2002-05-11 / Front Page

Lepore Takes Over Chamber Reins

By Howard Schwach

By Howard Schwach

John Lepore, the owner of AllState Insurance in Rockaway Park takes a look at Rockaway and sees "267 civic and block associations" each fighting for its piece of the pie.

"It’s good for people to get involved in their communities, but there has to be somebody who speaks for Rockaway, there sometimes has to be one voice."

Lepore, who has just taken over as the president of the Chamber of Commerce of the Rockaways, sees his organization as that one voice.

"The chamber has no political agenda, no axe to grind," Lepore told The Wave. "We’re the only organization with strong ties to both the east and west ends of the peninsula that does not have a political agenda."

He adds that we have to do away with the things that isolate one community from another.

"Politicians and city agencies often separate us socially as well as politically," he says. "I hate to use the word ‘inclusion,’ because that has a bad connotation, but that’s what we need. Long ago, business on the east end of the peninsula was king. Now, business on the west end has taken over. In fact, we have more membership on the east end than the west, but our penetration into that market is not as great."

"We have to run events on both ends of the peninsula and we have to insure that both ends are equally served," the new president adds.

Lepore says that everything that is good for the people who live on the peninsula is also good for business and therefore, for the members of his organization.

"Everybody wants a clean environment, good schools, some places to shop at, a low crime rate, a decent quality of life. That is what the organization wants as well," he says. "We get businesses who come to us to relocate in Rockaway and they ask us where their kids can go to school and how they get to Manhattan. It is tough to answer those questions to their satisfaction."

Lepore favors a ferry service from Rockaway to Manhattan, but says that the ferry has to be done right.

"It has to be a short, comfortable ride," he says. "If it’s going to take as long to get to Manhattan as it does on the A Line, then nobody is going to use it."

John follows Liz Sulik as president of the chamber. Liz has moved to the organization’s executive director slot. He admits that she will be a tough act to follow.

"I like to joke that I could never fit into Liz’s shoes," he laughs. "Neither her flats nor her high heels."

"She has phenomenal organizational qualities and an energy that can’t be matched," he added. "We plan to continue many of the things that she started here in Rockaway."

Lepore lives in Rockaway Park with his wife Susie and their two children. One child is currently a student at PS 114, while the other attends Boody Junior High School in Brooklyn.

John Lepore, who recently took over as president of the Chamber of Commerce of the Rockaways, as a recent organization dinner.

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