The community comes together to discuss the town’s future at
Destination: Great Neck’s second forum
On Tuesday, Feb. 28, Destination: Great Neck hosted its second community forum to discuss the vision for Great Neck’s downtown. The organization hosted the forum for residents, local merchants and elected officials to come together to voice concerns and be a part of the plans for Great Neck. About 140 to 150 people attended the forum at The Mariner Estate on Old Mill Neck Road.
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 discussed ideas to strengthen Great Neck’s appeal with locals and village officials.
The first community forum was in late October 2022. Proud residents, with concerned stakeholders, merchants and elected representatives, showed up to the community forum. One of Destination: Great Neck’s founders, resident Janet Nina Esagoff, described the previous community forum as excellent and well-attended. The forum inspired the members of Destination: Great Neck to plan meetings with village mayors, brainstorm with visionaries and put dreams in motion.
The recent community forum focused on bringing vibrancy and unity to Main Street, and to increase the overall appeal of Great Neck’s downtown. The conversations centered around real estate, commercial development and Main Street development.
Nassau County Legislator Mazi Melesa Pilip, Assemblywoman Gina Sillitti, Town of North Hempstead Supervisor Jennifer DeSena, Village of Great Neck Mayor Pedram Bral, Village of Kensington Mayor Susan Lopatkin and other elected officials attended the February forum.
Destination: Great Neck hosted a panel of architects, realtors, members from Vision Long Island, Dadras Architects Inc., and Marnie Ives of Kron Chocolatier to speak and answer questions in the forum. Vision Long Island is an organization that educates, advocates, plans, designs and provides technical assistance on Smart Growth projects. They bring community designs together with experts, stakeholders, and decision-makers to advance quality growth and preservation on Long Island.
In addition to members of Vision LI, Frank Camarano, from the Nassau County Chamber of Commerce, attended the forum to share advice and expertise on the situations residents present.
“Vision Long Island presented a slide show and Camarano helped answer questions about downtown’s revitalization and businesses,” said Esagoff. “They also made a pitch for beautification plans, which Destination: Great Neck has already started.”
At an earlier meeting between Destination: Great Neck and elected officials, Destination: Great Neck suggested a few simple beautification ideas to get the revitalization process going. After the presentation, the conversation opened for the elected village officials and Destination: Great Neck members to begin hashing out ideas to bring more vibrancy and more people. One suggestion discussed at length at the meeting was unified flags.
“Beatification at a very low budget amount is a start,” said Thomaston Mayor Steven Weinberg. All the present Mayors, trustees and other elected officials agreed on this idea along with the other simple beautification plans. The group at the meeting gave the green light to begin beautification in small steps.
On Feb. 22, Destination: Great Neck presented the pole banner designs to be hung throughout the town to Great Neck’s elected officials.
“We have pole banners that we’re designing that are gonna go throughout the peninsula and create a shopping district,” said Esagoff. “And the mayors have all approved it. Beautification, unification and creating a message that everyone in the town is on board with is important.”
Esagoff shared that the pole banners will say ‘Explore Great Neck’ and have a compass design in the middle. Destination: Great Neck and the local officials are now talking about the next steps, assembly and installation, before presenting the design in front of the town board to be approved. Destination: Great Neck is hoping to have the banners up before the summer.
More beautification ideas discussed at the community forum included decorative art murals and pop art and where in the villages they can be placed. A low-cost suggestion discussed is ‘Instagram walls’ where a mural would be painted, and people could take pictures in front of it to post online.
“We talked about other initiatives such as reciprocity among the parks for the park district to allow other residents to use the parks and vice versa,” said Esagoff. “So we’re trying to integrate the residents of all the nine villages a little bit better than what we have right now. It’s a disjointed type of experience right when you go around [Great Neck] and we’re trying to make it a bit more integrated.”
A few members of the Great Neck Chamber of Commerce attended the community forum. They shared information about funding from Nassau County that is going to be distributed for technical services, including social media assistance.
“So we’re hoping to work with the Chamber of Commerce because their mission is to improve their business district and Destination: Great Neck is all on board with revitalizing the economic sector,” said Esagoff. “We need to get on social media and spread the message. We have to catch up with the rest of the world with respect to social media and putting our town back on the map.”
Esagoff and the other members of Destination: Great Neck are happy that all the people who attended the forum were interested and interacted with the panelists.
“I think Destination is being regarded as somewhat of an overseer of the residents and the merchants,” said Esagoff. “Given that there are different governments and no one’s really in charge of downtown revitalization, I think Destination: Great Neck is becoming the voice of the residents. And we’re trying to be an aggregator that can facilitate these types of conversations and hopefully produce better outcomes.”
Destination: Great Neck is hosting a recreational event next on Tuesday, March 21. The event is, “The Speakeasy”, will have live music, a jazz band with a vocalist, food and beverages.
“Hopefully it’ll be a fun moment for the town to get together and create a bit more spirit so we can keep the movement going,” said Esagoff.
To learn more about Destination: Great Neck and keep up with all things Great Neck, check out their social media accounts and website, destinationgreatneck.com