Village of Great Neck mayoral hopeful James Wu addressed a series of allegations and said he would push for a united community in a sitdown interview Tuesday afternoon, while calling for a more responsive government.
Wu, a Manhattan real estate broker, is challenging Mayor Pedram Bral, who is seeking a third term.
Wu said his decision to run was spawned by concern about overdevelopment stemming from a proposal to change the zoning code and a “secretive process” that seemed “very top down.” He alleged the mayor did not show “interest in anyone else’s input.”
“To be perfectly honest, I don’t think the developers want to destroy our village. They’re looking for the greatest profit,” Wu said. “But as a government official, you have a responsibility to the citizens and residents as well. Come up with an intermediate solution that works for everybody.”
Among Wu’s ideas were reinstituting the community newsletter, consult with other village mayors and Vision Long Island, a nonprofit organization seeking to create “smart growth communities,” and a market survey.
Wu also said he has heard from several people that opponents are spreading false rumors, such as that he had been arrested, and telling people to not vote for him based on his ethnicity.
He said, both in a letter and the interview, that he wants the mayor and trustees to denounce these tactics.
“It’s an ugly campaign against us that has nothing to do with the issues and has nothing to do with the greater community of Great Neck,” Wu said, adding that it is not the first time these tactics have been used.
Wu said in knocking on doors, he has not encountered a divisive sentiment from individual voters, but an interest in the issues and care about the community.
Wu also addressed campaign finance violations in his race for New York City Council seat in 2009.
While in 2001 he worked in field operations data assembly for the Michael Bloomberg campaign and was a deputy campaign manager for the Independence Party portion of George Pataki’s gubernatorial campaign in 2002, Wu said neither role involved work on campaign finance.
“The campaign finance laws that were in effect in my campaign I had never dealt with before. In running a campaign, I would run the campaign, and I ran things with a target budget,” Wu said. “I did nothing with any of the filings – I’m not an accountant.”
The biggest violations, which came amid a “fast paced” campaign, stemmed from an accounting error relating to an advance his brother gave him.
The initial payment was around $20,000 and then a printing bill went up to about $24,000, Wu said, because something was added but it was not recorded. Additionally what the campaign categorized as a loan was actually considered an advance, leading to it being considered a false document, he said.
The $6,600 fine for a corporate contribution stemmed from Wu deciding to terminate a campaign consultant for not doing enough for the campaign, he said, but the method of termination did not comply with regulations.
“For the present race, I have an accountant who understands what they’re doing with this,” Wu said. “I do understand [the concern], I learned my lessons from that, because I didn’t understand how complicated it was before and I didn’t realize there were such fine point issues.”
Asked about his march in the recent Great Neck Memorial Day Parade and his military service, Wu said that he joined the U.S. Marine Corps in 1991 to take part in Operation Desert Storm.
But he “blew out” his knees early on because of the impact of long hikes with a 50-pound pack and combat boots, he said, leading to his receiving a medical discharge.
“It took a little bit under two months to be able to walk again,” Wu recalled.
Wu reached the rank of E-2, or private first class, and received the National Defense Service Medal. Because of his service, he was asked to join the American Legion post, he said.
Wu also explained in the interview that his original trustee candidates, William Groel and Eric Beerman, dropped out of the race because of personal and business issues, respectively. The campaign had been interviewing alternative candidates in case Groel planned to drop out, he said.
Additionally, Wu expressed concern during the interview about the integrity of the elections, suggesting the acting village clerk is not qualified and familiar enough with election law.
Ultimately, Wu said he wants the race to focus more on issues affecting the village.
“We have common issues here,” Wu said. “We can find those places, what we have in common, and come up with a solution that works for all of us.”
Blank Slate Media plans to conduct a sitdown interview with Bral on Friday.