Chamber Of Commerce Gets Nod From LIC Business Owners
A meeting in May to propose the formation of a chamber of commerce in Long Island City brought several persons to a luncheon at the Waterfront Crabhouse, all apparently enthusiastic about the idea. They were greeted by the chief promoter of the formation of the chamber, Arthur Rosenfield, whose several activities include being editor of the online publication, Our LIC. He observed that Long Island City is growing “faster than we realize” and needs a chamber of commerce to establish and protect the businesses that the community needs. Most of these enterprises could be classified as “small business”, so first-term Assemblymember Aravella Simotas, who, in Rosenfield’s words, “seems to be the champion of small business” was among those present. Also on hand were Jack Friedman, executive director of the Queens Chamber of Commerce, Joseph Conley, chairman of Community Board 2, and Eric Gioia, former two-term city councilmember. The many favorable opinions expressed helped bring about a motion to establish the chamber.
Simotas, successor to Michael Gianaris in the 36th Assembly District, indicated her sympathies with small business owners with an anecdote about a pizzeria owner in Astoria who was ticketed by a city inspector because his pies with meat toppings were not stored in the proper refrigerator. He installed the refrigerator at great expense, but worried it wouldn’t be operable before the inspector returned and fined him—heavily—again. She said she has submitted a bill in Albany specifying that city agencies inform store owners of the many requirements incumbent upon them and grant them 60-day compliance periods for each of those requirements. She also said that her experience as the daughter of parents who ran a Woodside delicatessen has given her intimate knowledge of small business. Gioia, whose family ran a floral shop near the Simotas family delicatessen, said he was in favor of a Long Island City chamber of commerce as soon as he heard about the proposal because small business needs chambers of commerce.
Rosenfield called on Neil Levin of Webline Designs Inc., 31-00 47th Ave., to initiate the general discussion on the chamber of commerce idea. Levin said he and his business partner participate in several local and borough groups but would gladly add a Long Island City Chamber of Commerce to the list. Renos Kourtides, who started Alma Bank in Astoria in 2007, was all in favor of a chamber of commerce. He said that though his bank was chartered at a time when the economy was headed into its current downturn, Alma Bank now has seven branches and he has been quite active in making business loans. Ivan Urgiles of the investment and securities firm David Lerner Associates said, despite the fact that Lerner does not have a Long Island City office, he visits the area frequently, having recognized the dynamism of the neighborhood, and had a display table at the luncheon. Raquel Salas of Big City Graphics, 46-09 11th St., said that business in Long Island City needs a big increase in foot traffic. John Vogt, former president of Sunnyside Chamber of Commerce, said a chamber of commerce is a unified voice, and “a unified voice gets the job done”. Paul Finnegan of the Irish Center on Jackson Avenue agreed with another luncheon guest who lamented having had to go to Sunnyside to find a hardware store, for while there may be some in Long Island City, there are not enough, meaning that hardware stores and other businesses need to be attracted to this locality and encouraged to establish themselves and prosper there.
Conley cited Community Board 2’s efforts to ease parking restrictions on both Queens Boulevard and 48th Avenue and also its successful demand that a new high school be built as part of the Hunters Point South residential project, suggesting that a chamber of commerce in Long Island City would give similar demands in future greater weight. A chamber in Long Island City could also distinguish between the need for more local supermarkets and the prospect of siting another chain drug store in the community, he said. He made the motion to form a chamber, adding that a committee of formation must be established. Friedman said the beginning step is up to the local people. If they start to build a chamber of commerce in Long Island City, his organization is ready to help in any way possible, he said.