BY TRONE DOWD
After nearly three years serving the Southeast Queens Community as the executive director of the Jamaica Business Improvement District, Rhonda Binda announced on Monday that she would step down from the position.
“I wanted to share the news that I am stepping down as the Jamaica BID’s executive director and accepting an exciting new opportunity as VP policy for Venture Smarter to pursue my passion of impacting public policy,” Binda said in a letter to friends on social media. “I want to thank you for allowing me to serve the community and am grateful for your support in executing the ‘3T strategy’ around tourism, transportation and technology.”
Prior to becoming executive director for the BID, Binda attended Duke University, earning her bachelor’s degree in economics and public policy. She attended Georgetown Law Center and obtained a Juris Doctorate degree. After she completed school, she worked for the U.S. Department of State and in the White House for 14 years under presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.
Despite her love helping communities from a federal level, the Southeast Queens native said that she was eager to come back home. Binda said that growing up in Jamaica wasn’t always easy, but she was proud of her upbringing and wanted to help growing families who live there now. In December 2014, upon leaving the world of politics, she found herself back where she wanted to be.
“Jamaica gave me the character that I needed to moved forward,” Binda said. “I wanted to contribute back to that community. It was my love for Jamaica that brought me back.”
During her tenure as executive director, many developments occurred in Jamaica, many of which were related to the investment from both the city and state to improve the neighborhood’s downtown area.
“When I began working at the BID, our businesses were fighting an uphill perception battle,” she said. “But we worked hard to tell the truth about all that Jamaica is and what our 300 plus businesses have to offer.”
She explained that through working with the team at the BID since 2014, Jamaica Avenue and its many businesses received “unprecedented recognition” from numerous media outlets, community groups and elected officials.” In recent years, Streeteasy, Gothamist and the Wall Street Journal all recognized Jamaica as “the number-one neighborhood for real estate in New York.” The BID was even featured on world traveler Anthony Bourdain’s recent expose on the borough of Queens.
Elected officials across the city also took a vested interest in the Queens community with Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Mayor Bill de Blasio, Queens Borough President Melinda Katz and council members I. Daneek Miller (D-St. Albans) and Rory Lancman (D-Hillcrest) investing millions in Jamaica’s developing real estate and arts scenes.
Binda touted art shows, such as 2016’s “No Longer Empty,” and the BID’s ability to secure funding and support from the likes of Make the Road New York, Queens Council on the Arts and the Queens Chamber of Commerce, which shared in her vision for Southeast Queens’ rapid change. In 2016, Rhonda was honored as Business Leader of the Year by the Queens Chamber of Commerce and Community Leader of the Year by the Queens County Young Democrats.
When asked what she was most proud of concerning her time at the BID, Binda said “openness, partnership and collaboration.”
“It was our willingness to work as a team and with other organizations that allowed for the progress we were able to make,” she said. “We were able to leverage the tech community and close the digital divide.”
As a tech enthusiast and tech lawyer by trade, she said that this was extremely important for her.
“I always wanted to have the opportunity to contribute to my own neighborhood with Jamaica’s amazing talent,” Binda said. “We worked diligently to preserve the multi-cultural fabric and essence of this great community. The focus on local commerce not only improves the neighborhood, but circulates spending power within our community.
The community’s biggest assets are the individuals and stakeholders that make Jamaica Avenue New York’s most vibrant district.”