People have been asking me why I am supporting the candidacies of James Wu for mayor and Harold Citron and Julia Shields for trustee in the upcoming Village of Great Neck election. I have known Harold and Julia for a long time and can vouch for their integrity, competence and devotion to our village and to all of the residents regardless of background. I have come to know James Wu and am very impressed by his grasp of the issues, his priorities for our village, his commitment to our public schools and, most of all, an appreciation of the need for a village government that will be concerned with and responsive to the needs and desires of the entire community.
I have lived in the Village of Great Neck for 44 years and have witnessed many changes, including in our village government. Never in all those years have I seen a mayor so determined to change the character of the village and with so much disregard for democratic processes and the broad public interest. Consider this: A few years ago, the Zoning Board of Appeals (BZA) of the Village of Great Neck granted a numbers of variances, the most important of which related to the absence of off-street parking, to the project to convert the gas station on the corner of Middle Neck Road and Piccadilly Road into a synagogue. As part of its decision granting the variances, a series of conditions restricting the size of the building, number of occupants and allowed uses were imposed and accepted.
When Mayor Bral came into office, he quickly did the following:
• He removed the authority of the BZA to deal with cases affecting religious institutions and brought it to the board of trustees that he controls;
• He eliminated the language in the village zoning law restricting any additional religious institutions on Middle Neck Road in the business district; and
• He lifted the conditions that had been painstakingly negotiated when the variances were granted to the synagogue conversion on Middle Neck Road and Piccadilly Road.
The building is being more than doubled in size and a second floor added. The residents in the adjoining building at 1 Wooley’s Lane are being totally disrespected and the will of the community in the original decision disregarded.
So, now if people ask me what this election is all about, I tell them to go visit the building site.
I must add that my strong feelings about this election do not in any way reflect, as has been charged, a bias against the Orthodox community. I would feel the same way about this synagogue project were it a Reform or Conservative synagogue, a church, a mosque or a Buddhist temple. We live in a rapidly changing community, and I welcome and appreciate my Orthodox neighbors along with my Persian, Chinese and Christian neighbors. We need village government that truly represents and cares about everyone. Vote for Wu, Citron and Shields on June 18.