New street signs and maps detailing the area, a hotel building boom and numerous trashcans up and down Jackson Ave. are just some of Gayle Baron’s accomplishments during her 14-year tenure as president of the Long Island City Partnership.
Now, Long Island City will have to find someone else to take the reigns as Baron recently announced she is retiring from the post where she helped put LIC on the map.
“I have never found a more supportive and involved group of men and women,” said Baron, who described her experiences as demanding and challenging, but also enlightening, fulfilling and fun.
Outside her time as president, Baron also was executive director of the Long Island City Business Improvement District (BID), co-chair of the New York City BID Managers Association and executive director of the New York Women’s Agenda.
Prior to coming to Long Island City, Baron was an executive with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, where she was involved in economic development, real estate and ground transportation.
“[I am going to miss] the opportunity to bring Long Island City to the next level,” Baron said. “I’m so proud of what we’ve done as a team and there’s more to do. I think that the area will continue to evolve and grow.”
As president of the partnership, Baron oversaw the move of JetBlue headquarters from Forest Hills to Long Island City, supported businesses affected by Hurricane Sandy, helped create tourist street maps and witnessed the increase of hotels in the area.
“We think it looks fantastic,” Baron said in reference to the giant JetBlue sign installed on the roof of the Brewster Building at Queens Plaza. “We believe it’s just another iconic sign that will help brand Long Island City.”
JetBlue has 1,000 employees in Long Island City and is one of the largest employers in the neighborhood. Several local businesses reported an increase in customers when the airline arrived.
Baron also partnered with the Department of Transportation (DOT) to propose and install signs and maps throughout the neighborhood to assist the increasing number of tourists, as well as new residents.
"We want to keep encouraging tourism,” she said. “This can be such an economic engine for New York City.”
As Long Island City has become a popular tourist attraction over the years, residents have also seen a spike in hotels in the area. Nearly 20 hotels in the area have been built within the past six years. LIC’s proximity to Manhattan and its comparatively cheaper prices are a big reason for the spike.
"You have eight subway lines that arrive in Queens Plaza and Jackson-Vernon," Baron said. "It’s also a very safe neighborhood. Our international visitors like the fact that it’s a little hip and edgy."
Baron said she hopes that Long Island City will reach its full potential.
“I envision Long Island City as fully built out with far more commercial development than we have right now, with general retail, restaurants, and small businesses also thriving,” she said. “I think it will become a real residential hub.”
Although the neighborhood is bringing in a lot of new businesses and residents, Baron hopes that those living in the area for a long time stay.
“What we see today is just the tip of the iceberg,” Baron said. “I think in the next decade the entire area is going to expand and I’m going to feel so good coming back and seeing that all those building blocks really worked.”
Dan Miner, former senior vice president of the LIC Partnership, joined Baron and a number of her friends and former associates at her retirement party at SHI Restaurant, located at 47-20 Center Blvd., to wish her a bright future.
“It is difficult to overemphasize the importance of Gayle Baron’s contribution to the LIC renaissance over the last 14 years,” Miner said. “She is still committed to making the best LIC possible.”
Miner described Baron as someone who is “incredibly dedicated,” an “excellent leader and mentor” and someone who is “not willing to settle for anything but the best.”
“Gayle very often worked behind the scenes, coordinated and guided the efforts of volunteers on non-profit organizations, economic development and city agencies, and pulled a lot of things together,” Miner said.