Letter: The Village Plan And Empty Storefronts

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A recent New York Times article was written about deserted storefronts in desirable London, England, communities. It was quite lengthy and informative.

Online shopping isn’t the only thing hurting Great Neck. Why isn’t our Orthodox community actively supporting the Judaica shop in our community? Cedarhurst supports an exquisite Judaica store four or five times the size. I’m certain there’s a second Judaica shop there, as well.

I am of the belief the Village of Great Neck mayor and board are asking the wrong questions. Why aren’t our Great Neck residents being educated in the importance of paying a bit more to support local shops and, thereby, keep them in business? The residents of Cedarhurst get this concept and there are a scant number of vacant stores there with a flourishing, enviable retail community. Residents don’t get to complain about empty shops if they don’t shop local. They can’t have it both ways.

Why isn’t there a fancy women’s hat shop for residents to wear on Shabbos? Why isn’t there a wig shop? Certain shopping habits in our particular village defy all logic and reason. It seems worth exploring with real women and real residents. Why does Jildor Shoes flourish in Cedarhurst and yet its sister shop closes here recently?

Like I said, the village is asking the wrong questions. Consider what advertising agencies do as a service for their clients before they invest large sums of money: invest in focus groups—run by trained professionals—who understand how to conduct them. Get public opinion—but real public opinion from a well-rounded, diverse demographic of taxpaying, voting citizens. To do anything less will just bring the mayor right back where he started—to a room filled with angry, discontented, distrusting residents.

It is regrettable but true, the VHB plans were so insulting to the intellect and life experience of most every resident (young and old)—it makes it impossible to trust either the mayor, board or the village attorney going forward. Consider the remarks issued by Barbara Berkowitz, president of the Board of Education, and Mayor Susan Lopatkin, who spoke on behalf of her board. They are telling the mayor that the VHB plans are insulting and outrageous. Will he listen? If he is truly interested in the best interests of the community, he should put down his ego and hear what is being said.

Our residential community has become an eyesore from the subdivisions the mayor leniently and generously allowed. And yet, he tells us there are more pending. Our quality of life has disintegrated from the constant sound of banging and thrashing all day. Some people work from home. Some are retired. Some are stay-at-home moms.

How can we trust our elected leaders to make the right decision after we watched them destroy our local streets? For many of us, our homes are the single most important investment we own. And, yet, we watched the mayor fail to punish unlawful developers at 66 Essex Rd. Not only did he fail to punish them, they appear to be rewarded by the fast-neck pace allowing them to build faster than any other area home being built.

We have our eyes wide open and we don’t like what we see. All signs point to the fact that the outsiders—not the insiders, the taxpaying residents—are the mayor’s main priority. Even our neighbors in other Great Neck villages can see it. Over and over, the mayor’s actions demonstrate that the majority of diverse residents don’t matter when he weighs in on important community decisions. How can he regain the public’s trust? That’s another question worth asking.

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