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Relaunched Greenpoint Chamber of Commerce Recruits New Members

By Meredith Hoffman | November 27, 2012 7:39am

GREENPOINT — After years of hearing the gripes of his fellow business owners as editor of the local Greenpoint Gazette, Jeff Mann knew he was the man to represent them.

"The merchants needed a say in what's going on here," said Mann, who was recently named executive director of the Greenpoint Chamber of Commerce, which he relaunched with local State Assemblyman Joseph Lentol last month.

It's 33 years since the group closed its doors.

But now the business advocacy organization — which provides members with insurance, publicity and other benefits as a satellite of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce — has faced a setback in trying to enlist new entrepreneurs, Lentol said.

"The hurricane did interrupt plans to recruit more members to the chamber. ...It takes a lot of work to recruit members to a new organization," he said.

"But it's more important now than ever ...to assist small businesses not only in this economy but because of the hurricane."

At a "mixer" Tuesday night at Red Star bar, interested business owners can learn of membership perks, Lentol said.

For an annual fee of $300, members get access to Brooklyn HealthWorks' low-cost health insurance, job recruitment services to find skilled employees, post-Sandy assistance and other services, he said.

Mann, who said 10 businesses are currently enrolled in the group, claimed the membership figure was right on track. He said that Tuesday's party, plus his imminent hiring of a chamber assistant, would draw more participants.

"I'm not disappointed... The storm really knocked everything back," he said. "I've got someone hired in the next two weeks and once that person is hired I'm sure the numbers are going to increase very quickly."

Current members include Red Star, CitiStorage, and local branches of Exxon Mobil and Allstate Insurance company, Mann said, noting that the new group could both focus on the neighborhood and derive power from its larger Brooklyn counterpart, led by Carlo Scissura.

"We're operating with the full support of one of the country's largest chambers of commerce," Mann said. "The goal is to give businesses a voice they haven't had in a while."

The previous Greenpoint Chamber of Commerce, while not affiliated with the boroughwide institution, received strong backing from the former Greenpoint Savings Bank.

"When I took office in 1970's...the Greenpoint Chamber of Commerce was flourishing," Lentol recalled, noting that the business group closed in 1979 after the mainstay neighborhood bank was shuttered. 

And although the relaunched North Brooklyn entity has started slowly, Lentol said many businesses are enthusiastic about the concept.

"A lot were interested because they like the idea of being part of a Greenpoint neighborhood organization," he said.

The Greenpoint Chamber of Commerce's next mixer is Tuesday, Nov. 27, from 8 to 10 p.m. at Red Star at 37 Greenpoint Avenue.