2004-04-16 / Front Page

Chamber Exec Has BID Plans For Rockaway

By Brian Magoolaghan

Chamber Exec Has BID Plans For Rockaway

Rockaway Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Joanie Omeste and President John Lepore at Brown's Hardware this week.Rockaway Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Joanie Omeste and President John Lepore at Brown's Hardware this week.

Can you imagine a Times Square-like turnaround for the business areas in Rockaway? Well, the new executive director of the Rockaway Chamber of Commerce says she can.

Joanie Omeste, who was part of the team that cleaned up Times Square in the 1990s, took her first steps at the Chamber this week.

"I'm figuring out the lay of the land," said Omeste, a 44-year-old Long Beach resident who recently bought a small share in Heresheis, a thoroughbred racehorse.

More like a baseball player herself, Omeste is going through her warm-ups, but she was drafted because she's a heavy hitter (think B.I.D. not R.B.I.).

Omeste is a former vice president for the Times Square Business Improvement District, or B.I.D., which is credited with literally cleaning up the highly trafficked Manhattan crossroad, making it a desirable location for businesses and tourism. She first joined the B.I.D. as the executive assistant to the president, and coordinated the restoration of the Embassy I, the landmark movie theater that became the Times Square Visitor's Center. Prior to that she worked for the Rockefeller's in their family offices.

"The Yankees got A-Rod and we got Joanie," crowed Chamber of Commerce President John Lepore.

B.I.D.'s are a public/private partnership in which property and business owners collectively support the maintenance, development and promotion of their commercial district. Property owners in a B.I.D. pay a special assessment, which is collected by the city and then disbursed back to the district for maintenance, public safety, marketing and capital projects. The Chamber's plan, according to Lepore and Omeste, is to establish a B.I.D. anchored by Beach 116 Street but including property on along Beach Channel Drive and Rockaway Beach Boulevard, which also have businesses. Far Rockaway would be included as the B.I.D. grows, they said.

Omeste told The Wave she was attracted to the challenge in Rockaway by the "limitless potential" she has seen as a visitor.

"I drive through here and I see what can be," she said. "I'm just ready for the next step... Times Square has been brought back."

Monday was a busy first day for Omeste. She and Lepore toured the Beach 116 Street area in the morning and met local businesspeople. That night `she attended an informal gathering of business owners and residents from the entire peninsula. Omeste's philosophy is "Neighborhoods that work together are neighborhoods that work."

The time spent meeting and greeting is apparently paying off - there's already a buzz going around about the Chamber's new executive director.

By Monday afternoon Kathleen Woods, who has worked at Browns Hardware on Beach 116 Street for more than 20 years, was already on a first name basis with Omeste. The two met first in the morning and then again when Omeste returned with Lepore to have a set of office keys duplicated.

"We expect big things out of her," Woods said.

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