It was an unusual scene on an unusual night at Great Neck Plaza Village Hall last Wednesday as about 30 people gathered to find out the results of an unusual election.
Friends and family of trustees Lawrence Katz, Gerry Schneiderman and challenger Jonathan Stein watched intently in anticipation as election officials quickly tabulated the votes that returned both Katz (331 votes) and Schneiderman (286 votes) to office for another two-year term.
There was a definite air of anxiety and tension in the room as the polls closed at 9 p.m. and the count began for the first contested Plaza election in five years and the only one of the six Wednesday Great Neck elections that was contested. Mayor Jean Celender and the other trustees, Deputy Mayor Ted Rosen and trustee Pam Marksheid, were also among the spectators.
After the results were made clear, there was a palpable sigh of relief and relaxation in the room as congratulations, handshakes and consolations were exchanged.
Stein received 229 votes. Throughout the campaign, he was extremely critical of Schneiderman and traded bitter exchanges with the incumbent, who has served on the board since April of 2000. Katz, who was not as much of a target of Stein’s criticisms, has served since December 2012.
Village Justice Neil Finkston, running unopposed, received 370 votes and will continue in the post he has held since April 2010.
The voting results were curious in that despite the largest turnout for a Plaza election in years, the absentee ballots made the difference. Those who could not make it to the polls gave Katz 100 of his votes and gave Schneiderman 114. But Stein, who lost in the “best two-out-of-three” process by 57 votes to Schneiderman and by 102 to Katz, received just 31 absentee votes.
According to the village, there were 4,316 eligible voters for last week’s election. Combined votes in Plaza elections have not numbered more than 186 in recent years, when Mayor Celender, Rosen and Marksheid ran in 2012. Katz and Schneiderman’s election in 2013 had no more than 83 votes cast. Last year’s uncontested election had less than 130 voters.
“I feel great,” said Katz, after the room began to empty. “I feel that the whole process worked very well. I’m glad that it’s over. I look forward to the next two years. The experience of speaking with some of the voters over the last few weeks was very useful to me. So now I know some of the things to focus on going forward.”
“I feel this is great and that ‘right’ always wins,” Schneiderman said, as he received congratulations from his supporters. “I want to thank all of the supporters and voters that came out and saw what the correct way for an election to be run is.“
“Of course, I would have loved to have won, but it was heartening to see in the numbers that the people really came out,” said a disappointed Stein. “I had expressed concerns about apathy in the village.”
“I’m definitely going to stay in the process,” the Plaza attorney added. “And I’m definitely going to start showing up at meetings on a more regular basis.”
“Definitely,” answered Stein when he was asked if he would run again. “It was a good experience. What the residents should come away with [is] that contested elections are good.”