Park District Candidates Make Their Cases In Tense Election

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Steppingstone Park in Kings Point (Photo by Alex Nunez)

Great Neck Park District (GNPD) residents will have the opportunity to decide whether incumbent Frank Cilluffo or challenger Erica Beggs should assume one of the district’s three commissioner seats for the next three years on Tuesday, Dec. 10.

Cilluffo, a retired New York Police Department (NYPD) officer who has held the position since 2014, has campaigned on a platform highlighting the improvements the district has made during his tenure, and promises to make good on his campaign slogan to “make Great Neck parks even greater” if he wins a third term.

Beggs is the former director of the district’s skate school, and wife of GNPD supervisor and Vigilant Fire Company Second Assistant Fire Chief Scott MacDonald. Under her tenure, the skate school’s ranks swelled to 1,200 members and received a commendation from a national governing body. She currently serves children as North Shore Hebrew Academy High School’s Assistant Director of College Guidance. Her campaign has highlighted her history of community service, and if elected she promised to bring the dedication she’s shown in her previous work to the park district.

While most of the discourse surrounding the election has been positive and courteous, a few notable incidents of vitriol have marked the leadup to Dec. 10.

As part of the election, Beggs’ campaign purchased 75 promotional signs that were placed around the district. On the morning of Sunday, Nov. 17, she awoke to find 32 of her signs were gone, with only empty frames remaining, and additional Cilluffo signs were placed nearby in their stead.

Both Beggs and her supporters have alleged the signs were purposely removed by Cilluffo supporters to harm her chances of winning the commissioner’s seat.

“I wasn’t surprised, I kind of expected it,” Beggs said. “I’ve known Frank for years, and I know his antics.”

Cilluffo said neither he nor his campaign had anything to do with the signs disappearing, called the accusations against him “ridiculous” and said they were beginning to wear on his nerves.

“This is baby games with the sign stuff,” Cilluffo said. “Signs do not win the election, actions win the election. It’s getting out of control, let’s run on our record. I just want to provide a service to people.”

Cilluffo also added that signs supporting his campaign have been removed around town as well, and speculated that the acts of supposed vandalism were committed by one or two people with strong beliefs on either side, out of their control.

Supporters of both candidates have also dotted social media with derogatory posts about the other, ranging from name-calling to allegations of corruption.

Kate Goldberg, a Great Neck resident and administrator of the 2,990-member Moms and Dads of Great Neck Facebook group, noted that the current park district race has been especially divisive.

“Great Neck is not different than the whole American society currently, and is plagued by fear and mistrust, but also by a lack of common political ground among voters,” Goldberg said. “The product the park district delivers is still mostly excellent.”

In-person voting for park commissioner will take place on Dec. 10 from 1 to 9 p.m. Information on polling places can be found at www.gnparks.org.

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