A Brooklyn couple takes a photo with a sculpture titled “Unexpected Encounter”...

A Brooklyn couple takes a photo with a sculpture titled “Unexpected Encounter” by Seward Johnson on display at Old Westbury Gardens. Credit: Corey Sipkin

Nassau County lawmakers on Monday approved a contract valued at up to $4.9 million over five years for a Glen Head advertising agency to market beaches, museums, restaurants, parks and other attractions in the county to tourists.

The contract for RRDA LI Inc. is for three years with two one-year extensions at the county's discretion. It replaces a now-expired contract awarded to Discover Long Island in Hauppauge.

The money comes from the hotel/motel tax.

The contract was unanimously approved  by the County Legislature’s Rules Committee. No vote by the full legislature is required to approve the contract.

The administration of County Executive Bruce Blakeman dumped the nonprofit Discover Long Island last year. The move ended 45 years of promoting Nassau and Suffolk counties as one region to visitors.

RRDA was the successful bidder in a process overseen by the county’s Department of Parks, Recreation & Museums. In an earlier process, under the administration of then-County Executive Laura Curran, Hauppauge-based Discover Long Island also was an unsuccessful bidder. 

"I'm troubled by the way we've abandoned the regional approach towards promoting tourism," said Legis. Arnold W. Drucker (D-Plainview). "There needs to be a unified front because people from other states who want come here — they may not know the distinction between something in Nassau County and something in Suffolk County."

Parks Commissioner Darcy Belyea responded, "Discover Long Island has been focused on promoting their own brand as opposed to promoting the two counties equally."

Kristen Reynolds, CEO of Discover Long Island, has said Suffolk received more attention because it contributed more funding than Nassau.

"We're disappointed that after 45 years of continued growth and measured success, Nassau County did not select Discover Long Island as their tourism promotion agency," Reynolds told Newsday after the contract vote. "But we are grateful for the support of the many Nassau County hospitality partners who have opted to continue to work with us directly because they understand the value that we provide and the importance of a regional approach."

RRDA was founded in 2019 by Jaime Hollander, who spent years promoting magazines for publishers Condé Nast and Meredith. The business, which is based in her home, has 10 employees and had revenue of $1.5 million last year, according to information that she submitted to the county.

Hollander has made no political contributions to county officials in the past two years, according to disclosure forms.

"As a Nassau County agency, it’s especially exciting to promote businesses, destinations and experiences happening here as we celebrate the county’s 125th anniversary," Hollander said after the contract vote.

RRDA clients include Adobe, Indeed, Procter & Gamble and Johnson & Johnson. Its ads  for them and others have been published in the Wall Street Journal, Forbes and Entrepreneur magazines and the Harvard Business Review.

County Executive Bruce Blakeman, who has dubbed himself Nassau's chief marketing officer, said, "My administration has made a concerted effort to increase tourism ... and promote business and economic development to stellar results these past two years." He added that attendance at cultural and special events in the county is "way up, and sales tax revenues are at record levels."

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