Riverhead’s downtown Business Improvement District head sent off a letter to the media Monday claiming the BID “is under attack by Councilwoman Jodi Giglio.”
Ray Pickersgill, president of the BID management association,which runs the downtown taxing district, said in an interview afterward that BID officials are upset by comments Ms. Giglio supposedly made on her weekly radio spot on WRIV 1390 AM.
The comments became the station’s lead news item later in the week, saying Ms. Giglio feels the BID should have less events, and should concentrate more on permanent infrastructure projects downtown, while turning over events to the Riverhead Chamber of Commerce.
“I’m just annoyed that she could come out and say things like this,” Mr. Pickerskill said in an interview. “She should concentrate on being a councilperson and getting something done that needs to be done and don’t bother people that are doing things.
“Don’t break something that’s not broken.”
Mr. Pickersgill said he belongs to the National Association of Main Streets, which recently released a report showing how events spur downtown economies.
“She wants us to do more capital improvements, but she doesn’t know what capital projects we do,” Mr. Pickersgill said.
“The BID brings grants to Riverhead,” Mr. Pickersgill’s letter states. “As President of the BID, I was personally involved, in successfully bringing grants to Main Street, to build a boathouse for crew races on our river, monies to repair and reopen the long shuttered comfort station, and dollars to create and build a synthetic ice skating rink. The only sidewalk repairs in recent years were done by the BID and the only new trees planted downtown were done by the BID.”
Reached later for a response, Ms. Giglio said she never suggested the BID have less events, although she does think BID officials should consider more permanent projects.
She said she was “very surprised” at Mr. Pickerskill’s criticisms of her.
“I think Ray does a great job and I think that the BID management association does a great job of bringing people to downtown,” Ms. Giglio said. “Ray called and he was very upset that I made a recommendation that they work through the projects they have to the table, such as the ice-skating rink and the boathouse. I think we need to have some infrastructure to keep people here once they come to Riverhead.”
Mr. Pickerskill said he thinks Ms. Giglio is criticizing the BID because the events “make Sean Walter look good.”
Mr. Giglio has recently been at odds with Supervisor Sean Walter, with Mr. Walter recently apologizing to her for cursing at her following a board meeting. Ms. Giglio and Mr. Walter are of the same party, as are the others on the all-Republican Town Board.
“I just made a recommendation that they take a small portion of their budget and to do a project downtown where when people are staying at the Hyatt, they have something to go to, like a water spraying park for the kids to run around in,” Ms. Giglio said.
“I never said there should be less events,” she repeated.
She said the BID spends about $140,000 per year and has a budget of $110,000, as well as reserves.
She believes the BID management association should also spend more on marketing.
Mr. Pickerskill said the BID currently has brochures featuring every Main Street business and those brochures are at every LIRR train station from Grand Central Terminal to Greenport and Montauk. The BID’s events are free to the public and help local businesses to attract customers, he added.
“The BID advertises downtown, promotes downtown, speaks for downtown and does ombudsman work to recruit and assist new businesses to locate here,” Mr. Pickerskill’s letter states.
Councilman Jim Wooten, who is the Town Board liaison to the BID, said he doesn’t like what he’s seeing.
“It seems like the campaign is starting early,” he said. “There’s definitely a political tone to this. I see the lines are being drawn in the sand already and people are attacking people and I don’t like it.”
He also defended Mr. Giglio’s right to speak her mind.
“As not only a councilwoman but a BID taxpayer she has a right to say how the money is being spent, even more than I do [as liaison],” Mr. Wooten said.
The BID is a downtown area taxing district that uses its funds for events, projects and promotions to bring activity to the area. The BID management association runs the district, but the BID board is actually the Riverhead Town Board, and approves all expenditures.
There has been controversy over whether the Town Board should have any involvement in the BID.
Ms. Giglio is a partner in the Summerwind affordable apartments projects, and thus pays taxes to the BID as well.
Mr. Pickersgill as president serves as head of the management association.