Jamaica Center BID dismisses director

By Juan Soto

The Jamaica Center BID is looking for a new executive director after Felicia Tunnah was let go over differences with the BID’s board on how to promote downtown Jamaica.

“It was a mutual decision,” said Tunnah, who was hired as the business improvement district’s executive director last September. “The board and I had different visions for downtown.”

She declined in an email to give any specifics about the decision, but she added that “I wish them well,” referring to the BID’s future projects.

Jamaica Center’s website confirmed the organization was looking for Tunnah’s replacement.

It wants to hire a “talented and seasoned professional to serve as its executive editor,” according to the BID’s Web page. The person will be responsible for the “overall administration, financial management and day-to-day activities” of the BID, which covers a 15-block commercial area in downtown Jamaica.

Tunnah, who holds a master’s in city planning from the University of Pennsylvania, was hired last September to replace Laurel Brown.

Brown, who took over the organization in 2011, left at the time to head the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership.

Brown was one of three BID executives from across the city to be honored in July with a 2013 leadership award from the city Department of Small Business Services, which oversees a total of 67 BIDs.

During her tenure, Tunnah completed a project to install 100 street lamps along Jamaica Avenue to improve security after securing $229,000 in funding for the borough president. She also brought a pedestrian plaza to the area.

“She was getting work done,” said Greg Mays, founder of A Better Jamaica, a community nonprofit.

“But she had a hard act to follow after replacing” Laurel Brown, he pointed out.

Tunnah was also responsible for the Arts & Soul of the Southeast Queens Community showcase, an outdoor exhibition put into place with the collaboration of the city Department of Transportation Art Program and the Jamaica Center for Arts and Learning. The artwork is on Parsons Boulevard, between Jamaica and Archer avenues, adjacent to the subway station.

In the exhibition, Margaret Rose Vendryes and Dominique Sindayiganza presented their paintings and photographs of young girls and women as a way to examine the role of race and gender in contemporary African and African-American communities.

“This was a very good idea, a good project,” Mays said. “She was able to do stuff, like the street lights with the help of Melinda Katz’s office,” he added, referring to the borough president.

In the meantime, Derby Irby is serving as interim executive director at Jamaica Center BID, founded 35 years ago.

Reach reporter Juan Soto by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718-260-4564.

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