Last week, I attended a forum on Main Street revitalization sponsored, in part, by Steven Blank and the Great Neck News. I thank him for his involvement, I thank him for caring. I thank the dozen or so concerned citizens of Great Neck who attended as well. Clearly, there are some of us who know that we don’t already know all the answers on how to help our village bounce back.

Unfortunately, this group of Great Neckers did not include the mayor or any of the trustees of the village. There was a former mayor there (Ralph Kreitzman) and a former mayoral candidate (James Wu), and one current village mayor, Billy Warner of Great Neck Estates. Kudos to him for caring enough to attend.

The panel included commercial real estate brokers, the Nassau County Chamber of Commerce, Nassau County itself, Envision Long Island, the group responsible for the Clean Streets program, as well as revitalization planning in general. The mayors of “success stories” Farmingdale and Mineola were there. Judi Bosworth, town supervisor of North Hempstead, was there. I just don’t understand how no one from the Village of Great Neck’s government – you know, the ones trying to come up with a plan to revitalize the village – found it important enough to go, to speak, to listen, (dare I say learn?!) maybe to even come with an idea or two.

Well, those of us in attendance heard, loud and clear how government processes could be streamlined to fast-track new businesses through the certification process. Think of it, many of us had to go through planning boards, trustee boards, architectural review boards, just to add a room to our homes. Think of someone trying to open a business here, the monthly rents start right away – before all the certifications and registrations are finalized. This really could mean tens of thousands of dollars laid out over months before penny one gets earned.  Daunting indeed. This is one way a government could actually become more business-friendly instead of just saying it is. Maybe the mayor will do something like that, he has certainly garnered control over all three branches of government.

My biggest takeaway was a segment on tax breaks. Not tax breaks for certain types of businesses, although that was discussed, as well as tax breaks for opening in a specific zone (does business development zone sound anything like zoning overlay district?). I believe our mayor has said tax breaks at the village level would be “insignificant,” and would not really attract new businesses. Apparently, the mayors of Farmingdale and Mineola would disagree.

The tax breaks I’m talking about, however, are the tax breaks to landlords when their buildings are empty and losing money. Talk about a lack of incentive to rent out storefronts.

We have all been subsidizing this for years.

Mayor Warner, of Great Neck Estates, was the star of the evening, in my opinion, when he first acknowledged that this was true state law that does exist and that second, he “would get to the bottom of this,” and that “something has to be done.” Recognizing throughout the evening that all the villages on this one peninsula need to cooperate and coordinate to plan our mutual futures together, the recognition by a neighboring mayor that this problem of “warehousing” empty stores and overdevelopment is not peculiar to just the village, was reassuring, sounding out like a thunderclap. Really, people on our peninsula, in Port (that just ended waterfront residential development) are starting to see the limits of development.

It’s time, not to develop our way into revitalization, it’s time to reimagine our way into the future. To reimagine the kind of village we want, where we can walk along Middle Neck Road, shopping and eating. Where we can cross Middle Neck Road, where pedestrians’ lives matter. Where people are a priority, not cars. Where bicycles, and bicyclists, are respected. Where schools are why people move here and are supported as they deserve to be, not slammed for spending the money to support our children. Reimagine where you know if your new neighbors are actually Korean or Chinese, etc., and not just “Asian.” And for that matter, whether they are Mashadi, Tehrani, Ashkenazi, etc.

Can you imagine?

Sam Yellis

Great Neck

One peninsula, people united!

Multiplex Content Recommendation - 1