By Anna Gustafson
Bayside business officials and borough lawmakers this week celebrated the new holiday decorations as well as the lighting of the menorah and Christmas tree on Bell Boulevard that they touted as representative of an up-and-coming Bayside.
“The morale of Bell Boulevard is on the way up,” said Gregg Sullivan, executive director of the Bayside Village Business Improvement District. “There were a lot of stores that were closing and business was down, and we’re turning that around. A simple thing like putting up new lights and the fact that they know somebody really cares and is talking to business owners about what they need really means something.”
Sullivan said he and the BID decided to invest money in the new holiday lights this year after he noticed “how shabby and minimal” the lights had gotten over the last couple of years. After perusing a wide variety of holiday decorations, Sullivan said the BID, which has more than 200 participating businesses, finally opted for lights shaped like snowflakes and poinsettias.
The new decorations run from 35th Avenue to a little south of Northern Boulevard, and there are now lights that spell out “Welcome to Bayside Village” at the intersection of Northern and Bell boulevards. There is also the Christmas tree, a Nativity scene, and a menorah by the train station.
“Bayside is a community of businesses and a community of families,” state Sen. Frank Padavan (R-Bellerose) said at the Tuesday night lighting celebration. “The families and businesses on Bell are one and the same — when one flourishes, the other flourishes.”
Other individuals who attended the event Tuesday included Councilman Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone), state Assemblyman-elect Ed Braunstein, BID Chairman James Riso, members of the Bayside Business Association, Community Board 11 Chairman Jerry Iannece, and East Bayside Homeowners Association President Frank Skala, who dressed up, as he has for years, as Santa.
The BID itself only goes from 35th Avenue to Northern Boulevard, but Sullivan said he had worked hard to solicit donations from stores south of Northern Boulevard in order to put up lights in that area.
“They don’t usually have lights south of Northern Boulevard, but a couple of the businesses down there felt really bad because they saw all the lights going from Northern Boulevard on north,” Sullivan said. “I think the BID should and will extend down to those guys. They see exciting things happening on Bell Boulevard and they want to make sure they were included. It really shows how we’re growing and the excitement is building back in Bayside.”
Sullivan said businesses have informed him they have seen more shoppers recently in part because the parking meters have gone from a one-hour to a two-hour limit. Additionally, he said an arts-and-crafts fair in October refocused people’s attention on Bell Boulevard.
“It was the first time Bayside had any street event in 15 years,” Sullivan said. “Everyone just loved it. It was great for local commerce.”
City Councilman Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone) said both residents and businesses will now benefit from the removal of the “No Parking – Street Cleaning” signs along Bell Boulevard last weekend. The street does not receive street cleanings, but motorists still were ticketed during the purported street cleaning periods on Bell from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. on some weekdays.
“Bell Boulevard is one of the commercial centers of northeast Queens,” Halloran said. “Its restaurants and shops are the backbone of Bayside. Excessive ticketing along Bell is killing these local businesses, which are our primary job creators.”
Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.