Oct. 8, 2011 By Christian Murray
Sunnyside Shines, which was formed to reinvigorate and better Sunnyside’s business district, held its 3rd annual meeting on Tuesday. As part of the meeting, there was an election and the same board members who were in office last year were reelected for the 2011/12 year.
James Bray, the executive director of the Business Improvement District, told an audience of about 50 attendees that the BID aims to focus heavily on beautifying the BID district next year. The district, for the most part, covers the commercial areas on (or near) Queens Blvd and Greenpoint Ave. from 40th to 48th Sts.
“We want to look at all the tree pits, see if we can replace the lights, change the newsstands and even get the sidewalks repaved if we can,” Bray said. He said he would put together a task force to see what can be done and work with elected officials where needed.
The BID has an annual budget of nearly $300,000. However, all but $90,000 is spent on fixed costs—such as sanitation (cleaning crew), holiday lights (a requirement), salaries, rent and insurance.
The BID said $50,000 of the $90,000 would go toward its marketing programs, with $40,000 for beautification and streetscaping. The allocation for beautification and streetscaping is up from $5,500 in 2010/11.
The BID conducted a number of marketing projects in 2010/11; programs that it will most likely roll over into 2011/12.
- The Taste of Sunnyside, where 18 restaurants participated in a food tasting event
- An August concert series, title “Summer Streets”, held every Saturday during that month. This year there was the Bix Beiderbecke Memorial Jazz Concert and performances by groups such as Astrograss and Jawbone.
- Two TV commercials, one advertising “Summer Streets” and the other the “Taste of Sunnyside”
- Holiday lights on Greenpoint Ave and Queens Blvd. (not part of marketing budget)
- Free pictures with Santa; 600 families participated.
- $5 coupons were distributed. 405 coupons were used.
- Flower baskets
- Graffiti clean ups within the district. Next year, Bray said, the BID will attempt to clean above the stores.
“In my opinion this has been a great year for Sunnyside considering the economic environment,” said John Vogt, the chairman of the BID. “The number of vacancies is quite low compared to other parts of the city… but obviously we want to do better.”
But the BID is not without its critics.
Ciaran Staunton, the owner of Molly Blooms, an Irish bar located on Queens Blvd. btw 43rd and 44th), said that the number of vacancies is NOT low. “The block between 44th and 45th is 40% vacant,” he said, adding, “I wouldn’t consider that low.”
Staunton asked Vogt what the BID is doing to bring in new businesses and anchor stores.
Vogt said it is not that simple to bring in the larger anchor stores. “We don’t have the large properties they want, so we have to play to our strengths.”
“We would like to get boutique stores here, and we might…but we also have to play to our strengths, which are pubs, restaurants and entertainment.”
Staunton wanted the BID to have a greater number of public meetings. He said that the last general meeting was 17 months ago—and that the notification for Tuesday’s meeting was limited.
The BID appeared willing to meet Staunton’s request and was ironing out whether to meet on a quarterly or bi-annual basis.
Meanwhile, local resident David Shenton said the BID should do more to reach out to the public. “We would gladly try to help the cause of local businesses.” Shenton said.