By Isaiah Negron
Parking entrepreneur Bill Lerner is breaking new ground with his parking business iPark and his recently founded charitable initiative, Billy4Kids. The booming parking business, which is launching a new app this spring was founded in 1962 by Bill’s father Jack with a single 25-car lot. Bill took over the business in 1978 and expanded it to over 100 garages across New York City. “Parking has become similar to the hotel and airline business where everyone is shopping online for the best price and most convenient locations,” explains Bill. “I wanted to make something that was user-friendly and easy to navigate so that when someone is driving into the city, they know exactly where they’re parking before they even leave their home.” Since taking over iPark, Bill has overseen the company growth into the largest, privately held owner-operated garages and parking lots in New York State. ipark.com
Lerner is also an active philanthropist and is involved with multiple NYC-based charities including the Alzheimer’s Association and the Children’s Tumor Foundation. It was his desire to help others that led him to found his own charity, Billy4Kids, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping children in need by providing them with one essential item, often taken for granted; shoes. “Life has been good to me and I wanted to give back, but I wanted to give back with something that was my own,” he says. The charity was conceived after a conversation with his friend, Alexson Roy, now the Co-Director of Billy4Kids, who shared Lerner’s goal of helping those living in poverty in underdeveloped countries. “Alexson is in touch with third world nations and their needs. We started talking about children who were dying, not from starvation, but from foot-born diseases because they had nothing to protect their feet from sewage on the streets,” Bill recounts. “All you have to do is give these children a pair of shoes. It’s that simple.” Bill and Alexson set the idea into motion by distributing shoes to children living in poverty in Haiti and other underdeveloped communities.
Using his 110 iPark garages in New York as a vehicle for exposure, Bill set up large green boxes in each one where everyone can donate new or worn shoes in all sizes. “People normally throw out their children’s shoes when they’ve outgrown them, or they sit in a closet for five years after the child can’t wear them anymore,” says Bill. “So why not have everybody unclutter their closets and drop off these shoes in a box conveniently located in an iPark garage as they’re going to retrieve their car? It’s a win-win for everyone.” The organization, which delivered a shipment of shoes to Haiti over the holidays, will expand their outreach to Ghana and Brazil as well. “I don’t see a ceiling on this,” Bill remarks. “I see this becoming a self-sustaining charity that has a serious global impact.” •