By Rose Weldon
Members of the audience at Wednesday’s meeting of the Great Neck Board of Trustees verbally attacked a citizen who had concerns over construction at a synagogue, to the condemnation of Mayor Pedram Bral.
Great Neck resident Albert Halimi had previously shared his concerns with the board over safety in construction at 429 Middle Neck Road, home to Congregation Kol Yisrael Achim. He claimed that afterward, he had been subject to harassment through phone calls and text message for two weeks.
“For the last two weeks, I have had a tremendous amount of threats from people sitting here, and many other people,” Halimi said during the meeting, leading to shouts of “move out” and “leave” from members of the 90-person audience gathered at the meeting.
Mayor Bral then called for order and condemned the remarks.
“To ask somebody to leave is unbelievably unacceptable to this board, to me, and to be spoken,” Bral said, leading to applause from other members of the crowd.
Bral stated further said that Halimi was “not out of line” in stating his safety concerns.
“He has concerns and he’s allowed to say his concerns,” Bral said. “No one should ask him to leave.”
Bral also warned against making public attacks, stating that he would only take further comments on the synagogue’s façade construction.
Congregation Kol Yisrael Achim had previously received permission to build an expansion and was seeking at this meeting to have its façade reviewed and building permits renewed. Halimi had previously shared safety concerns with the board over the initial construction, specifically with the size of a ditch dug and three large gas tanks on the property, and wanted better precautions to be taken.
“There is a tremendous amount of endangerment on this property,” Halimi said. “I try to come in and correct it. I didn’t try to stop it.”
Before Halimi spoke, comments were made by Rabbi Joseph Alon, leader of the congregation, who thanked any concerned citizens and apologized to Halimi for what he had gone through.
“Mr. Halimi, if we said something wrong, God forbid, we apologize,” Alon said. “I apologize if I said something wrong.”
In comments made to Blank Slate Media during a phone call the day after the meeting, Mayor Bral said that the community has to do its best to “support our neighbors as much as we can and understand our needs.”
“It was a little disheartening to see those back and forth comments last night,” Bral said. “I do urge the whole community to come together and be more respectful toward each other.”