Wanted: affordable places to keep young, old
More than 400 citizens signed a petition asking the Village of Great Neck Board of Trustees to take on what they called a crisis in housing. The petition was presented at the Nov. 21 board meeting, and women spanning the generations acted as spokespeople for the residents.
Kimber Simchayof, 18, a senior at Great Neck North High School, pictured a not-too-distant day when she and her cohorts would finish college and “realize that when we want to come back and get married and hopefully grow a family here, there aren’t as many places for us to stay that are affordable anymore.”
Simchayof said she loved the village and wanted to retain ties to it going forward.
She concluded, “I personally think that there is a housing crisis and that we really need to solve this problem so that my generation and younger people can [afford] to come back and live there. And, hopefully, enjoy the life that I’ve had growing up.”
Maya Namdar was of the generation before Simchayof. She related that it had been difficult for her and her husband to purchase a house, given the high real estate market. She said that her four kids are approaching college and marriage age and, “I don’t see myself being able to help them [given] the [housing] prices. There should be something more affordable for them, like condos and townhouses, not necessarily houses.”
She also brought up the issue of people her parents’ age who no longer needed a large house, and did not necessarily want to rent.
“But there are few options to purchase an apartment,” Namdar pointed out.
After labeling Great Neck as “amazing,” Namdar summed up, “I grew up and went to high school here. My life is here. I want to stay for my kids and I want my parents to be able to stay here.”
She pleaded, “So we’re asking the trustees to please find a solution to this problem.”
Mayor Pedram Bral was brought to laughter, saying, “I thought you had a solution.”
Namdar continued, “We’re challenging the board. Not just for us. [There are] so many young couples with families and we need, we must have something affordable for [them]. It has to happen somehow.”
Clerk/Treasurer Joe Gill noted, “The average home in Great Neck is valued at $860,000.”
Namdar responded, to laughter, “I would love for you to show me those houses. [They] need major work and renovation, and you’re looking at another $200 to 300,000 [to fix them].”
Trustee Bart Sobel elicited more laughter when he mentioned residences at three addresses that those in the know knew were so-called zombie homes.
Ruth Kamali, a senior, said two of her married children were renting apartments in the village and “are unhappy—they feel they are wasting their money.”
At the same time, she added, they did not necessarily want to buy a house. Kamali, too, hoped for more condos that people can own and grow their equity. She mentioned the elderly and young professionals as the perfect marketing segment for such housing.
“They love Great Neck,” Kamali emphasized. “Everything is here. They don’t want to live anywhere else. But they don’t just want to pay rent and lose all their assets.”
According to the petition, the exodus, especially of the young, “will negatively impact our property taxes, schools, housing values, economy and our growth.”
Village government, the petition suggested, should use incentives to create denser housing development with a greater range of units and price choices for buyers.
“The only way to keep the community alive is to keep young people here,” Bral told the Great Neck Record after the meeting. “With ever increasing taxes, it is more and more difficult.”
Bral drew a potential bleak picture of a village with a declining population and empty storefronts and schools with depleted enrollments.
“We don’t want Great Neck to become a ghost town,” he reflected.
As far as housing, Bral said, “I do believe the only way to build anything is for developers to understand that they’ll be able to make money.”
The mayor added that the upcoming Middle Neck Road Corridor study might enable the village to institute zoning that will encourage both commercial and residential development without destroying or negatively affecting the existing infrastructure.