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There were points where so many people spoke over each other that no words were audible, while at other times one commanding voice dominated and echoed throughout the room.
But by the end of a heated Bayside business and property owners summit Tuesday night, the discussion had shifted from the past to the future.
“The goal is to leave this room with a healthier Bayside,” said Gregg Sullivan, ousted executive director of the Bayside Village Business Improvement District.
For the first time since Sullivan’s firing in December, BID members gathered inside All Saints Episcopal Church, at 214-35 40th Ave., to publicly smooth over various issues concerning the business group.
Those in attendance included Sullivan, BID Chairman Jim Riso, Uncle Jack’s Steakhouse CEO William Degel, City Councilman Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone), newly appointed Executive Director Lyle Sclair and members of Small Business Administration.
The meeting was held partly in response to an initial gathering Sullivan and Degel helped launch last month, where Bell Boulevard business owners and residents called on the BID to respond to claims of inactivity and a lack of transparency since Sullivan’s firing.
“Nobody denies that we did face a huge setback,” Riso said in his opening address at Tuesday’s meeting. “The last thing I wanted to do was fire Gregg.”
Riso said Sullivan’s termination was a board decision and not his alone. The firing came in light of behavior that Riso said included Sullivan’s conducting business without the board’s approval.
But according to Degel, one of the BID’s biggest problems in recent months has been keeping business owners and residents informed as to where their taxpayer money was going.
Sullivan said he tried to rebut claims made by the board about his performance at the meeting, but infighting made it difficult for him to get his point across.
Arguments over the decision to fire Sullivan and his actions became heated at times as members of the board sparred with the former executive director over different aspects of his tenure. The tension became so intense at one point that Halloran jumped out of his seat to put an end to the squabbling.
“You’re all killing me,” Halloran told the suddenly quiet room. “There needs to be more input with the business owners. What I would like to see is for everyone to move forward.”
The meeting shifted focus after Halloran spoke out and Sclair took the microphone to talk about the BID’s future with him at the helm.
“I think we have a lot of opportunity going forward,” Sclair said. “Once I understand our challenges, we can match our collective strengths to face them. It’s my job to make you money.”
Reach reporter Phil Corso by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4573.
©2012 Community Newspaper Group
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