Great Neck candidates make their final pitches

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From left to right: Mayoral candidates Rebecca Gilliar and Mayor Pedram Bral, and Trustee candidates Trustee Anne Mendelson and Trustee Steven Hope, and Adam Harel. (Photos submitted by the candidates)

With Election Day rapidly approaching, Village of Great Neck Mayor Pedram Bral and challenger Rebecca Gilliar are making their final pitches to the public.

The election on Tuesday is essentially a referendum on the responsiveness, transparency and effectiveness of the Board of Trustees. The mayor’s seat and two trustee seats are at stake.

While Bral confirmed on Tuesday that he will not attend a planned mayoral forum, despite being offered two separate dates, he said that he intends to hold an “Ask the Mayor” session on Monday, the day before the election.

“I’m not going to be able to make it on any of the other nights that they offered,” Bral said. “But I will have an open ask the mayor session Monday night from 5 to 7:30 p.m. at Shiraz.”

Bral, 46, said that due to prior engagements, time constraints and relatively short notice, none of the offered dates would work. Among those engagements, he said, was the graduation of Fellows at the Maimonides Medical Center.

“People can come in and ask any questions they want,” Bral said.

North Shore Action, a political activism group, said by email on June 8 that the group offered Tuesday the 13th and Thursday the 15th as two other options to  Bral and Gilliar.

Gilliar, 74, confirmed her attendance for June 14 and availability for June 13.

The mayoral forum will still occur on Wednesday, June 14, from 7 to 8:30 p.m at the Great Neck Library. There, Gilliar will answer questions submitted by the public in advance and will talk with residents.

“We will hold a Candidates Forum with only one candidate, if we are unable to schedule a Forum with both candidates,” North Shore Action said in the email to Gilliar and Bral.

Gilliar has said that the village board has not been truly transparent to residents regarding contract discussions about Vigilant Fire Company and meeting with real estate developers. She also said that meetings outside Village Hall may be of questionable legality.

Bral said these meetings are ways to get a pulse of what’s going on in the village and avoid the possible intimidation that may occur in a more public setting. He said no decisions are made at these meetings.

Gilliar also asserted that Bral “used his elected position to rally a private school vote against spending for public school children,” a charge Bral denies.

Bral also defended the negotiations regarding Vigilant, saying they brought the village a nighttime paramedic and that he wanted to consider all possibilities before making a decision.

Gilliar previously served as chairwoman of the United Parent-Teachers Council for 12 years and led a campaign to distribute thousands of books discarded by the Great Neck Library. Professionally, Gilliar said she has experience as a freelance magazine writer, television producer and photographer. She also worked as an adjunct professor at Queens College.

Bral, a surgical director at Maimonides Medical Center, hopes to have a second term as mayor. He said he has focused on bringing business back to Middle Neck Road, cutting waste and “making Village government more accessible and responsive towards its residents.”

Adam Harel, 43, is running for trustee on the Village Unity Party ticket with Gilliar. He studied political science, previously worked as an equity stock trader and currently works in pharmaceutical marketing.

He echoed Gilliar’s calls for greater transparency and wants to restore the village newsletter.

Trustees Steven Hope, 51, and Anne Mendelson, 52, are both seeking re-election with Bral on the Village Alliance Party ticket.

Hope, a property manager, served as a trustee at Great Neck PAL for eight years, president of the Brotherhood at Temple Beth-El for two and served on the village’s Planning Board.

Mendelson, a software product manager, has served on the Architectural Review Committee, was a representative to the Manhasset Bay Protection Committee and taught math at Great Neck North High School.

Both Mendelson and Hope said they hope to continue to serve the community and contribute their skills to the board.

The Village of Great Neck uses at-large voting for trustee seats, meaning the two candidates who get the most votes will be elected to the board of trustees.

Mark Birnbaum is running unopposed for re-election as village justice.

Gilliar, a community activist, helped organize an under-the-radar write-in campaign to try unseating then Village of Great Neck Mayor Ralph Kreitzman and two others in 2013. She then ran the 2015 campaign that ultimately secured Bral and Mendelson’s seats in office.

Residents can vote at Village Hall at 61 Baker Hill Road from noon to 9 p.m. on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, in Kings Point, incumbent Trustees Ron Horowitz and Hooshang Nematzadeh are running on the Taxpayers Party ticket. Neither currently faces any challengers.

Incumbent Trustees Lawrence Farkas, David Milner and Gene Kaplan are also running to retain their seats in Lake Success. They are all unopposed.

The villages of Great Neck, Kings Point and Lake Success will also hold elections on Tuesday, with many trustees running unopposed.

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