Readers right: Paper’s editorial NOT wrong about G.N. Plaza

In Jean Celender’s Oct. 26 response to the Great Neck News editorial “Local Government Needs to Keep Up with Changes in Retail” (which addressed the Plaza’s inability to maintain a vibrant business district), our mayor shot herself in the foot.

One of the reasons that stores are unable to stay in business in the Plaza is because of the parking problem.

In her article, Celender described a beautiful brochure created by a marketing specialist that included a parking pamphlet identifying all the village parking lots, along with great marketing jargon about the wonderful offerings in the Plaza.

The pamphlet is lovely, but you can’t park in a pamphlet!

Celender cites that in 2015 the village hired Level G, a parking consultant firm, which suggested increasing the parking rate from $0.25 per hour to $0.50 per hour “to encourage turnover and provide the village with additional revenues.”

Our mayor’s article contends that shortening parking duration at double the cost would create a positive impact on stores and restaurants because there would be more frequent opportunities for people to park in town.

Doubling the cost of metered parking did not go over well with either merchants or shoppers; and the five-minute grace period on the meters isn’t worth much — it’s not even enough time to get quarters to feed the meters before code enforcement swoops down to issue a ticket.

In essence, Celender wants to nickel and dime shoppers to fill the Plaza’s coffers. Yet she ignores a tremendous source of potential revenue for the village by refusing to enforce Shop Delight’s mega-infractions of its conditional use permit — such as refusing to ticket the many employees who continue to remain illegally parked for up to 12 hours a day on the streets adjacent to the store because they are consistently bypassed by code enforcement.

In her response to this paper’s editorial, the mayor defends her code enforcement officers who she states are “cursed and yelled at.”

I and many of my neighbors can attest first-hand to the reprehensible behavior of some of the code enforcement officers, particularly when residents on my block — who cannot find parking — have courteously asked the officers why the illegally parked Shop Delight employees are not being ticketed and then are subjected to angry, foul-mouthed tirades by them.

Regarding suggestions of valet parking to help ease the village parking problem, Celender stated:  “We do have enough parking for visitors, but they have to sometimes be willing to walk a block or two and not expect to always park right in front of their destination […]. Our responsibility to our residents is to provide a safe downtown. […] There are constant traffic issues that would be made more dangerous with valet parking. We have had pedestrians hit by cars whose drivers do not obey traffic laws. They speed, make illegal U-turns, go through stop lights, roll through stop signs and double park, creating dangerous situations.”

The problem is so bad that an article appeared in the “Our Towns” section of Newsday about lack of pedestrian safety in Nassau County, listing the villages with the worst problems; Great Neck Plaza was at the top of the list.

Accidents and deaths still occur regularly on Middle Neck Road, and Celender has not mitigated the problem.

When the now-defunct pedestrian safety committee pointed out all of the ongoing incidents with aggressive drivers on Middle Neck Road many years ago, Celender deflected, saying that Middle Neck Road was Nassau County’s problem and was not under her domain.

And once again, in her article, Celender repeats “we have to rely on the Nassau County Police Department for traffic enforcement.” However, it is not apparent that she has been willing to work with Nassau County to find any viable solutions.

Celender’s concluding statement against valet parking stated that “valet parking requires that there be available space in nearby parking lots to park the cars.”

In her article, didn’t she just tout her beautiful marketing brochure that alludes to all the available parking in the village lots? 

Celender writes that “rent increases and a lack of cooperation from the landlord(s)” have made it prohibitive for many businesses to keep operating.

When I walked past the now-closed Ruby restaurant recently, a letter was taped on the door stating that the tenant was no longer allowed to enter, as the locks had been changed due to non-payment of rent. The letter was signed by the landlord’s attorney, Jeffrey Schwartz, a.k.a. Jean Celender’s husband.

In the 1600s, when Shakespeare wrote Queen Gertrude’s famous line responding to the insincere overacting of a character in Hamlet, he surely couldn’t have known that those words would become the benchmark in everyday speech to indicate doubt in someone’s sincerity.

Regarding Jean Celender, “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.”


Muriel Pfeifer

Village of Neck Plaza

(We want our “Great” back.)  

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