The new president of the Farmingdale Chamber of Commerce, MaryAnn Paras seems to be enthused by the local community. "Farmingdale is taking on a new look, and I think that's all very exciting," she said during a recent interview.
MaryAnn Paras, the Farmingdale Chamber of Commerce's new president.
Now, she noted, she wants to build on it.
Paras, who was sworn in during the chamber's holiday party in December, has been with the organization for the past two years that she has been branch manager for EAB bank on Main Street. She noted that she has seen many improvements in Farmingdale throughout that time, citing the Main Street improvement project that is being handled by the Village of Farmingdale (a program, funded entirely by state and federal grants, which includes new sidewalks, street lighting, and a pedestrian plaza), the restoration of both the Farmingdale Long Island Railroad (LIRR) station and St. Kilian Church being headed by Farmingdale resident Daniel Looney, as well as the enhancement of local stores and the addition of new ones.
In an effort to enhance these efforts, Paras' major push as new chamber head is for the creation of a new Business Improvement District (BID) in Farmingdale. Praising village officials, merchants, and community members for improving the look of Farmingdale Village, Paras said, "There's just been a tremendous improvement over the past year." She added, "The BID is going to focus on marketing and improving Farmingdale for the first year anyway."
A BID, as defined by the chamber, is a specific geographic area established in accordance with New York State law which enables local property owners and residents to finance supplemental services and improvements beyond those provided by the local government.
The proposed BID would encompass all of Main Street (Melville Road to Fulton Street) and the portion of Conklin Street between Fulton Street and Secatogue Avenue. Its budget would come from the collection of additional taxes from property owners within its boundaries. According to New York State law, it must be approved by the property owners within it.
The proposed first year budget of the BID is expected to be about $62,000, and would be levied by the village on the approximately 140 property owners within the zone, based on an assessment of property values.
Paras' work on the BID began long before she was elected as chamber president. Before the election she was, and still is, chairperson of the chamber's BID Steering Committee. The chamber began pursuing the idea of the BID in February of 1997, when they hired Barbara J. Cohen, a Murray Hill Station, New York real estate consultant, to help them with it.
Those on the 15-member BID Steering Committee include Paul Gatto, owner of Paul Gatto Gallery, and Ralph Ekstrand, owner of Moby Drugs.
The Steering Committee determined what the priority of the BID would be through a business survey it sent to property owners within the proposed geographic area of the BID. The committee concluded that marketing and promotion should be a major focus, Paras said, because the survey revealed that "people are concerned with how to put Farmingdale on the map."
As chairperson of the BID Steering Committee, Paras also organized a committee of local group heads to share ideas for improving Farmingdale. These local group heads include John Mace of Farmingdale Kiwanis, Sylvia Claase of the Village Beautification Committee, William Johnston, village historian, Barbara Post, president of the Farmingdale-Bethpage Historical Society, Elena Guercio, president of the Women's Club, and Marialyce Denauski, village trustee, who is serving as a village liaison. "Everybody's looking to improve Farmingdale, and we want to make sure that there's no duplication of effort," Paras said.
The Steering Committee plans to form the BID as an entity that is independent of the chamber, which represents businesses within all of Farmingdale, not only those in downtown Farmingdale Village, Paras noted.
In addition to the BID, Paras' other goals for the chamber include growth in chamber membership and fostering a spirit of cooperation between the chamber and the rest of the community. The chamber currently has 171 members, which is approximately one percent of all businesses in all of Farmingdale. As for interaction with the rest of the community, Paras is pleased with the support shown to the chamber, and is optimistic that it will continue. "I think it's an overall attitude, of that things are getting better, and that everyone wants to participate," she said.
Paras, who is also a Farmingdale Rotarian and Massapequa resident, replaced Peter Yovine as president of the chamber. Yovine plans to continue working with the chamber as a board member. Praising Yovine for his work as head of the organization, Paras said, "He's just been very supportive of the activities that have taken place." She added, "He's promised his support for me."
Several other members were also introduced into the chamber's leadership during the holiday party. They are: Frank Bondietti, who previously served on the board and replaces Paras as treasurer; Kevin Bagnasco of Avanti Furniture, James Anderson of Anchor Planning, Yovine, and Allen Breslow, of Frank & Breslow, who will each be two-year board members. The following officers will retain their positions for 1998: Merlene Ryndfleiz of Bob's Electrical Contracting Corp., executive vice president; Margaret Bertolotti of the Farmingdale Federation of Teachers (FFT), vice president; Ruth Sattig Betz, CPA, vice president and Carol Feldhaus, of the FFT, secretary. The following other two-year board members will also retain their positions: Miriam Blau of Here & There Travel, Robin Graudons of Irene's House of Gifts, Laura Tavolacci of Creative Baskets and Gifts and Edwin Lucie of Sullivan , Shugrue & Lucie. Greg Carman Jr. of Carman, Callahan, & Ingham will remain legal advisor.