Great Neck Village Mayor Pedram Bral and his administration laid out a record of accomplishments in an email interview last week, framing his tenure as one of fiscal responsibility and transparency.
Bral, who is seeking re-election with Trustees Annie Mendelson and Steven Hope, faces a challenge from James Wu and trustee hopefuls Julia Shields and Harold Citron.
The two-term mayor has been questioned about transparency and responsibility, particularly involving a proposed “revitalization plan” that would update the zoning code. Critics have taken aim at a $100,000 study from VHB Engineering, a consulting and design firm, used for the plan and the risk they say it poses of sparking overdevelopment.
Bral was not available for a sitdown interview, but said via email that he is seeking re-election because he thinks he has helped the village and wants to build on what has been done so far.
“I am running for my third mayoral term because I feel that I have thus far made positive changes in our village,” Bral said, “and I look forward to continuing along this path.”
Bral said he first ran because he was concerned about the previous administration’s plans “to build a grandiose Village Hall.” When he came into office in 2015 with Trustees Annie Mendelson and Ray Plakstis, Bral said they set out to rectify the village’s finances because there was a “significant structural deficit.”
“My trustees and I tackled this right away by decreasing waste and cutting costs where we could, running a tight ship,” Bral said. “After the first year we were able to keep the taxes flat and produce a surplus while maintaining all Village services.”
Hope, who was appointed to the board in 2017 and later elected after Plakstis resigned due to health problems, said the budget has stayed around $10 million and that there has not been a tax increase in the last three years.
Mendelson said via email that one of the first things the Board of Trustees did when elected was pass a law to “provide standards for the protection of trees and people.” There has been better maintenance of trees because of it, Mendelson said, and the Department of Public Works has also focused on beautifying village roads.
“I am running for re-election because I wish to continue contributing towards improving the quality of life in the village, listening to residents’ ideas and suggestions, and finding solutions that preserve our environment and space,” Mendelson said.
Bral said the village obtained grants to help pay for the replacement of more than 800 high-pressure sodium street lights with light-emitting diode bulbs, which has “increased our illumination while decreasing our energy costs dramatically,” and paved many miles of roadways.
He also said the board “negotiated a better contract” with Vigilant Fire Company to have a paramedic constantly available.
Hope, in a phone interview, also cited the installation of LED lights as an important accomplishment. He said they are eco-friendly, low maintenance and save village residents thousands of dollars per year.
Hope also said the hiring of Len Baron as a full-time building commissioner, while having former Superintendent Bob Barbach as a consultant, will enable plans to go through “much quicker” as the village aims to revitalize.
Bral said that because of Village Hall’s proximity to E.M. Baker Elementary School on Baker Hill Road, the board has “been working to find a new location for our Village Hall to alleviate the overcrowding at the school.” The village intends to sell Village Hall to the school district by 2021.
“I strongly believe in working with other municipalities in order to better serve our community,” Bral said. “I value and support a strong educational system.”
Hope said that one of the immediate issues he hopes to deal with is the Village Hall, as it “has been in such bad shape,” and figure out a way to build a new hall at no cost to village taxpayers.
Wu recently alleged that some people were being told not to vote for his trustee candidates due to race. Bral said that rumors of “a wrong-headed few supporters” possibly engaging in “uncivil or even racist conduct” were “disheartening.”
“I urge all persons in all elections to behave civilly and ethically, and I – and my running mates – condemn the behavior of anyone who doesn’t,” Bral said. “I hope that my opponent, and his slate of candidates, are willing to do the same.”
He also took aim at the Wu campaign for asking the Nassau County Board of Elections to run the village election. Wu had expressed concern over the acting village clerk’s experience, issues in past races, and the number of election inspectors.
“The recent suggestion that Great Neck, alone amongst all villages in Nassau County, abdicate responsibility for the 2019 election to the County Board of Elections is simply illegal,” Bral said. “I also note that the clerk, as well as all inspectors, have been trained by the Nassau County Board of Elections, and will be ably assisted by the village attorney on Election Day.”
He also said Wu’s actions garnering support on petitions for Eric Beerman and William Groel as trustee candidates, only to switch at the last moment in favor of Julia Shields and Harold Citron, was “disappointing and disingenuous.”
Wu has said that Beerman and Groel had to drop out due to business and personal commitments.
Bral described his tenure as one of transparency, noting that the village is the only municipality on the Great Neck peninsula to livestream its meetings on Facebook and plans to put these meetings on YouTube for non-Facebook users.
“I have been and look forward to continue to being accessible and servicing the community that I love,” Bral said.
Mendelson also said she hopes to make the village website “even more user friendly” so residents can better access village services and information.
Both Bral and Wu were slated for two separate events on Tuesday, exactly a week before the election on June 18.