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Bayside BID debates firing of former head

New Bayside Village Business Improvement District Executive Director Lyle Sclair (r.) tells Bayside business owners what he plans to do with his new role while his predecessor Gregg Sullivan (l.) looks on. Photo by Phil Corso
TimesLedger Newspapers

It was a look into the past, present and future of the Bayside Village Business Improvement District packed into the same meeting last week, and although confrontational at times, the conversation had shifted by the meeting’s end to the core message of bettering local business.

“The goal is to leave this room with a healthier Bayside,” said Gregg Sullivan, ousted executive director of the Bayside Village BID.

For the first time since Sullivan’s firing in December, BID members gathered inside All Saints Episcopal Church, at 214-35 40th Ave., May 8 for a business and property owners summit 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 BID Executive Director Lyle Sclair and members of the city Small Business Administration.

The meeting was held partly in response to an initial gathering Sullivan and Degel helped launch last month, when 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 the May 8 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.

“I want this to be one truth,” Sullivan said.

Dominick Bruccoleri, owner of Pappazio restaurant, was on the board that voted to terminate Sullivan and said his biggest issue was acting without speaking to the board.

He said Sullivan had charged different fees to different businesses on Bell Boulevard and signed contracts even though executive directors were not given that responsibility.

“We’re doing damage control now,” Bruccoleri said. “We could not get anything done with him in charge.”

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 that at one point 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.”

Elizabeth De Leon, deputy commissioner of the Neighborhood Development Division at Small Business Services, said she was impressed and not discouraged by the emotional and heated conversation at the meeting. She said of the 67 city BIDs she oversees, the most passionate are the ones that thrive.

“It’s amazing to see a community come together so much,” De Leon said. “You guys are headed in the right direction.”

Since the meeting, Sullivan had both publicly and privately said he would help Sclair with his new position however possible.

“Bayside is very precious,” Sullivan said. “I wish the new director the best of luck and I’m here to help in any way I can.”

Reach reporter Phil Corso by e-mail at pcorso@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4573.

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