Village of Great Neck voters had a chance to meet Board of Trustees candidates on Tuesday, exactly a week before residents will cast their ballots in a contentious race for mayor and two trustee seats.
Candidates from both sides appeared in two different places at the same time.
At Shiraz Restaurant on Middle Neck Road, Mayor Pedram Bral and Trustees Anne Mendelson and Steven Hope outlined progress the village has made, as well as efforts to reduce commercial vacancies.
Among the accomplishments were running “a much tighter ship,” eliminating a $1.2 million structural deficit, working with the school district to sell Village Hall to alleviate school crowding, and controlling taxes while still providing an array of services, Bral said.
Also highlighted were the installation of LED lights, efforts at transparency, such as live streaming meetings on Facebook and trying to respond quickly to concerns, and that trustees had returned “to the drawing board” to figure out ways to boost the downtown without five-story buildings.
“We’re cognizant of what goes on and we’ve been listening to what the public feedback has been regarding revitalization,” Mendelson said.
Meanwhile, just down the block, mayoral candidate James Wu and trustee hopefuls Julia Shields and Harold Citron hosted their second Meet the Candidates night at Great Neck House, seeking to offer a vision of inclusivity and open government without “secret agendas.”
The candidates vowed to work to bring in experiential retail, restore the vitality of the downtown, protect the area’s suburban charm and “listen to the needs of the community, not dictate them.”
“Just to reiterate what James and Julia have said, we are here to be a transparent government, we are here to be an accountable government, and we are here for a government for all,” Citron said, “and that is regardless of any of the villagers’ religion, race, ethnic group, whatsoever.”
Shields, a community activist, said that she would speak up if something seemed wrong to her and that she wants to see a return to a less divided community.
“I will not let anything just get done without being approved and done the right and correct way,” Shields said. “And I want Great Neck to be back to the way it was – that’s why we’re running as ‘The Village for All.’ Because I believe we are all one big family, living together in Great Neck.”
Wu also said that the next administration would not be bound by promises to sell Village Hall.
In a follow-up interview on Wednesday, Bral said that under current zoning, developers can build up to four stories on certain parts of Middle Neck Road. He said he wants to “downzone” that to three and emphasized he has always been against “overdevelopment.”
“Overdevelopment is the wrong terminology, because we have not developed anything in Great Neck,” Bral said, adding that there is “a lot of misinformation” being spread.
He also said that nothing has been done behind closed doors, including efforts to revitalize Middle Neck Road.
“People see we go into advice of counsel, there’s nothing that has been approved or passed without public knowledge,” Bral said. “People can say what they want, but the facts will not back them up.”