Riverhead BID Management Association president Ray Pickersgill says his organization is "under attack" by Councilwoman Jodi Giglio because of on-air comments she made on a local radio station last week.
According to Pickersgill, Giglio criticized the allocation of BID funds toward numerous downtown events, and said the organization should spend its budget on other things.
The BID is a special district of the Town of Riverhead. Properties within the district's geographic boundaries are assessed a special district tax. Most of the funds raised by the tax are administered by the BIDMA, a private, not-for-profit corporation run by a board elected by BID members (landowners or tenants within the district.) The town enters into a contract with the BIDMA for the management of the district's affairs and the town board approves the BID's budget.
In a letter to the editor Pickersgill sent to RiverheadLOCAL Monday, Pickersgill accused Giglio of playing politics with the BID.
"The BID has no political agenda," he wrote, taking a swipe at the Riverhead Business Alliance founded by Giglio which Pickersgill said she used to promote herself as a candidate for town board.
Giglio said she was shocked by Pickersgill's characterization of her comments last Wednesday on the Riverhead-based AM radio station WRIV.
"I didn't attack the BID," Giglio said Monday morning. "I made a simple suggestion." Giglio said she thinks the BID should allocate some of its funding to projects other than events. The BID could do more in the way of beautification and improvement projects, she said.
Pickersgill says the BID does indeed support projects downtown, pointing to the fence at the community garden and funding for historic district signs that are in the works. He also helps obtain grant funding for downtown in his role as a member of the Suffolk County Main Streets committee. But the events are great for downtown, Pickersgill said.
"We've brought more people downtown. This lets them see downtown is not what they might perceive it to be. It lets them see Riverhead is a nice place. It's safe. It has great restaurants and shops," he said. The events promote the entire town, not just downtown, Pickersgill said.
"I love the events," Giglio said. "I go to them with my family. I certainly wasn't saying we shouldn't have the events."
While some Main Street business owners agree, others do not.
"We may not sell that much on the day of an event, but it helps overall because it makes people aware you're here," said Susan Williams, manager at the Red Collection consignment store on East Main Street.
"It brings the light of awareness on Main Street," Steve Siegelwaks of Green Earth Grocery said.
Riverhead Diner & Grill owner Liz Strebel and Twin Forks Bicycles owner Nick Attisano, lament the loss of parking and limitation of access to their businesses by customers — especially when events are all-day affairs that continue for more than one day, like the Blues Festival.
"There's no question it hurts my business," Strebel said.
Attisano said as a newcomer to downtown — he recently relocated from Osborn Avenue to East Main Street — he's not sure if the short-term inconvenience and loss will be outpaced by long-term benefits from the events.
Pickersgill notes that his own business suffers on days when downtown events close down the Peconic River parking lot during his regular business hours.
"But on the whole it's great for the town," he said.
Giglio said she doesn't disagree and wasn't criticizing the job Pickersgill, a volunteer, does for the BID.
"I don't discount anything Ray does. I think he does a fabulous job as BID president," the councilwoman said.
The councilwoman should turn her attention to other things, Pickersgill said. "As the old saying goes," Pickersgill said, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it."
Giglio, for her part, blames BID board member Anthony Coates for politicizing the BID and stirring up trouble over her remark.
"He's planning to run against me next year," she said.
Giglio said Coates has already met with the Democratic committee about making a run for town board in 2013.
"That is absolutely 1000 percent untrue," Coates said. "I have had no contact whatsoever with anyone in the Democratic committee."
"To blame me as a private citizen who may or may not be involved in campaign 2013, which is a year and a half away, for silly quotes that she made on the radio is beyond nonsense," Coates said.