James Wu and two longtime Village of Great Neck residents are challenging Pedram Bral’s administration in the June elections, Wu said Wednesday afternoon.
Wu, a commercial real estate specialist for Douglas Elliman and 10-year Great Neck resident, said he is running for mayor against Bral. If elected, Wu said he would bring an “openness to the whole community, a willingness “to listen to everybody,” and work to solve problems.
Running with Wu for trustee are Julia Shields, a longtime community activist who has lived in Great Neck for more than 40 years, and Harold Citron, a 20-year resident of Great Neck, according to bios provided to the Great Neck News.
This puts them against two current trustees: Annie Mendelson, a software product manager at Thomson Reuters, and Steven Hope, a property manager at Park Row South Realty.
“I think we need [an approach] where the people are actually listened to and the problem is that the administration has not shown this,” Wu said. “If this changes, it would be for the better because that’s how government should be.”
Bral said that over the last four years, he and the board have prided themselves on being responsive to residents. He said that the board has been accessible via social media apps and phone, and gives “ample time to speak” at public meetings.
“We have taken a lot of criticisms to heart,” Bral said, noting that the village killed its previously proposed changes to the zoning code because of the disagreements, objections and concerns over the legislation.
Essentially the proposal would have expanded an incentive overlay district and would have allowed the Board of Trustees, on a case by case basis, to give developers an incentive – say, an extra floor – in exchange for something of benefit like affordable housing or improved waterfront access. The change also would have made assisted living facilities a permitted use under the zoning code.
Bral said that in the last four years the village has worked to streamline the permitting process, improved the roads and installed eco-friendly LED lights. He also said that the village has been “extremely successful in running a very tight ship” with fiscal matters.
A handful of businesses have also come and stayed, Bral said, and he hopes to continue to find ways to continue improving the commercial landscape in Great Neck while addressing traffic issues on Middle Neck Road and East Shore Road.
Wu said he believes the commercial district does need help, but that the village can work within existing zoning regulations “to help revitalize our community” and work with building owners to tackle vacancies.
In addition to serving as a real estate specialist, Wu said, he has managed a $50 million investment fund, led the U.S. division of a Chinese multinational corporation that dealt with commemorative items, and also has a background in technology.
“Then I got more into generalized business and real estate afterwards,” Wu said.
Wu said he has always been public service minded. Wu said he dropped out of NYU to serve in the Marine Corps in 1991 because the U.S. was at war, before being honorably discharged. In 1996, Wu said he then led a 3,000-person rally to force a New York City council member to apologize after she “made racist remarks.”
Wu also assisted first responders in the wake of the Sept. 11 terror attacks, helped with security issues and coordinated local donations, he said, and has done work for the American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors.
Wu has also served on the Great Neck Public Schools’ Financial Advisory Committee and founded a Great Neck Girl Scout troop.
Shields, a former marketing account executive and current housing specialist, began her community work as a board member of the Great Neck and Manhasset Equal Opportunity council and the NAACP. She then became president of the Academy Gardens Tenants Association, working to protect affordable housing in Great Neck.
Shields had a career as a direct marketing account executive with several firms before she became a campaign manager with the New York State Tenants and Neighbors Coalition and worked with the organization as its Long Island coordinator.
Currently, Shields works as a housing specialist at Astella/BCS Development Corp. in Brooklyn. She is also an active member of St. Paul’s AME Zion Church, serving on its board of trustees, as a class leader and as president of the choir.
Citron, a private investor, has had a long career in finance, including eight years as an equity analyst at several investment banks and 15 years as a credit analyst covering the retail industry.
Locally, Citron coached soccer and Little League teams for 10 years, has been a member of the Rotary Club summer band, and served on the board of the 25 Park Place co-op board.
He has also been involved in Temple Israel, where he has been president of the Men’s Club for two years, a temple board member, served on two education committees, and helped organized the temple’s involvement in New York City’s Israel Day Parade.
According to a biography submitted in 2017, Mendelson previously worked in the defense and software industries before getting her teaching certificate in 2003. She taught math at Great Neck North High School until 2013.
Additionally, Mendelson has served on the Architectural Review Committee and has been a representative to the Manhasset Bay Protection Committee.
According to a biography submitted in 2017, Hope has worked in property management for more than 20 years, where he oversees buildings, retail and multifamily dwellings. Prior to that, he worked for Sy Luca HVAC in Great Neck as an electrical contractor.
Additionally, the biography says, Hope volunteered with Great Neck PAL for over 10 years as a coach, trustee and soccer commissioner. He also served as the president of the Brotherhood of Temple Beth El and served on the village’s planning board from August 2015 to April 2017.
Village trustee races in Lake Success and Kings Point, meanwhile, are both uncontested, village clerks said.
In Kings Point, Hooshang Nematszadeh is running for re-election and Kris Torkan, who was appointed earlier this year, is running uncontested.
In Lake Success, Lawrence Farkas, Gene Kaplan and David Milner all filed for re-election and are running uncontested.