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Sunnyside Chamber and BID Feud Over Funds

Feb. 28, 2011 By Christian Murray

A heated dispute between Sunnyside’s two leading business groups has caused such tension that the two groups are unlikely to work together in the near future.

The clash is over how the profits are being split stemming from the Taste of Sunnyside, which was put on by the Sunnyside Chamber of Commerce, a volunteer membership-based organization, and Sunnyside Shines, the business improvement district (BID), which is a legal entity in a set geographic location which taxes its property owners, who in turn tax their merchant tenants.

The Taste of Sunnyside was viewed as a great success, drawing hundreds of people throughout Queens to sample the food of this area’s top restaurants. The event was a hit and was profitable, resulting in a $1,600 windfall.

Members of the Chamber say that the profits, if any, were to be split 50-50. Meanwhile, Sunnyside Shines claims that no such agreement exists and has held on to all of the proceeds. The BID announced that instead of splitting the leftover monies, it would “roll the money over” for Taste of Sunnyside 2011.

“We entered into a gentleman’s agreement that the profits would be split,” said Ira Greenberg, president of the Chamber. However, he added, since there wasn’t a signed contract, the BID argued that the Chamber was not entitled to its share. Chamber restaurants had other complaints, but the issue came to its current heated impasse when the BID announced its unilateral decision about how to make use of the funds.

The profit from the event was $1,600, which was to be split $800 a piece, Greenberg said. He said he sent a letter to the BID in December requesting the funds and nothing came from it.

Many of the chamber’s restaurant owners were upset that there was a battle over the $800. They took it as an affront, claiming that it diminished their role in the overall success of the event. Some of the restaurant owners are saying that they are not going to participate in the 2011 Taste of Sunnyside and that they want the Chamber to have its own separate event.

James Bray (Photo: QueensPost)

But James Bray, the executive director of the BID, insisted that no such agreement existed. Furthermore, he added, “We are not talking about a lot of money here. I’ll cut them a check for $800.” Then, out of frustration, he said, “They didn’t do much; I did most of the work.”

Most concede that Bray worked tirelessly on the event. However, the Chamber argues without the Chamber restaurants there would have been no event. Furthermore, the Chamber argues that every restaurant paid to participate, and supplied their own food and serving staff.

Greenberg said that $800 is a significant amount of money for the Chamber since it has a budget of about $20,000. Meanwhile, the BID has a budget of about $300,000.

Greenberg said that the restaurants wanted the entire $1,600 to be used toward the re-issue of the Sunnyside Restaurant map which “would benefit all restaurants immediately.”

However, Bray thought the whole dispute over the profits had been put to rest. He said that a meeting was held on Jan. 19 that included Greenberg and that they all agreed to roll over the profits held by the BID for the 2011 Taste of Sunnyside event.

Greenberg confirmed that the Jan. 19 meeting took place. However, he said he that he gave conditional approval to roll over the funds, saying that he had to confirm the agreement with the Chamber’s board. The Chamber and the BID have not discussed the profit split since, Greenberg said.

Ramiro Mendez, the owner of DeMole Restaurant, said he was upset that the BID is keeping the funds. “They kept the money and have made a big fight out of it,” he said, adding that he is considering a separate event where the proceeds are donated to charity.

Many argue that there is a lack of trust between the two groups.

Meanwhile, Bray said he wants to partner with the Chamber on future events. “Doesn’t it make sense that we all work together?” he said.

Greenberg expressed a similar sentiment. However, the dispute has left a bitter taste in the mouths of many of his members, he said.

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There are a few members of the chamber and the BID who do not get on. They are the problem. Don’t blame the organizations themselves,


That event should have earned more money. Could somebody tell me what the Sunnyside Chamber of Commerce does?


As far as a restaurnt map we need a map for our whole town. Or maybe one for restaurnts and one for all the other business so people in our town can find business they need. Than maybe all thsee business that have no business will have buisness. Plus their web sites e-mail address . This is 2011 we need to communicate and help thsee business to communicate with the means for our town webiste for local business and have them all share a site and advertise on a site like this one to generalte business and make moeny how abotut that. making money. so oiur town will not go broke


I do not understand why their was no agreement made at the start of this event to begin with. You have a lawyer who is the presidents of the chamber and he did this with no agreement. But then is then and now is here. we need both to make an agreemtnent for all furture events for what ever there are how they are going to work together.

You both did not do it right the first time. But we need both of you to work together and make peace for our town sake. Both sides need to sit down together and talkl and work side by side. We have alot of warm weather events happening soon and we unity now

If you need a mediator use our councilman or a neautal busiess owner to hep out .


Roger: it goes back to the actual definitions of these organizations. Chambers of commerce are private entities, while a BID is a public/private hybrid.


James is not the problem. He is doing a good job. Look at his board for problems. And the chamber are not angels, you know.


Seems pretty clear that Jersey has no place in Sunnyside and that a local should be in charge of the BID; as I recall he was offered the job due to his personal connections.


Isn’t the purpose of a chamber of commerce to improve business in an area? So why the need for a so-called ‘business improvement district”? Sounds a bit redundant and wasteful.

It really is an embarrassment that Sunnyside can’t find a local resident to head the BID and has to bring in someone from Jersey.

Something smells very fishy here.


I agree with everything the above commenter said. BID is definitely coming out looking worse here.

A restaurant map and future Taste of Sunnyside event would both be great. And honestly, we really need to go to Jersey City to find someone to run a local BID?


Not to be snippy, but does this have anything to do with the fact that a 22-year-old interloper with no previous experience who lives in New Jersey is running the BID? I mean, it could be something else. But problems can arise when people with no business experience whatsoever try to do business.

If the restaurants paid to participate and provided their own staff, then it seems only fair that the restaurant owners — or their membership organization — should receive the profits, OR that they should be used for next year’s event, although I’m curious as to how exactly the money will be used.

And I represent just one vote, but a Sunnyside restaurant map sounds like a great idea.

This was a positive event, and a great thing for the neighborhood. I’d hate to see it devolve into neighborhood in-fighting, although this comment read in full may out me as a bit of a hypocrite.


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