Not only was she stepping into the formidable shoes of the late Maria Thomson, who had managed the WBID for decades, she was walking into a chaotic situation.
Not many people will ever realize what a difficult start that was, and what a remarkable job Ms. Olivares did to navigate Woodhaven through that rocky stretch.
With that period of adjustment now behind her, Olivares is looking forward to the next phase, which kicks off with a public meeting on Wednesday, September 18, at 7 p.m. at Woodhaven Manor at 96-01 Jamaica Avenue.
Everyone is welcome to attend. An important note: the meeting will take place on the second floor. Woodhaven Manor has an elevator near the back entrance when entering through the parking lot.
If you have complaints, ideas or suggestions, don’t just talk to your neighbors or complain online. This is your opportunity to engage the WBID about our 25-block shopping district.
“I am always available to discuss any concerns or ideas businesses, property owners or residents might have,” Olivares said. “I'm open to new ideas and suggestions, but change doesn't happen from one day to another.
“As the new executive director, my priorities have been making sure we are in compliance and building a good foundation to work on future projects,” she added.
Olivares knew she was up to that challenge, but she also knew how important it was to reach out and build relationships with other community-based organizations.
“That’s been my biggest satisfaction during these first 10 months,” she said, “working with and getting to know so many different people from this great community.”
Speaking of Woodhaven, Olivares has been transformed into its greatest fan and looks forward to meeting with and listening to the concerns of even more residents at the WBID meeting.
In Olivares own words, here are some of the accomplishments and points of discussion you will hear about at that meeting:
“We had to find our own space where we could meet with businesses, property owners and community leaders and speak about plans to improve Jamaica Avenue. We recently opened our office at 89-07 Jamaica Avenue on the 2nd Floor.
“We have been conducting ongoing outreach to the stores on the avenue to make sure that all businesses from Dexter Court to 100th Street know about the WBID and the services we provide.
“We have been working on visibility and promotion of Jamaica Avenue by organizing community events to attract foot traffic and advertise what we have to offer. We also gave the website an overhaul and we’ll be publishing a business directory, as well as a newsletter.”
Olivares is also seeking to leverage her expertise in working with the city to help Woodhaven’s business owners.
“Our businesses are experiencing a vast number of fines, sometimes because of the lack of proper information,” she said. “To combat this, we’ve been focusing on business retention, organizing meetings with small businesses and city agencies to help businesses avoid unnecessary fines and educating them on the many free resources available to them.”
At the same time, Olivares is mindful that residents of Woodhaven have a vested interest in the health of their business district and seeks their input and help.
“We’ve been meeting with real estate agents, taking about available spaces and what we believe are the industries missing on the avenue,” she said. “We also created a database of all vacant properties in the district in hopes of collaborating with the property owners to attract different businesses to Woodhaven.”
It’s been a terrific start, but there is a lot more work to be done and Raquel Olivares hopes you’ll come out to the meeting next week to help map the future of Woodhaven’s business district.