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Nahikian leaves top post at boro economic group

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The director of the borough’s independent economic development corporation left her post late last month amid conflicting reports over what precipitated her departure.

Marie Nahikian, who had served as executive director of the Queens County Overall Economic Development Corporation since 1997, confirmed in a phone interview Tuesday that she submitted her letter of resignation at the end of January.

“There comes a time when it is time to go,” said Nahikian, a Brooklyn resident.

But members of the organization’s board of directors, who met with Nahikian on Jan. 27 immediately before she resigned, gave contrasting accounts about why she left the group — a group she is credited with having revitalized during her six-year tenure.

“I think her resignation was precipitated by a disagreement with the board regarding the direction the organization was taking,” said Ernest Cury, a board member who owns an accounting firm in Jackson Heights. “There was a consensus that it was not going the way they wanted it to go. One thing led to another and she resigned.”

The president and the chairman of the board both insisted, however, that Nahikian left of her own accord with no pressure from her superiors.

“She resigned. When someone resigns, they resign,” said Gail Roseman, a realtor who serves as the board’s president. “There’s no circumstances around it, per se.”

“She said she wanted to pursue other things,” said Andrew Manger, the board chairman and Con Edison’s manager of economic development for Queens. “I’d say it was a surprise to everyone.”

Manger said the board has assembled a search committee to find a replacement for Nahikian and hopes to have someone in place by April. The committee plans to advertise the opening and will also accept applications in-house from the corporation’s seven-person staff.

“Like I told the entire staff today, everyone’s welcome to put in their resume,” Manger said.

Among those staff members is Terri Osborne, the former regional executive for the American Cancer Society and director of the Queens Council on the Arts, who was hired in recent months as the corporation’s director of information services and special projects.

Nahikian’s departure came only days after the corporation held its annual Queens Women Minding Their Business conference, an event designed to bring female entrepreneurs together and nurture business opportunities.

“In New York, timing is everything,” Nahikian said. “The timing for me worked very well because we just finished the Women’s Business Conference, the best we’ve ever had.”

A graduate of Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, Nahikian previously served as executive director of Habitat for Humanity in New York City and manager of the Regional Lending Consortium of the Long Island Housing Partnership. She has served under the mayors of Philadelphia and the District of Columbia.

Manger praised Nahikian for expanding the corporation’s outreach and leaving it on solid financial ground.

“She’s done a lot in advancing our programs, especially in the way of women entrepreneurship,” he said. “Marie was an instrumental part of putting the vision for the organization together.”

For her part, Nahikian said she succeeded in her goals of establishing financial stability for an organization that had been on shaky ground when she assumed her post and bringing its services to a more diverse collection of clients like minorities and women.

“What has been accomplished there in six years has been in some ways nothing short of amazing considering the organization wasn’t even on life support when I came on board,” Nahikian said. “I am very proud to leave behind what I am leaving because it’s probably one of the best economic development corporations in the city.”

Reach reporter Dustin Brown by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.

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