• December 13, 2019
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Queens Chronicle

Woodhaven BID gets new director

Meet mom of three who brought her own pair of shoes to fill

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Posted: Thursday, December 13, 2018 10:30 am

Ever since Raquel Olivares was named executive director of the Woodhaven Business Improvement District last month, people have been telling her she has big shoes to fill.

Olivares’ predecessor, Maria Thomson, who died last January, had had the job for 30 years. Her name is still on the door of the office on Jamaica Avenue.

“I can tell by the way people talk about her, that she really, really cared for this community,” Olivares told the Chronicle this week.

“However, I have my own shoes,” she said smiling and pointing to a set of stylish, short boots.

Frank Castelli, owner of Beat the Clock Printing and chairman of the Woodhaven BID who hired Olivares after a long search, can vouch for that.

After just two weeks on the job, Olivares rounded up Castelli and several others from the BID to go to City Hall in Manhattan to take part in a demonstration against the Department of Building’s controversial crackdown on small business signs.

There is no hotter issue along Jamaica Avenue these days. The ticket blitz for small-potatoes infractions like having a phone number on a store awning — a no-no under existing law — have been costing store owners a small fortune.

Officials from the Woodhaven BID were suddenly posing for pictures — with protest signs — on the steps of City Hall with other BIDs from all over the city. Store owners learned firsthand how the crackdown is going on all over town.

“This is something we never did before,” said Castelli.

There are 75 business improvement districts — quasi-city agencies with the power to collect a small tax from the businesses in a designated district — in New York. The money they collect is used for things like lighting and street and sidewalk cleaning. But the most succcesul BIDs are the ones that promote the shops in their areas and attract news ones.

The Woodhaven BID’s area is the city’s longest, more than 20 blocks of Jamaica Avenue east and west of Cross Bay Boulevard.

So who is the person who is now supposed to be taking care of all that now that Thomson, who had been doing that job pretty much since BIDS were invented, is gone?

Olivares, 36, was most recently at the Cypress Hills and the Fulton Street BIDs in Brooklyn.

The mother of three — two boys, 16 and 11, and a 2-year-old daughter — however, has spent more than enough time in Woodhaven to pause her conversations for a second until the J train rumples past.

“My mother-in-law, all my in-laws, live in Woodhaven — 85th Streeet,” she said “I’ve been coming here for 10 years.”.

The transition, so far, has been painless, she said.

“Since day one, people have been very welcoming,” Olivares said. “I’ve met with the Block Association of Greater Woodhaven, the police, the elected officials and they have all been overwhelmingly positive.”

It didn’t necessarily have to be that way, she suggested. “So I’m very grateful to the community for that.

“I’m very much a team player,” the new executive director said. “That’s the way work like this is done.”

Among the jobs ahead for Olivares are computerizing the BID’s financial operations; finding a new office with a meeting space in the neighborhood (“So we don’t have to have large meetings in the diner across the street,” she jokes); and attracting some clothing stores to the avenue, which seems to offer everything but that.r

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