Putting Great Neck On The Map Again

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Great Neck Village Mayors and trustees, Legislator Mazi Pilip, Town Supervisor
Jen DeSena and members of Destination: Great Neck at the Nov. 30 meeting.
(Photo by Julie Prisco)

In mid-November, Great Neck Estates Mayor William Warner, DDS, organized a meeting with the Great Neck Village officials and Destination: Great Neck. The meeting was held on Wednesday. Nov. 30 at the Village of Great Neck Estates Offices.

Destination: Great Neck was formed in March 2021 by a group of residents dedicated to improving Great Neck and all of its villages. Since the organization’s establishment, they have held community forums to talk with other locals and village officials to discuss ideas to improve Great Neck’s appeal. The group hosted two successful Gatsby Fests in Great Neck and actively met to plan more meetings with the community and Great Neck Village officials.

Great Neck Estates Mayor Warner, Great Neck Plaza Mayor Ted Rosen, Thomaston Mayor Steven Weinberg, Village of Great Neck Mayor Pedram Bral, Saddle Rock Mayor Dan Levy, and Russell Gardens Mayor David Miller attended the meeting along with a few village deputy mayors and trustees. In addition, Town of North Hempstead Supervisor Jennifer DeSena and Nassau County Legislator Mazi Pilip (District 10) came to the meeting.

Destination: Great Neck’s Ilona Trokel, Lisa Saltzman, Haleh Fouladi, Denise Hill, and Janet Nina Esagoff presented a slideshow of ideas to ‘Re-Imagine’ Great Neck.

“As we all know, Great Neck cannot be imitated,” said Esagoff. “We have top schools, a top park district, a top library system, and the commute to Manhattan; whether it’s the easy commute to Midtown or the New East Side access at Grand Central, you can’t beat that. We are the town that has that. We really believe we just need a little bit of sizzle back and we will be back on the path to making Great Neck have a better user experience and a better brand. So we’re very proud of what we already have.”

Destination: Great Neck is focusing on the “windows of the peninsula,” which they have determined are the Villages of Great Neck Plaza and Great Neck Estates. As people travel through Great Neck, they usually travel through both Plaza and Estates, where the majority of economic activity and downtown retail are located.

“We want there to be a focus of the re-imagining on those two villages along the Middle Neck Road corridor,” said Esagoff. “But we also want it to continue throughout the Middle Neck Road going all the way up to Kings Point.”

After a year and a half of listening to residents, attending village and community meetings, and talking to local officials, Destination: Great Neck has developed a vision and formed a plan.

Speaking to residents and local officials has led Destination: Great Neck to believe that Great Neck has lost some of its luster and unification among residents over the past 15 to 20 years.

“[Great Neck] is very fractionalized depending on your village, your ethnicity, your religion, your level of religion, whatever identity you have,” said Esagoff. “So there’s a big disconnect and disjointedness among our community. Whereas before, we were known for being a unique town with a great mix of retailers, it was a destination to go to and live in Grea Neck.”

Destination: Great Neck’s plan has two main initiatives. One is a beautification of the downtown and the second pertains to an entertainment hub at the Squire site in Great Neck Plaza. The beautification of Great Neck would allow for a more unified theme throughout the downtown and villages to make the area more appealing to residents and visitors. The addition of an entertainment hub at the Squire site would create an ‘anchor’ in Great Neck, in other words, a hot-spot that would draw people into town.

For the beautification step, Destination: Great Neck suggests a few simple things to get the process going. Adding more decorative lighting year round, improving the landscaping of the trees and potted plants on the village streets, and unified signage give the town a necessary ‘face lift.’ Another low-cost suggestion was ‘Instagram walls’ where a mural would be painted, and people could take pictures in front of it to post online.

“If you look throughout the villages, it looks a little tired and old,” said Esagoff. “Unfortunately, facelifts matter. Bringing a bit more vibrancy and positivity will go a long way.”

After improving the curb appeal, it would be time to look at the storefronts. Destination: Great Neck suggests landlord incentives and enhanced code enforcement to help clean up storefronts. Incentives to paint the exterior and upgrade signs could be given to landlords, and codes can be enforced to keep window displays looking classy.

“We put these types of ideas on our social media, and they have great reactions, and it creates a lot of excitement amongst the residents of our town,” said Esagoff.

Regarding the entertainment hub at the Squire site, Destination: Great Neck suggests having a dinner theater or cabaret-style anchor in the town. Esagoff explained how it doesn’t need to be something large with amphitheater seating like The Paramount in Hungtington; it just needs to be something exciting and fun for people to be drawn to.

“We understand it’s a very complex situation, but we’re willing to do whatever it takes to have an anchor or an entertainment hub to bring people from out of town and to bring residents back to make it a walking village again,” said Esagoff.

Other suggestions put forward by Destination: Great Neck include a walk-of-fame to honor the many famous people who have lived in Great Neck and to approve more restaurants with bars so people have places to meet with friends for a fun night out.

After the presentation, the conversation opened for the elected village officials and Destination: Great Neck members to begin hashing out ideas. The Mayors and trustees agreed with Destination: Great Neck that the town does need help to bring more vibrancy and more people. One suggestion that was discussed in great length at the meeting was unified flags.

“We need flags on the lampposts to line Middle Neck Road because every village can participate in this project,” said Kensington Mayor Lopatkin. “So we need a graphic designer amongst us to come up with a design. It’s cheap, fast and it can be done.”

“Beatification at a very low budget amount is a start,” said Thomaston Mayor Weinberg.

All the present Mayors, trustees and other elected officials agreed on this idea along with the other simple beautification plans. When discussing the plans put forth by Destination: Great Neck strengthening the local businesses was put forth as a priority.

Great Neck Plaza Mayor Rosen shared the plans he and his fellow elected officials have been working on in their village. Mayor Rosen has downtown strategists helping revitalize the Plaza and offers local business owners access to Hofstra University workshops to learn about marketing tactics.

The Mayors and other present at the mee-ting agreed that educating business owners about promoting their stores through social media is important and hope Destination: Great Neck can help spread the word. Destination: Great Neck is in touch with many local businesses to help promote them and plan to continue using their social media platforms to help.

Everyone present at the meeting hopes Destination: Great Neck can help educate residents on why development in Great Neck isn’t a bad thing and discuss the different advantages. Many residents are wary about development because of tax reasons and overcrowding, but new development helps grow Great Neck’s appeal and moves the town forward as a whole.

Aside from growing Great Neck’s retail and restaurant businesses, the group at the meeting gave the green light to begin beautification in small steps. With flagging, decorative lighting, new signage, art murals Destination: Great Neck can help the villages become more fresh and vibrant. Destination: Great Neck is now getting to work to figure out costs and look at bids to work on graphic designs and landscape plans.

“It’s nice to see all these people sitting together and talking about the future,” said Legislator Pilip. “It’s a good start. We need to work together to move forward.”

Destination: Great Neck and the Great Neck Village Officials have penciled in their next meeting for January 2023 and a community forum shortly after that to keep residents heard and in the loop.

To learn more about Destination: Great Neck and keep up to date on all things Great Neck, check out their social medias and website, destinationgreatneck.com

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