Community activist Rebecca Gilliar spoke to voters on why she should be mayor Wednesday night, framing her campaign as one not about disagreements on issues, but how village government should be run.
Both at the forum and throughout the campaign, Gilliar raised specific concerns about transparency and that the lines between the public, government, as well as various boards within the village, “are being blurred.”
“The problem isn’t that we disagree about what’s occurring. We disagree at a much more basic level, which is how those things should be discussed and decided,” Gilliar said. “That’s why I’m running.”
Gilliar’s pitch to voters came at a candidates forum hosted by North Shore Action, a civic activist group, at the Great Neck Library.
Mayor Pedram Bral said he could not attend due to prior commitments, time constraints and the relatively short notice.
As a director of a fellowship program in minimally invasive gynecologic surgery, Bral said he does every cases every Wednesday, save for the first one of each month.
Surgical appointments set months back are not simple to re-schedule, Bral said, and that “with patients, it’s their health.”
Bral said the two alternative dates he was offered conflicted with the graduation of Fellows in his program. He noted, however, that he will be holding an open “Ask the Mayor” session at Shiraz at 770 Middle Neck on Monday, June 19, from 5:00 to 7:30 p.m.
Bral has said he is seeking re-election to “continue to eliminate the Village’s structural deficit and attract anchor stores that will revitalize our business district” and keep Great Neck affordable.
Bral also said that as mayor, he has made the Village government “more accessible and responsive to towards its residents.” He said he can be reached via email, telephone and social media to directly address residential concerns, and that the ‘Meet the Mayor’ events allow for more frank discussions.
This year’s election is but the latest chapter in long saga dating back to the mayorship of Ralph Kreitzman. Gilliar, a 45-year Great Neck resident, previously ran an under-the-radar campaign to try unseating then-Mayor Ralph Kreitzman in 2013.
Bral was at the head of that ticket, narrowly losing.
In 2015, Gilliar led the campaign in which Bral unseated Kreitzman and two others. She had said she thought the combination of Bral, Anne Mendelson and Ray Plakstis, two-time chief of Alert Fire Company, as ideal.
Gilliar said at the forum that her decision to run against the man she once backed came “somewhat under duress,” but one she ultimately deemed necessary.
“There is a flagrant violation of process,” Gilliar said.
Gilliar said much of the authority previously vested in the zoning and planning boards had been diverted to the Board of Trustees, which is not subject to certain state zoning laws.
“All the things that have to be accomplished when you deal with variances about the village codes, the BZA has to do those things,” Gilliar said. “But there aren’t those kinds of rules if a zoning decision isn’t being made by the board of trustees.”
“It’s not even fair to the applicant, because somewhere down the line, someone could sue,” she added.
Gilliar said that too much business is going on beyond the public eye. She cited allegations of plans to sell village hall and a visit to Northwell Hospital regarding EMS service alternatives.
“There are just so many things going on behind the scenes,” Gilliar said.
Bral has argued that negotiations regarding an ambulance contract with Vigilant Fire Company intended to explore all options and ultimately secured the village a night-shift paramedic.
When asked if it was the mayor’s job to due diligence, Gilliar said yes, but that in the case of Vigilant Fire Company, quality of service was not the underlying concern.
Gilliar also raised concerns about the ‘Meet the Mayor’ events. She alleged that three trustees came with him to a recent restaurant meeting, meaning they had a quorum and that that should subject them to open meetings law.
“It’s a small, small thing – it’s small in the way a snowflake is small in a snowstorm,” Gilliar said.
Bral has previously said that by having these casual meetings, it brings attention to local businesses and is less intimidating than voicing concerns at a public hearing and that no decisions are made there.
When asked if she would consider continuing the Meet the Mayor events, Gilliar said she would prefer it to be in Village Hall and when the public calls for one.
Gilliar also said that, to her, the Mayor’s announcement of a closed million dollar deficit was “concealed,” sudden and that the public was not consulted properly about it.
“I felt completely left out,” Gilliar said.
Residents also asked about environmental issues regarding tree regulations, 1,4 dioxane in the water, and what she could do regarding those things.
Gilliar conceded she is not an expert on water issues, but “wouldn’t pretend to” be and instead would seek a community member who specializes in the topic to join the Great Neck North Water Authority.