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Sharada Devi, head of the 82nd Street Business Improvement District, was fired by the BID’s board due to incompetence, and Small Business Commissioner Robert Walsh vowed to hire a new executive director who would turn the commercial strip around within 100 days.
“I can assure you we’re going to move and move quite quickly,” Walsh said.
The 82nd Street BID encompasses the street between 37th and Baxter avenues and spans the neighborhoods of Jackson Heights and Elmhurst, two City Council districts and two community boards.
Devi held the executive director post for nearly a decade, Walsh said. She was paid $45,000 a year.
The commissioner went on a walkthrough of the area with Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras (D-East Elmhurst) recently and described the street as “something out of a horror movie.”
He said there was graffiti on numerous storefronts — in one case on the top near the roof of a building. He said some trees were missing and, in one instance, a pot filled with garbage had been placed over a cut stump. Bags of garbage were placed next to garbage cans. The BID’s website said the street had four solar compactors, but he only found one and it was placed in the shade.
Walsh also said he went through the 24 businesses listed in the BID’s directory. He found that of the 24 listed numbers, 19 were either disconnected or inaccurate. When he and Ferreras went to Devi’s office to talk to her about it, Devi was not there and did not return their calls, Walsh said.
“I’m a little red-faced about it and a little bit embarrassed about it, quite frankly,” Walsh said.
He said he plans to hire a new executive director, increase the size of the board, reassess the services the strip receives and set the BID on the path to establish a positive relationship with local law enforcement. He said he will work closely with Ferreras and Councilman Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights).
“I think what Daniel has done and Julissa has done … they have been extremely positive about making change for the better,” Walsh said.
The commissioner, who ran Manhattan’s BID at Union Square, had some advice for the next executive director.
“Walk the beat like a cop. Know every merchant,” he said. “This is not hard. It’s a couple of blocks.”
Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4564.
©2011 Community Newspaper Group
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