Downtown Riverhead’s Business Improvement District Management Association has a new president.
Steve Shauger, general manager of the Hyatt Place East End, was elected president of the not-for-profit corporation that manages the BID’s affairs on behalf of the town.
Shauger swapped places with longtime BIDMA president Raymond Pickersgill, who was elected vice president.
“I had to beg him to consider it,” Shauger said.
Pickersgill has served president of the BID Management Association board in March 2010, but for a four-month period in 2014, when he stepped down to accept a temporary paid position with the organization.
Shauger joined the BIDMA board in 2013, two years after taking the helm at Hyatt Place East End. He became board vice president last year.
Other board officers elected last night were Bill Allan, interim treasurer, and Nancy Kouris, secretary.
The organization’s board of directors voted unanimously to elect its officers after the group’s sparsely attended annual meeting last night at Town Hall, where phone calls were made by those present in order to rustle up enough people to constitute a quorum for the official meeting.
The sparse attendance at the annual meeting is nothing new and for the past couple of years, the meeting has been mired in confusion and not without controversy.
This year’s meeting did not disappoint. Board members conducting the meeting were uncertain about how many board vacancies actually needed to be filled and who was running. A preprinted ballot for tenant directors was missing a name.
Some of the confusion arises from the BIDMA’s complicated bylaw requirements regarding representation of commercial tenants and owners on the board. The bylaws require the board to have five elected owner-directors and five elected tenant-directors. Only property owners can vote for owner-directors and only commercial tenants can vote for tenant-directors. Property owners who are also tenants — are deemed voters of both classes.
After things were sorted out, written ballots were collected and counted.
John Peragine, owner of Perabell Food Bar became the board’s newest member, while John Mantzopoulos, owner of Mazi, was returned to the board after an absence. Dee Muma, owner of Dark Horse Restaurant, Bill Allan, owner of Minuteman Press and Bobby Hartmann, owner of Mainstream House, were re-elected.
Carolyn Poncato, owner of Vital-A-Tea on East Main Street unsuccessfully sought election to a tenant-director’s board seat. She was one of four candidates for three tenant-director slots.
Prior to the voting, Poncato spoke at some length about business on Riverhead’s Main Street. She started out by asking everyone in attendance to close their eyes, relax and “let all the sarcasm leave the room,” though she did not explain what she was referring to.
“There is a huge disconnect here,” she said of the downtown business area. Poncato said she spoke to more than 50 business owners along Main Street after a BID official she did not name told her she was “late for the party” and had “no right to complain.”
“I haven’t complained once, I’ve only tried to do my best for the community,” she said.
Poncato said she was “a little floored” that only one of the 50 people she said she spoke to showed up for the meeting.
“Every single business owner that I’ve spoken to is angry, is bitter and has walls,” Poncato declared. “Who here is going to help bring them down.”
Main Street business owners are struggling, she said, because ”foot traffic here is non-existent.” She said some are in danger of closing their doors.
Mantzopoulos said he’s seen more than 100 businesses close down since he opened his first restaurant on Main Street in 2004.
“A lot of these people that went out really didn’t apply themselves,”Mantzopoulos said. When you’re a small business owner, “you’re the first one in and the last one out” and you have to do whatever it takes to get the job done, he said.
He also faulted people for not getting involved and speaking out.
“If I’m going to be a good advocate for my business, I’m going to attend,”Mantzopoulos said. “You can’t just sit back and complain.”
Poncato repeatedly denied that she was complaining, though she expressed extreme disappointment in how many downtown events brought in outside vendors that competed with Main Street shops.
When she was not elected to one of the three tenant-director seats up for grabs, she stood up, and expressed her dismay, saying, “Unbelievable. So much for community.” She then left the meeting.
After being asked to disclose the vote totals, director Larry Oxman, who’d taken the tally, said the tenant-director vote was Hartmann 15, Mantzopoulos 13, Allan 12 and Poncato 10.
The new board president asked the board to consider hiring a paid staff person.
“All of us are very busy and it’s often very tough to get things done,” Shauger said. “I would want to put someone in place to be able to take the BID to the next level,” he said.
Mantzopoulos suggested Pickersgill for the job, but he said he wouldn’t consider it.
The board set up a committee — Shauger, Oxman and Muma — to refine the idea, come up with a job description and report back to the board.
Editor’s note: East End Local Media Corp., the company that publishes this website is a tenant-member of the Business Improvement District.
The survival of local journalism depends on your support.
We are a small family-owned operation. You rely on us to stay informed, and we depend on you to make our work possible. Just a few dollars can help us continue to bring this important service to our community.
Support RiverheadLOCAL today.