Ready to Shine: McCall takes helm at Sunnyside BID


If you’ve lived in Western Queens for any significant amount of time, there’s a chance you’ve crossed paths with Dirk McCall. He is the co-founder of Out Astoria, served as a moderator for the website, was involved with Trinity Lutheran Church of Astoria, and co-founded AstoriaCentric, which prior to the pandemic has hosted a monthly dining series since 2014 that brings together residents and local merchants.

“I always stay engaged civically,” he told This Is Queensborough. “I’m always working to find ways to be helpful, to make introductions and to get people talking with each other. We are always stronger when we are working together rather than going it solo.”

This month, McCall left his job as director of Civic Awareness WITH the Queens District Attorney’s Office, where he coordinated 12 Advisory Councils and planned special events from cultural celebrations to gun buybacks, for a new post. McCall will be succeeding Jamie-Faye Bean as executive director of the Sunnyside Shines Business Improvement District (BID).

“Sunnyside is an incredibly diverse and vibrant neighborhood,” McCall said. “The businesses here need support from government and the BID and assistance in telling their stories. Working together, we can find ways to help and ensure Sunnyside Shines!”

Last August, McCall married his partner of three years, Andres Paloma, in a ceremony in Colombia. To the best of his knowledge, he is the first openly gay person to ever head a BID in Queens.

McCall isn’t originally from New York City. His father was an engineer in the U.S. Army, so the family moved every two to three years. Growing up, he spent time at Ft. Belvoir in Virginia, Ft. Leonard Woods in Missouri, and the Presido of San Francisco, to name a few. While the constant movement meant he didn’t have a lot of time to plant roots, McCall credits the constant flux in his upbringing for his outgoing personality.

“Being from a military family, you have to learn to make friends and get to know people quickly,” he said, “so it made me an extrovert and very social.”

McCall moved to New York City in 1991 to attend graduate school, eventually settling in Astoria in 1994; he still lives in the same apartment. (“Western Queens has transformed itself a few times since I moved here, and it is always fascinating,” he said.)

At Columbia University he was working toward a PhD in Political Science, focusing on a future career in teaching and researching political parties and social movement theory, but soon realized a life in academia wasn’t for him.

“After two years at Columbia, I realized that I did not enjoy grading papers,” he said. “I departed the program with with my MA and moved to Astoria.”

Since then, there isn’t much McCall hasn’t tried his hand at. He’s worked at a couple of government relations firms, served both the borough president of Manhattan and Bronx at various times, worked on the campaigns of former councilman Mark Weprin and Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, held a communications post with Quality Services for the Autism Community, and was former councilman Mark Gerson’s chief of staff.

He said all of those positions have provided him with experiences that will help him advocate for businesses in Sunnyside.

“My nearly three decades of engaging with government have created a strong working rolodex to access in obtaining results for the BID,” McCall said. “I planned a number of big events with the Bronx borough president that could be replicated in ways in Western Queens, from our Tech Summits to our Business Convenings, where we connected small business leaders to representatives of city and state agencies.”

From 2007 to 2009, McCall served as executive director of the Greenwich Village-Chelsea Chamber of Commerce. During that time, membership grew from 200 to over 450 businesses, and he was able to secure several new corporate and community sponsorships.

“My work as an executive director, at both the Bronx Community Pride Center and the Greenwich Village-Chelsea Chamber of Commerce, showed me how to provide services and support to members and how to advocate for an organization and build alliances,” he said.

After a five-year process to organize property owners, the Sunnyside Shines BID was signed into law in October of 2007 and hit the ground running the following April. It includes nearly 300 businesses on Queens Boulevard from 38th to 50th streets, as well as businesses along Greenpoint Avenue from Queens Boulevard to 43rd Street.

In 2005, the BID began hosting cultural events in busy Bliss and Lowery Plazas underneath the elevated 7 train. The annual Taste of Sunnyside draws hundreds of people eager to sample the neighborhood’s diverse restaurants.

“Engage, engage, engage,” McCall said when asked how he planned to spend his first few days on the job making himself known to business owners in the BID. “I’m going to be on call 24/7. I’m going to be ubiquitous.”

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