and marketing which brings us here. And going back to what you just mentioned with recycling receptacles. One problem that the city has to their credits has realized that they have a problem but one problem that is then very notable in New York City has been the lack of street side recycling bins. So the pedestrians have somewhere to further recyclable materials except for any trash. We -- this area is a very heavily trafficked by pedestrians and the motor vehicles, but especially about pedestrians. We have a lot of subway lines running through here. A lot of commuters coming here, probably over 100,000 workers everyday. A large number of them are getting off the six trains, let's say carrying a newspaper, they don't want to be carrying it around that day. They don't wanna take it to the office, so when they get up to the subway they throw it into the first receptacle that's available and that was the trash.

7:07 Rob Byrnes

So, recyclable paper materials were being just thrown into the waste stream and we want to do something about it. So, last year working in conjunction with the department of sanitation our board of directors and sanitation came up with the design for a street side paper recycling bin that would match our existent trash receptacles and it also, however, met the through the colors and other identifying symbols and that the city's criteria for having a publicly identifiable recycling campaign. We ordered 21 units, put them out on the street and almost immediately without any public education campaign they started to get a lot of use. Now we're emptying them several times a day and every bag of newspapers were taking out of one of those bins would be a bag of newspapers that we just stand up in the waste stream. So, we're kind of greening up Midtown Manhattan and we were the first business improvement district in the city to launch a program like this. We intend to expand it in the upcoming year perhaps eventually moving to a plastic and glass recycling also. But for right now, we consider unqualified success.

8:31 Hilary Topper

Yeah, it's awesome in it. And what I love about these cans is that they are like a neon -- almost like a neon green and it's really stand out, you know.

8:41 Rob Byrnes

Yeah. That's one of the city's existence and I agree, it's part of public education. They want people to see that green and know that that's were the newspaper goes. There is also a neon blue that this for plastic and glass. And you know we made it that point. Right now, there is not as much recyclable plastic and glass in the waste stream around here. But we make it through that point, I hope we do.

9:08 Hilary Topper

Right. Excellent, definitely, me too! So, tell me -- okay so, we -- so tell us about this Passport Program, the passport card, how is that work, how is that somebody get one?

9:24 Rob Byrnes

Yeah. Well, yes absolutely. The Passport Program grew out of talks with many restaurants and retailers in our district and just so your listeners understand there are approximately 900 ground floor businesses and about 2,000 upper floor businesses in our catchment area. And what part of what I do here is -- our responsibility is to drive commercial activity. Money is tight these days, it has been for a last couple of years and our business community is feeling it. So, we developed the idea of a passport plan knowing that everybody likes a bargain and what we do is we have set up an internet -- separate page on our website that we allow participating businesses in the district to put up a special offer. Say 10% off or a free glass of wine with dinner. So, we have that side up. We printed 20,000 cards, we're distributing in throughout the East Side, Upper East Side communities primarily but also throughout the rest of the tri-state region. Anybody that wants the card can have a card. If you have the card, you go online, you go to our passport page on our website, you register the card and you're automatically qualified to take advantage of the deals out there. We're up to over 70 businesses now are participating which is pretty good because we're only start soliciting about four weeks ago and we're getting three or four new businesses each week now still and that'll keeping going. And then about 4,000 cards out of the 20,000 credit, 4,000 are out there -- out in the streets right now.

11:25 Rob Byrnes

We know people are using a card, so one sent me a picture of a -- the picture they took while they we're getting their 15% discount at Le Cirque which was one of the top restaurant in the city and I just think it's great for the consumers, it's great for the businesses. The businesses additionally benefit because this is a way to drive new customers through their doors. So they get general publicity just from being in the program but also they're finding a whole new customer-based by people who had maybe not realize they existed before but seen that they have a -- say 15% discount taking a walk a few blocks out of their way and finding a new -- a favorite destination I hope.

12:13 Hilary Topper

I love that. I mean, to me any of these it this can program so great. They just say draw you in and you can learn about a new restaurant or a new store. Can you tell us a little bit about like what stores or restaurants are involved?

12:30 Rob Byrnes

Sure. Well, let's start with -- I just signed I mentioned Le Cirque which of course as I said one of the top restaurants in the city.

12:37 Hilary Topper

I love that restaurant.

12:39 Rob Byrnes

I just -- just this morning signed up Astra which is a Charlie Palmer restaurant -- well-known chef, celebrity chief in a way, and that's location in the D and D Building. It's only open for lunch and special events, but they're offering 15% off now. Amali which is a Mediterranean restaurant at 60th Street in the program, David Burke at Bloomingdales and there are over a dozen other restaurants including some fast food places that has signed on. On the entertainment side, 59E59 Theaters which is a fantastic up Broadway Theater Company in the district to signed on, The Mount Vernon Hotel Museum and Garden, the Turtle Bay Music School. We have a lot of apparel outlets including Kenneth Cole which is offering 20% off any full price item and national chains like Aerosols and The Walking Company. The W Hotel Store, BoConcept, a lot of home improvement stores like that. Jewelers, Zales, Bianca Jewelers. And also -- yeah of course I forgetting altogether number of day spas, physical fitness facilities. We have all group professional services (laughs) they keep popping into my head. Several dental groups.

14:16 Hilary Topper


14:19 Rob Byrnes

We've got a couple of public relations rooms including their place called, The HJMT Public Relations. City Commercial Bank has got a deal up there. Instituto Cervantes, it gives you a 10% discount for Spanish Language courses and SUNY Confucius Institute for Business has a 20% discount in their course offerings. So, it's a really diverse group of businesses and like I said it's only and it keep growing. Your listeners can actually check it out for themselves too if they go to -- do you mind if I give the...

14:55 Hilary Topper

Go. Go for it.

14:58 Rob Byrnes

It's eastmidtown.org/passport and that gives you a list of everybody that's involved right now. But check that frequently because as I said I'm adding several businesses a week and I really think that these cards get out the community, it's gonna bloom. I'm very excited about it. And the beauty of it is, internet-based, so I am not killing any trees, first of all. Secondly, it's easy to add people at anytime and that you know frankly do you see people to get out to businesses to get out but why would they? So, it's just gonna keep growing and growing and it takes me half hour a day or so to keep it updated, but it's a good thing.

15:46 Hilary Topper

It's a great thing. Let me ask you something, okay, so I get a card I don't have mine yet but I'm gonna get it, I'm very excited.

15:53 Rob Byrnes

How do we know I could give a card yet? Okay! Okay!

15:56 Hilary Topper

I don't know. It's crazy. It's crazy because I'll be out there shopping already. But as we speak, but anyway so I get a card, is there any kind of expiration date? Can I keep going back to Kenneth Cole and getting my 20% off?

16:11 Rob Byrnes

Yes, as long as Kenneth Cole stays in the program you've keep getting that discount. You'll -- you wanna check you website just to make sure and I've made a point that anyone that signs on knows that they have to give me 72 hours notice before they drop out. So, you're not gonna get caught on roof between checking their website and giving the store when their deal disappears. No expiration date? Oh, Magic word here too I should add free, the card won't cost you anything; get as many as you want for your family, get as many as you want for you co-workers, there is no charge, there isn't one now than ever will be and for businesses have participate I don't charge them anything to participate. This is all fully taking of by the East Midtown Partnership.

17:04 Hilary Topper

That's awesome. Can you imagine, you can use this as a corporate guest and get it asked to all your clients and they get all the benefits?

17:11 Rob Byrnes

Sure, absolutely.

17:14 Hilary Topper

So, that's eastmidtown.org/passport, is that correct?

17:20 Rob Byrnes

That is correct, yes.

17:21 Hilary Topper


17:23 Rob Byrnes

And I know people are going to the site because our web statistics in the last three weeks since we started mailing up the cards have more than doubled. So, and I anticipate that staying right up there.

17:37 Hilary Topper

Wow, I love this idea. I love the program. I can't wait to get my discount. I'm one of those people that can't wait to get like to see what's on group on or living social and this is even better because I can now go frequent to stores and check out what's there and the restaurants and everything so it's awesome. So, you also have another program called Social Stop, can you talk about that?

18:08 Rob Byrnes

Sure. I begin the Social Stop program a little over two years ago. Like any large commercial district, one of the challenges we've always had is building a sense of community and any given day there are over 120,000 people working in this area. A thousands more that live here and hundreds of that, maybe millions commuting through the area on route to other parts of Manhattan or parts of the city. The district is very diverse, there is some very clean little shops, but the big part of it is 50, 60 storey office buildings. So, building a community has always been tough because we largely have a constituency of hundreds of thousands of people that are used to zipping in, going to work, zipping out, following the same old patterns and same old route. One of the beauties of my job is that my job is to know where everything is, to know where the interesting restaurants, the interesting museum, the interesting art gallery museum, interesting retailers are. But if that wasn't my job would I know all the stuff or would I just go to the same three places for lunch and the answer is, yeah I'd probably go to the same three places for lunch.

19:38 Hilary Topper


19:41 Rob Byrnes

So, my job -- our job at East Midtown Partnership is to help impart that wisdom and knowledge to all our constituents. The fact is that this is one of the most economically diverse, say commercially diverse areas of the city in New York. Literally, anything you want be it the mundane or the exotic is no more than a three or four block walk from any given point in the district. So, knowing that, knowing that people need that knowledge and trying to impart the knowledge our challenge and one of the ways though that we can do that is by building that community. So, you know, look, the fastest way to someone's heart is not through their stomach necessarily, it usually through a glass of wine (Laughs). So after work a few years ago we started hosting, after work, networking receptions, and that networking receptions in the traditional sense. There was no -- there are business cards exchange and the goal is that we want people to get to know their neighbors and to get to do business with their neighbors, and in turn to generate business themselves. But this is a way for people to learn about us and learn about other people. It wasn't -- this isn't the hard solicitation, this is a very casual cocktail party for people that live, work and do business in this area. In the two years, the first of that we had I consider fairly successful. We drew 45 people. Now, we routinely draw 120 to 150 people to these receptions. And we have a core base and we have a lot of new people showing up.

21:39 Rob Byrnes

But it's very diverse and but what I consider -- first of all I know people are getting business out of these social stops, anecdotally I get the feedback that's why they keep going. They tell me how they got a customer from another store a few blocks away who would have known they existed. They tell me that if a restaurant host that people have come back later because they've sampled the orders and wanted to have dinner there and that's all great and that's important and we wouldn't do it if that kind of activity wasn't taking place. What I've also got though now is out of the probably about 600 people had come to at least one social stop out of the 10 or so we've held over the last two years and what I've got is now hundreds of ambassadors out there who now understand what I do and what our organization does. They understand the benefit of quantity to these events. They understand more about the diversity of commerce into the area. And they are outspreading the word doing exactly what I wanted I was hoping they would do in a fosters sense of community out in the district and the more people gets in to come and know about the East Midtown Partnership and know about their neighbors. The more internal business that will be generated and I don't wanna slam anybody. There is a lot of commuters out there but you know, if you've got an office on 3rd Avenue and you need to -- I don't pick up a prescription. I personally because my job __23:21__ run the pharmacy on the ground floor or two blocks away then go home and do it in New Jersey. I was gonna say Long Island but I want -- it sound like bad to you.

23:33 Hilary Topper


23:35 Rob Byrnes

I'll say New Jersey where I live (laughs). But do your commerce -- I do my dentists in the district, my optometrists in the district, my pharmacists in the district, my banks in the district, you know I don't do that. I do that for convenience, I do it because it's obviously good business for me, but I'll also do it because we got a community here I had gotten to know. I've got to know my neighborhood pharmacist and my dentist so and -- that's what I want people to develop in the hour. That's the exciting thing.

24:09 Hilary Topper

Very cool. We actually have a caller, so I'm gonna bring them on.

24:16 Rob Byrnes

That's great.

24:17 Hilary Topper

Hi, caller! You're on the air.

24:18 Sam

Hi, how are you? Hi, my name is Sam and I'll just have a question about the passport program. I was just wondering, do I have to live in the East Midtown district in order to get that?

24:29 Rob Byrnes

Oh! That's a good question. Absolutely not. We have sent them as far as Michigan so far and I'm actually start working with some of the hotel __24:39__ soon to give them to tours in the town but no -- if you think you're gonna be coming into the East Midtown, order a passport card and I will get it out to you. These are -- no, no -- yes, by all means we want this out far and wide.

25:00 Sam

Okay, great! Thank you so much!

25:02 Rob Byrnes

Thank you!

25:03 Hilary Topper

Thanks for the question, Sam.

25:05 Rob Byrnes

That was a great question though because, yeah like should -- we take all commerce (laughs).

25:12 Hilary Topper

(Laughs) Talk to me about what's the best way to stay current on news about the district?

25:20 Rob Byrnes

That will require your listeners to make another visit to our website, go to www.eastmidtown.org and when you reach our home page there is a form to sign up for the newsletter. You don't have to give me your name, you can just put in your email address. It's automatically goes to the database and then once a week or twice a week sometimes and on very infrequent occasions a little more. You will get a weekly bulletin telling you specials, promotions in the district. Things that the East Midtown Partnership is doing out there, there are news where the local history and trivia any -- and reports what is always important to people especially that are in New York City is free closures (laughs). And other events and it requires nothing of you, it just pops in your email inbox once a week or so and you can browse through and see because -- yeah there beyond the 70 something businesses that are currently participating in the passport program. There are hundreds of other retailers and restaurants in the district that are always running promotions. In this last week, I believe something from BoConcept that regularly have things from Aileen Fisher, the W Hotel Store and just in fact so many and sometimes I have to turn them down, so...

27:02 Hilary Topper

(Laughs) that's awesome.

27:03 Rob Byrnes

Laughs) Exactly. You know, I'm happy to do all the promotion possible and but it's good for the consumers still. So, sign up and you'll find out about our social stop program. Come on by, you'll find out whether we have a new program rolling out.

27:22 Hilary Topper

It's an awesome area. I love this Midtown. Our office is in East Midtown and I wouldn't wanna be anywhere else. Thank you so much Rob for being on the show again. You're always an amazing guest and we appreciate your time. We wanna thank you our listeners for tuning in. If you need more information about this show, go to eastmidtown.org/passport or eastmidtown.org and you'll find out everything you wanna know about East Midtown Partnership. If you wanna hear about any other show visit hjmt.com, hilarytopper.com or visit blogtalkradio.com/hilarytopper. I'll hope you have a great week. I wanna thank all of you guys for all your birthday wishes today and have a great rest of the week.

28:20 Outro

Thank you for listening to Hilary Topper On Air. For more show information visit blogtalkradio.com/hilarytopper.