The Jamaica Center Business Improvement District celebrated its 41st annual meeting virtually with Executive Director Jennifer Furioli highlighting the unique challenges that the organization faced throughout 2020 with the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic.
During this time, the BID was forced to pivot their activities and operations, focusing less on shopping promotions and community events, to implementing emergency programs to help businesses stay open and comply with government directives.
The BID also decided to focus more on quality of life issues due to city budget cutbacks and their resultant emphasis on the commercial district.
Prior to the onset of the coronavirus crisis, there were some early marketing successes that Furioli emphasized during the virtual meeting, including: a holiday shopping initiative last December titled “Procrastination Station,” where the BID visited Jamaica Avenue with their mascot Snowman; a last-minute Gift Givers Idea guide promoting 46 district businesses; the activation of empty storefront windows with ugly sweater contest decals; and bringing a live pop-up brass band to enliven Jamaica Avenue.
The BID also created an “I Love Jamaica Avenue” campaign to encourage local shopping loyalty in tandem with Valentine’s Day, when they adorned 75 businesses with “I Love Jamaica Avenue” decals and another online campaign promoting 27 area businesses.
In addition to the pre-pandemic marketing initiatives, the Jamaica Center BID also conducted a full analysis of tree pits and trees along the avenue which resulted in a $10,000 allocation of funding from Councilman Rory Lancman to fix several tree pits, work that will begin next year. The BID also invited a skilled horologist to examine the historic and landmarked street clock at the corner of Union Hall and Jamaica Avenue.
The BID is currently working closely with Councilman I. Daneek Miller’s office and NYC agencies to develop a plan to secure funding to restore the street clock to its historic glory. Miller has provided a generous seed grant towards the clock restoration.
Furioli proceeded to highlight the Jamaica Center BID’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including the creation of a special coronavirus webpage on the BID’s site that kept property and business owners abreast of government directives, loans and grants and technical assistance resources. The BID provided 25 of their district’s small businesses one-to-one help and referrals on matters such as PPP, EIDL grants, the NY Forward Loan and the NYC Small Business Services grant and loan program and served as a City of New York distribution partner for PPE supplies to southeast Queens businesses, distributing 5,200 pieces of PPE to date.
The BID also created a list of essential businesses that remained open during the initial shutdown of the city. Lastly, there was the launch of the BID’s “Shop Local Pledge” reminding southeast Queens consumers that local businesses needed them more than ever and encouraging them to sign-on to supporting Jamaica Avenue retail and restaurants.
This pledge was revealed at several events, including the celebrations at the Black Lives Matter mural on Jamaica Avenue. One of the key programs that was introduced to the Downtown Jamaica community this year was the creation of JBID Alerts!, a cell phone notification program where the bid can easily notify businesses and property owners if there is a district-wide emergency on Jamaica Avenue or if timely coronavirus news affecting businesses is released. Currently, there are more than 100 businesses and property managers signed up for these alerts.
“Jamaica Avenue is resilient. Queens is resilient. And New York City is resilient and open for business,” Furioli said. “Now it is the time for us to safely support our business community by giving them our patronage.”
The Jamaica Center BID also acknowledged their contracted Clean Team ,which provides cleaning services in the district. In the past year, the BID spent 16,650 hours on sanitation-related issues, removing 37,447 bags of trash from the 101 trash receptacles on Jamaica Avenue and cleaning up 24,337 incidents of graffiti, stickers and illegally posted bills.
In early October, the Clean Team removed 150 bags of illegally dumped trash from two spots within a one block radius of one another.