Feb. 16, 2014 By Christian Murray
A splinter group within the Sunnyside Chamber of Commerce has formed that aims to topple its leadership.
In recent weeks, Rigo Cardoso (the treasurer), Luke Adams (former chamber marketing director) and Patricia Dorfman (a past board member) have formed a “Friends of Business” coalition and are calling for the Sunnyside Chamber of Commerce president Swain Weiner to be ousted.
The trio have canvassed Sunnyside and convinced more than 30 business owners to sign a petition that calls for greater transparency within the chamber and more networking events.
The coalition held a non-chamber event Tuesday evening at Quaint Restaurant, located at 46-10 Skillman Avenue, that was attended by more than 50 people—including four past chamber presidents, Dorfman said. She said the event was held since business owners want networking functions—something the chamber under its present leadership– has failed to organize.
The Friends of Business coalition formed after Cardoso got into a public spat with Weiner last month when he called into question Weiner’s leadership after Adams was laid off from his chamber marketing position due to a lack of chamber funds.
At the time, Cardoso claimed that there was a shortage of funds due to the lack of fundraising events and an “unenergetic effort to recruit new members.”
Weiner refuted these claims arguing that there had been several chamber fundraisers and that Cardoso was making a public issue about the matter in order to promote his ambitions of being president of the chamber with the election coming up in April.
Furthermore, in an interview, Weiner appeared mystified by the petition and formation of the coalition. “If these people who signed the petition are members [of the chamber], they should help me put on more events if that is what they truly want,” he said. “If they are not members [of the chamber], they should join and help set things up.”
Furthermore, he said, “If people are unhappy with the way I run things they can vote me out in the election in April. But why are they dragging my name through the mud? I haven’t done anything to hurt anyone. “
However, Cardoso claims that Weiner doesn’t have Sunnyside’s best interests at heart. He said that Weiner, who sells commercial real estate for Greiner-Maltz, is just here to sell big properties and then leave. He said the president should be someone who lives or owns a business in Sunnyside.
Meanwhile, Luke Adams said: “Ira Greenberg and Becky Barker did a great job when they were president and they live in the area…All he [Weiner] wants to do is sell a lot of our property.”
However, Weiner said, “No one had an issue with it when I was voted president,” he said. “Now all of sudden they do.” Furthermore, he said, “I do business in North West Queens.”
Meanwhile, a week ago, former president Ira Greenberg resigned from the chamber board amid controversy. Greenberg stepped down after claiming that Weiner was using his status in the chamber—and chamber stationery—for his own commercial interests, according to several sources. Greenberg sent a copy of the following letter to members of the board, which had been distributed to local businesses.
Weiner said he was not going comment about Greenberg’s departure, although he said that there was “plenty of stuff that I can throw arrows at Ira about.” He said that maybe “I was a little bit too aggressive [using his chamber ties] but we all make mistakes.”
He said that he can’t understand why people just don’t call him if they have a problem with him as opposed to making a public issue out of every issue.
“I have worked at many places and donated my time to many groups and I have not seen behavior like this,” Weiner said.
Cardoso is currently in the process of notifying those existing chamber members—many of whom signed the petition–to make sure they mail in their ballots when they are sent out in March.
Too often, he said, the ballots are mailed out and members just don’t respond and they don’t vote. He said he wants to make sure members take time out to participate.
“It’s time for a change and some new blood in the chamber,” Adams said. “There are a lot of good people in this neighborhood and we need them now.”