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Sunnyside Shines Hires a New Executive Director–Update

Sunnyside Shines, a local business improvement district (BID), has hired 23-year-old James Bray as its new executive director.

Bray, who has just completed his studies at Rutgers University, will head the Sunnyside BID that has an annual budget of approximately $300,000 per year. The Jersey City resident will be the only full-time executive working for the public/private group.

The BID’s role is to promote business in Sunnyside. Its function is particularly important right now as a slew of businesses are struggling to survive. In recent months many businesses have closed, from Sugar & Joe, Flynn’s Pub, Sleepys, Nourish and Curves.

Bray, who said he knew “nothing about Queens” before joining the BID, was hired as a part-time worker in November to help Sunnyside Shines with is computer and network problems.

He was able to get the part-time job through his father Thomas Bray, who reports to John Vogt, the regional director at White Castle. Vogt is the chairman of Sunnyside Shines.

Thomas Bray and Vogt have worked together at White Castle for years. “They hang out all day at 34th Ave [White Castle],” James Bray said. “I used to see him at our BBQs.”

Vogt, a Lindenhurst resident, is also the chairman of the Sunnyside Chamber of Commerce and a board member on Woodside on the Move.

This will be Bray’s first executive role. He has worked as a Hillsborough Township Volunteer Firefighter in his hometown of Hillsborough, NJ, and has helped provide before- and after-school child care to working families for Catholic Charities. He also worked at Lowes Home Improvement, where he sold grills and other outdoor products.

Bray, who is being paid $41,600 (without healthcare), said that he brings a “fresh perspective to the job.” Many people in Sunnyside’s local organizations have been here a long time, he said.

Bray replaces Alyssa Bonilla, who was dismissed in early November.

Bray said he was selected after the executive board interviewed a number of candidates. The executive board is comprised of Vogt, Chris Winchester from Pickman Reality, and Treasurer Arthur Weiner, of LIC Building Inc. Following the executive board’s approval, the board of directors gave him the thumbs up, although there wasn’t a formal vote.

Vogt said he advertised the job through New York City’s BID association and received 6 or 7 resumes. The executive board went on to interview three or four candidates, but it was hard to get anyone for the position since the pay was low, he said.

However, according to New York City BID guidelines, Sunnyside Shines could have cast a much wider net in its search.  The guideline reads:  The “Committee should publish job notices in local and community newspapers, on relevant Web sites (e.g. Careerbuilder, Monster, International Downtown Association, Craigslist, Idealist, etc.), as well as career center Web sites at universities and colleges.”

But Vogt said he was impressed with Bray. “He was the best candidate and we believed that his degree in marketing and computer science–the nuts and bolts of modern marketing—will help the BID.”

Vogt said he notified the executive board and the board of directors (click link to see board members) to his relationship to Tom Bray. He said the board of directors had no objection to the hire.

He then said: “Bray is on a four or five month trial.”

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Bray gets to move out of his parents’ house with this new job. He lacks the experience, but hey, he’s certainly got the connections. Life’s not fair!


what type of funding does this group receive? If it gets public funding and taxdollars from the local pols, there should be some questions raised as tho who is benefiting from this. Nice gig for a kid just starting out to get, esp considering his lack of experience. big step up from selling grills at home depot.

33 year sunnyside resident

I’ve long suspected a bit of cronyism going on in some of these insular circles. Each week the same faces can be found in the local newspaper smiling for what amounts to yet another self-congratulatory piece. It might be time for new faces that place the focus back where it belongs…the residents.


no offense, but this stinks of nepotism. In this economy, it’s a joke to claim it was hard to find someone to accept the job at ONLY $41,600. And to only advertise on an obscure site that nobody hunting for jobs would check only served to limit the amount of resumes received. Further, you would think this type of position should go to someone who knows about the area.


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