This community lost one of the great ones during the past few days. Iconic Bruce’s restaurant in Great Neck Plaza closing its door comes as a surprise, but not as a shock – and the ramifications of this closing will be felt by many nearby businesses.
Bruce’s was a destination place for both its restaurant and bakery for decades. As a result, many of its customers created spillover business for other merchants. It’s difficult to quantify but many of Bruce’s customers went there first and then many made impulse purchases from other merchants.
When an icon closes its doors, there’s probably no one reason for its demise. But certainly the playing field created by Great Neck Plaza’s “Jean Team” trustees has arguably contributed.
Local government is responsible for creating the playing field upon which a business lives or dies. When so many of the Plaza’s restaurants have shuttered themselves (Pancho‘s, Tulip, and Crave recently and Millie’s, Boston Chicken, Quisnos, and Fredericks earlier), one has to ask how local government contributed to these losses as well as to ask what proactive measures local officials pursued to keep these businesses from leaving.
It’s ironic that as restaurants and other businesses have become defunct, Great Neck Plaza has seemingly become the capital of a booming massage-parlor industry.
It is wholly unacceptable to dismiss these departures as a normal consequence of the poor economic climate, as Mayor Celender stated to this newspaper.
What’s going on in Great Neck Plaza is not “normal” but has been allowed to become the norm. What is now “normal” for the Plaza, as a walk through the commercial streets will show, is a plethora of empty storefronts, probably more so than at any time in the last forty years.
And what an anomaly – with the streets full of luxury vehicles and a dozen financial institutions operating in the Plaza, dismissing all these closings as a normal consequence of a bad economy in Great Neck is just plain nonsense.
Great Neck Plaza needs a revitalization plan and that plan must come from the leadership of our trustees working with the business community.
Unfortunately, this group of trustees has demonstrated a total inability to get the job done and hence, the wheels have come off the cart in this once jewel of the North Shore. In place of leadership, Plaza residents have been treated to a plethora of photo ops, staged events, and news releases intended to portray this group of highly paid trustees as being involved when, in reality, these events are nothing more than lip service and photo fluff to camouflage the incompetence and complacency which has substantially contributed to the very real mess in the Plaza.
As we say farewell to Bruce’s, it’s long overdue that this village also needs to say farewell to a failed, out of touch Jean Team and welcome in a new group of proactive, concerned and accountable leaders who are willing to work diligently to restore this village to what it should be and who do not require bloated salaries, pensions, health insurance and brass car plaques as inducements for their service.
Alan A. Gray