March 1, 2017 By Hannah Wulkan
The Sunnyside Business Improvement District has appointed a new executive director who is from a fundraising and arts-related background.
Jaime-Faye Bean, who has lived in the Long Island City/Astoria area for the past 15 years, took over the position Monday, looking to help local businesses thrive and plan community programming.
Faye-Bean is stepping in to the shoes of former Executive Director Rachel Thieme, who left the position after more than four years on the job. Throughout her time she instituted many new programs with the help of the BID’s marketing committee, including Sunnyside Restaurant Week and Thursdays in Bliss Plaza, to help boost business for retailers in the business district (see map).
Thieme officially left on Friday to move across the country to Portland, Oregon.
As a longtime western Queens resident, Bean said that when she heard about the job with Sunnyside Shines, she decided it would be “an exciting way to apply her nonprofit management skills to a neighborhood that is very exciting and on the upswing.”
While Bean does not have a lot of business experience, she said that her background working with non-profit fundraising and art advocacy will help her with the new job.
“My fundraising background taught me a lot about building and sustaining relationships over time, and though with the BID there are different types of relationships, and different types of stakeholders, at the end of the day it’s all about knowing how to build positive relationships make your interactions and connections positive for everyone,” Bean said.
Bean spent her career working in fundraising for non-profits, ranging from Weill-Cornell Medical College to the ASPCA.
Most recently, Bean worked as the executive director of an art non-profit called ArteEast, a group that “advocates and supports Middle Eastern artists’ and arts organizations’ engagement with U.S.-based arts communities and audiences,” according to its website.
She said that working at ArteEast gave her the “first entree into working with local officials and on more community-based programming,” which she hopes to apply to the job in Sunnyside.
Much of her past work has also involved event planning, which will be of use to the new position.
Bean said she looks forward to helping local businesses. While she has not owned a business herself, she grew up in rural Vermont and watched many family members struggle to maintain their small businesses.
“I grew up seeing what a struggle it can be and what it means to a family to have everything invested in a business,” she said.
“It gave me an appreciation that people invest their heart and soul in to their business, and that they are not just dealing with a financial contract, but an emotional contract with the community and neighborhood.”
Though she has only been on the job for two days, Bean is looking toward the future and continuing to expand the BID’s programming.
She said that she is already in the process of planning summer and fall programming, including at both neighborhood plazas.
At Bliss Plaza, she is planning to introduce more art-focused activities throughout the warmer seasons, and will be using a grant from the Queens Council on the Arts for music programming in the plaza.
She also is hoping to host more fitness related activities at Lowery Plaza during the summer and fall.
“Rachel [Thieme] left such a strong foundation for me, it’s more just a question of tweaking things, trying new events, and seeing what gets the best response,” Faye-Bean said. “We’re here to enhance the quality of life in Sunnyside, and we are looking to the residents to give feedback.”
John Vogt, chairman of the BID, said the BID was attracted to Bean because of her fundraising background and was not so concerned about her lack of business experience.
The BID, Vogt said, is always looking for extra sources of revenue that they hope Faye-Bean will bring in. The BID has increased its expenditures in recent years and has raised the levy/assessment it charges property owners (passed on to small businesses) from $300,000 to $360,000 per year.
“We wanted an Executive Director that brought the skills that Rachel had—organization, readiness, creativity, management skills, and on top of that we wanted someone who could help raise money,” Vogt said.