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Bayside BID eyes new ways to attract shoppers

Bell Boulevard’s business community met last week for the third-annual meeting of the Bayside Village Business Improvement District, where Executive Director Gregg Sullivan said the BID is considering extending its borders..

Current and prospective members gathered at the Redeemer Lutheran Church, at 36-01 Bell Blvd. in Bayside, to hear an update on the organization’s progress and its plans for the future.

The BID got its start — as well as its current borders — three years ago when the Bayside Business Association decided to start a new organization dedicated solely to Bell Boulevard, according to Sullivan. Established by the city Department of Small Business Services, there are 64 BIDs throughout the five boroughs.

The BID extends from the north side of Northern Boulevard up to the south side of 35th Avenue and on 41st Avenue from the Long Island Rail Road station on the west side to the municipal parking lot on the west.

“With the BID, you’re not just one guy from one restaurant, or 7-11, or one retailer. The reaction you’d normally get [from city agencies] is, ‘Good luck, I hope your business makes it,’” Sullivan said.

Under Sullivan’s one-year tenure, the BID has organized an arts and crafts fair, hired a sanitation service for the boulevard, decorated the street with holiday lights and put pressure on the city to clear parking spaces during the winter snowstorms.

“We got almost all our parking spaces cleaned when other towns around us did not,” Sullivan said.

Chairman James Riso said the board of directors is having discussions about extending the BID to the north and south and including some of the side streets.

Frank Griffith is the owner of the Tequila Sunrise restaurant, which is on the north side of 35th Avenue. He is a member of the BBA, but does not benefit from the BID’s services.

“I’d like them to clean the street, and for the Christmas lights to come to me,” he said.

Each member of the BID pays $15 per linear foot of storefront, and the organization has a budget of just over $80,000, although Sullivan said he is exploring plans to increase that figure to $150,000.

The BID operated at a $10,000 deficit last year, but due to the previous years’ surplus, it is not in an overall deficit position.

Plans for the future include landscaping an area around the Long Island Rail Road station and installing a gazebo, as well as organizing a street festival, which provoked a lively conversation at the meeting.

Sullivan said that due to budget cuts, the city will not allow the BID to close down Bell Boulevard in order to save money on re-routing busses and the extra police man-power. He suggested organizing businesses to come out on the sidewalk and to set up stands on the side streets in order to create an atmosphere that would attract foot traffic. He said he would not bring in outside vendors, but Steve Lastihenos, owner of Apollo Comfort Shoes, at 42-34 Bell Blvd., said he thought vendors would be needed to draw people.

He also said he would like to see more businesses that pull in foot traffic during the daytime.

“As a retailer, I see more and more of the businesses only really attract people in the evening. People joke that it’s called Bar Boulevard. A lot of nightlife goes on after I close my doors,” he said.

Rich Bockmann by e-mail at rbockmann@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.

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