By Phil Corso
It has been months since some Bell Boulevard business owners said they could remember seeing tangible benefits from their tax dollars at work, courtesy of the Bayside Village Business Improvement District.
And after former Executive Director Gregg Sullivan was fired in December, those Bell Boulevard property owners said they wanted answers.
Sullivan rallied together with residents last week to build support for what he called a healthy change for Bayside.
“I’m prepared to go to war with you,” Sullivan told a crowd of more than 50 Bayside business owners and residents who met April 18 inside All Saints Episcopal Church, at 214-35 40th Ave.
The BID did not send any board members to the meeting, but BID Chairman James Riso said his group wanted to look forward and had chosen a new executive director last week.
In December, Sullivan was let go as executive director of the BID after BID board members said he publicly criticized them on issues such as transparency despite a stipulation added to his contract warning him that further insubordination would result in his termination.
Sullivan, who earned a salary of $30,000, spoke alongside Uncle Jack’s Steakhouse CEO William Degel, who led the charge at last week’s meeting to potentially elect a new board for the BID, which the two said would reinstate Sullivan as executive director.
Degel, whose restaurant lies in the heart of the BID’s jurisdiction along Bell Boulevard, said BID leadership has been silent since Sullivan’s firing.
“Gregg gave life to the BID,” Degel said before the crowd burst into applause. “Since then promises have been made and have not been delivered.”
As executive director, Sullivan oversaw several projects along Bell Boulevard, including high-profile street events, road repaving and street decorating with flags and holiday lights.
In the days following the meeting, Riso said the group had already appointed Lyle Sclair, the former economic development associate at Brooklyn Economic Development Corp., as the new executive director. It was a move that Riso said was taken to put distractions aside for the betterment of Bayside.
“It is unfortunate that there are members of the BID and other individuals who are continually generating negative press about the BID and pointing out its faults,” Riso said. “While it is true and no one is denying that we have faced a huge setback, the all-volunteer board is trying to move forward instead of looking back.”
Riso said one of the major reasons for the setback was the firing of Sullivan, the BID’s “very energetic but insubordinate” executive director.
According to Sullivan, the BID’s naming of a new executive director was just another action to upset taxpayers of the BID.
“The people would be violently opposed to that,” Sullivan said.
No members of the BID were present at the All Saints meeting. Some business owners close to BID board members said they purposely wanted to avoid a public bashing.
“We’re not here to bash anybody,” Sullivan said. “We just want to establish some accountability.”
Javier Lorenzo, part owner of Local Bar and Grill, at 39-24 Bell Blvd., said all he wanted to know was where his money was going.
All property owners within the BID’s jurisdiction pay taxes toward the group and in turn should receive services to enhance the local image and economic experience. According to Degel, no major services have been provided to local business since Sullivan’s termination.
“Gregg raised money for a bunch of different services before he was fired,” Degel said. “The businesses never got those services and now they want their money back.”
Riso said the BID’s budget was $81,368 as of Dec. 31 and the board did everything expected of them and achievable by the budget to date. And according to Sclair, the BID is planning an outdoor arts fair June 9 along 41st Avenue.
Sullivan and Degel said they were working on raising support to elect a new BID board at the group’s annual meeting next month.
“It would make a world of a difference to Bayside if it had the services it deserves,” Sullivan said.
Business owners looking to contact the BID can call 718-423-2434 or email [email protected].
Reach reporter Phil Corso by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718-260-4573