SUTPHIN BUSINESS – GETTING IT RIGHT
By Malcolm Boyd
With many communities in the New York City metro area, the recent trend in moving a community forward to keep up with the times is usually in direct conflict with not losing its identity, culture and the uniqueness – those traits that made it YOUR individual community. Balancing between wholesale re-gentrification and being stuck in ‘what should be” can be a very delicate tight wire act: the line between the two is a thin one.
So when the powers-that-be at the Sutphin Business Improvement Development organization hired Glenn Greenidge as Executive Director to heading up its project, from all indications they got it right. Since taking the reins of the Sutphin Boulevard BID, he has invested time, energy, effort, reputation, and heart – not to mention his expert business pedigree, and it’s not only because it’s his job, but he is also a member of this community. Very few things truly reflect back on how a person is more than the community you live in and I doubt that if anyone has a major say so in how their community grows would they short change themselves. Just to name a few here is a quick list of what Mr. Greenidge has brought to the community since taking over at SBID.
- Created the Sutphin Blvd Harvest Festival, bringing in over 10,000 people in the district for fun, food, and the boundless creativity found in southeast Queens. The Harvest Festival has run for three consecutive years, with 2020 still undecided due to COVID-19.
- Reinstituted and hosted the annual Sutphin Blvd. Summer Jazz Festival, presenting weekly LIVE jazz performances in front of the Queens County Supreme Courthouse for three years running. This festival is also broadcast live via Facebook.
- Coordinated the Air Train Jazz Festival for four consecutive years, presenting live jazz performances at the Jamaica LIRR Station for four years running. The Air Train Jazz Festival is a cooperative effort with Greg Mays, founding director of a fellow southeast Queens non-profit organization, A Better Jamaica.
- Created and implemented a widespread local campaign “Hate Has No Business Here,” in answer to the increasingly hostile environment for non-documented potential clients who are a large part of the surrounding residential community.
- Sutphin BID has financially supported the Grace Episcopal Church soup kitchen, in addition to supplying volunteers to assist in the kitchen. Glenn has also successfully enlisted area grocers to donate foodstuffs and turkeys for the +200 meals served.
- Coordinated local elementary school students participating in Vision Zero Traffic Safety Banner Residency Program – a project with the NYC Department of Transportation Safety Education, in collaboration with Universe City NYC and local Business Improvement Districts, which collectively engaged New York City 5th – 8th grade students in exploring the traffic safety environment in the area around their schools, displaying the ‘Vision Zero’ banners throughout the district.
- Coordinated Black History Month events with the Queens Chronicle newspaper and the local Starbucks Coffee location, honoring southeast Queens community stakeholders, since 2018. Starbucks has been a long-term supporter of the Sutphin Blvd BID community efforts.
- Annual Mother’s Day event at Grace Church Parish House honoring local community women this past year; attended by 85 people.
If ever there is a mayor named for the Sutphin business area, it should be Glenn Greenidge. I have personally watched him go door to door on Sutphin Boulevard, meeting with small business owners in the area, discussing their concerns of being pushed out of their neighborhood due to the sudden uptick in construction and influx of corporate dollars.
I have watched him take the time to speak with people on the street: simple, everyday residents from the community. Along with Pauline Swift, publisher of Our World Media Magazine, Glenn has handed out pandemic-related facemasks while doing what’s one of the most important tasks as the BID’s executive director: close his mouth and listen to his neighbors.
It is impossible to calculate how many hours he has spent in board meetings, trying to juggle the wants of the Board and the needs of the community. Mr. Greenidge has the unenviable job of making the powers-that-be happy, at the same time convincing his community that “the change a-coming” is for everyone’s benefit – AND making sure that the promises made to the community will be honored.
Not an easy task.
But not all is well on Sutphin Blvd. With growth comes change, and with change comes the inevitable resistance. Like most older established neighborhoods, Sutphin has its own good – and bad – personalities. But it seems the BAD one isn’t ready for the oncoming GOOD changes.
Along Sutphin Blvd across from the Jamaica Air Train station, street drugs continue to be sold. While investigating this problem, a local maintenance man told Glenn and I that the drug trade on the street goes on around the clock and is bad as he has seen it in years.
Mr. Greenidge has looked to local police for assistance with this very self-destructive and dangerous problem. In a meeting with the 103rd precinct commander, Glenn highlighted how NYPD police cruisers will park on Sutphin – but the police never get out of their cars. The drug dealers will scatter – but after a few minutes of sitting in plain sight, the cops will drive away. Minutes later, the drug dealers return and it’s ‘Business as Usual.’ The NYPD precinct commander said that because of the latest political and societal climate, and pushback against police brutality, ‘that we are severely restricted in what we can do.’
Many questions come to mind, but at the top of this list is: Would Glenn have been told the same thing if he went to the police, complaining about the drug activity on the streets of the Upper East Side or Park Avenue? Not likely.
The problem isn’t an easy one to handle but it is not an impossible task. We should all be in agreement with Mr. Greenidge: ALL parties committed to a safe and burgeoning Sutphin Boulevard district have to put forth that extra effort:
- The board room extending a stronger community outreach.
- A community that acknowledges that it can no longer turn a blind eye to this behavior.
- The message has to be spread amongst its young men and women that this self-destructive behavior will no longer be accepted or excused.
- The police must change with the times as well: voluntarily reject the increasing ‘police militarization’ trend: by positively communicating with the people on the street, and becoming community PARTNERS with the citizens in maintaining lawfulness in southeast Queens.
In short, all involved have to know that it is going to take the entire community to make these necessary changes successful.
Mr. Greenidge has his finger firmly on the pulse of the Sutphin Boulevard neighborhood, plus a full comprehension of the direction it is going. He has demonstrated his commitment to moving this business district forward via a myriad of community events, area church and civic communications, merchants’ programs, and working with the New York City Police Dept.
The Sutphin Boulevard Business Improvement District cannot afford to ‘change direction in the middle of the stream.’ Glenn Greenidge has pushed, demanded, negotiated and worked hard to get this district ready to ‘move forward’ to the next level. He deserves the continued support of the community, and the community deserves his continued leadership for a strong economic and progressive future.