Written by Wendy K. Kreitzman Friday, 22 July 2011 00:00
Long-time Saddle Rock Mayor J. Leonard Samansky died last Thursday night, July 14. He was 74 years old. The Samansky family reported that the mayor died of heart failure. Mayor Samansky had served as mayor of the Village of Saddle Rock for over 20 years and was currently serving his eleventh term. Each of his elections was uncontested.
Mayor Samansky also currently served as president of the Great Neck Village Officials Association, a director of the Water Authority of Great Neck North (and chair of the Authority’s Environmental, Conservation and Audit Committees), a member of the Great Neck Cable Commission, a member of the Town of North Hempstead Sewer Authority Board, a member of the Nassau County Solid Waste Committee, and a member of the board of directors of the Great Neck Arts Center. Mayor Samansky was also a past president of the Nassau County Village Officials Association and was a long serving member of the executive committee.
Prior to becoming mayor, Leonard Samansky served as a member of the Saddle Rock Board of Zoning Appeals and was elected for four terms as village trustee. He has been mayor since 1991.
Professionally, Mayor Samansky was an attorney in private practice. He had previously worked as an attorney in a New York City law firm and then opened his own practice, first in the city and then in Great Neck. He was a graduate of Brooklyn College and Brooklyn Law School. From 1996 to 2001, he served Nassau County as Commissioner of Accounts, Ombudsman, Member of the Board of Ethics, and Nassau County Emergency Management Chief.
Leonard Samansky was born to a family where government service and politics were a part of life. His father, Frank Samansky, was a New York State assemblyman and a State Supreme Court judge. Mayor Samansky often spoke of the excitement and the interest he developed, his love of the law and his love of public service, all from his father.
Today, Mayor Samansky’s son Adam, also a lawyer, spoke of his father’s love for Saddle Rock and his love for the greater community. “Illness only slowed him down,” Adam told the Great Neck Record. Mayor Samansky was on the job, all through his illness, just about to the end, always putting his village first. Adam recalled last summer, when his dad had just been through a medical procedure and was instructed to be driven home and to get right into bed, stay there for a while and rest. But that was the day of the microburst, and as soon as his wife Shirley drove him home, Leonard Samansky was in his truck and out, literally picking up the pieces after the storm. “He always put the village first,” Adam said.
Adam Samansky spoke with pride of his father’s last project, a DVD detailing the creation of the 9/11 Memorial Bridge at Saddle Rock. When the tributes and drawings and mementoes began collecting at the Saddle Rock Bridge, in the weeks to follow some suggested cleaning the bridge, erasing the emotional tributes. Mayor Samansky was adamant that the tributes must be preserved and he had a detailed set of photographs taken. Those photographs were just recently compiled into a moving tribute. Just a few weeks ago, together, Leonard and Adam Samansky viewed the tribute. “We both cried,” Adam said.
Earlier this summer the Village of Saddle Rock celebrated its 100th celebration. Mayor Samansky made sure there was a wonderful celebration, and he made sure he was there. For almost a fourth of the village’s history, Leonard Samansky has been Saddle Rock’s mayor.
When Mayor Samansky ran his last campaign, this past March, he told the Great Neck Record just why he continued to work so hard for his village and for the Great Neck community: “I enjoy serving my community... I look forward to continuing to serve the Village of Saddle Rock and the community at large. If re-elected mayor, I intend to work closely with the other members of the board of trustees and our residents to make sure that the Village of Saddle Rock remains one of the safest, most beautiful and enjoyable villages in which to live and raise a family.”
Leonard Samansky is survived by his wife Shirley, their son Adam, three step-daughters (Debra Weinstein, Janet Weinstein and Linda Weinstein), seven grandchildren, and a brother, Arthur Samansky.
In the days following Leonard Samansky’s death, there has been an outpouring of love and appreciation, and a great deal of deep respect, from a very appreciative community. Adam Samansky told the Record that when he spoke to members of the Alert and Vigilant fire companies, fire department leaders insisted that their great supporter, Leonard Samansky, be given full fire department honors at this funeral.
Following a large crowd of family, friends, and colleagues at the funeral this past Sunday, July 17, the honor guard of Alerts and Vigilants escorted the late mayor and his family from the services to a special salute. On the service road of the Long Island Expressway, between the Lakeville Road and New Hyde Park exits, two fire department ladder trucks formed an arch of ladders over the road, an arch from which hung a huge flag of the United States of America. The funeral cortege passed beneath this moving tribute.
At the funeral service earlier in the day, memories of Leonard Samansky were filled with stories of his love for his family and his very strong love for, and advocacy for, his village and his community. A large contingent of public officials filled the chapel, each one with a full heart, each one remembering just how much Leonard Samansky always gave to keep his village, and his Great Neck, whole and happy and safe.
The one theme that carried throughout the service was the deep satisfaction Mayor Samansky took from caring for his community … and his hope that others would follow his lead.
Conducting the service, Rabbi Dale Polakoff of the Great Neck Synagogue spoke of how Leonard Samansky simply told him: “I tried to do something.”
Now it’s our turn to try! The greatest legacy Mayor Samansky could possibly leave, the one he would treasure most, would be to see his community come together and work together in order to keep the “great” in Great Neck.
“Leonard was a man whose life was defined by public service. He was never deterred by any task regardless of the consequences. Leonard was an avid warrior for the preservation and beautification of the Village of Saddle Rock. As a champion for the Great Neck peninsula’s many causes and a tireless defender of the villages of Nassau County, Leonard was a ‘mayor’s mayor.’ He mentored many and left me very large shoes to fill. He will be sorely missed.”
When told of Mayor Samansky’s death, Senator Martins responded: “He was a great leader and friend. He lived his life with passion. He will be missed.”
After time to reflect, Senator Martins told the Record: “We lost one of our outstanding leaders in Leonard Samansky. He was a good friend, a dedicated public official and worked tirelessly for the benefit of his community. This year, the Village of Saddle Rock celebrated its 100th anniversary. Mayor Samansky was such an integral part of Saddle Rock’s history. The village’s warmth and beauty are indicators of the kind of person Mayor Samansky was. In April, I had the opportunity to swear him in for another term. It was an honor I will never forget.”
“Leonard was a leading voice for the Great Neck community and a tenacious advocate for village governments, most notably for his own Saddle Rock. I will miss his humor, and his governmental activism. I am grateful to his wife Shirley for sharing him with the community. But it was always evident to me that he loved his work.”
“Although we knew that Leonard was ill, his passing is a great shock and loss to our Great Neck community. As president of the Great Neck Village Officials Association, Leonard was committed to advocating for what was in the best interest of those living on the Great Neck peninsula. He cared deeply about his residents in the Village of Saddle Rock. You could always see him surveying the streets of the village to make sure that all was well throughout the community. I knew only too well of Leonard’s love and commitment to the Saddle Rock School as a past president of the Saddle Rock PTA and member of the Great Neck Board of Education. He was a presence at many school events, even participating in the winter concerts. Upon asking a primary grade class who the president of the United States was, one child responded ‘Leonard Samansky.’ Leonard was a mentor and partner in government and I will miss him.”
“Leonard was a true and loyal friend. I valued his advice, but we had fun disagreeing and debating. He was passionate about most things he undertook, especially his village, the entire Great Neck community and village government in the county and beyond. When he again became the president of the Great Neck Village Officials Association four years ago, he brought a Gadsden Flag and displayed it prominently at all of our meetings. The Gadsden Flag goes back to the American Revolution and is familiar to most - a yellow field on which there is a coiled snake and the words ‘DON’T TREAD ON ME.’ Leonard can never be replaced and will be sorely missed.”
“I was deeply saddened to learn of Leonard’s passing. In my experience working with him these past few years, I was often struck by his depth of knowledge of village affairs and his exceptional dedication to both the Village of Saddle Rock and to the greater Great Neck community through his position as the president of the Great Neck Village Officials Association. He was a unique individual with a multitude of passions and interests, and a profound commitment and support for local government. I personally will miss him greatly and I am sure many others who he has worked with over his many years of public service will as well.”
“I knew Mayor Samansky for 30 years. Leonard was always passionate about his Saddle Rock Village and the Great Neck community. He enjoyed problem-solving, helping people, and was a tireless advocate for the Great Neck peninsula. If there was a civic or government event taking place in Great Neck, you were almost certain that Leonard would be at that function, for that was a part of his active, caring involvement.
“He was an energetic promoter of the Great Neck Village Officials Association (GNVOA). As its president for three terms, he was committed to seeking the participation of all nine villages, the town, and special districts in order to foster cooperation among the villages for their mutual benefit and welfare. He sought to promote and invigorate the GNVOA as a means to have greater unity among local officials and therefore a stronger voice to advocate our interests. He personally had many contacts in all levels of government and he would reach outside the peninsula wherever he could if he felt it would promote the interests of Great Neck.
“Leonard left us with many wonderful memories and those of us who were fortunate to know and work with him will never forget his big, warm smile, and his tremendous dedication and commitment as one of the peninsula’s longest-serving and hardest working mayors.
“I extend my heartfelt sympathy to the family and friends of Mayor Samansky and thank Shirley for sharing him with all of us. He will be deeply missed.”
“I always enjoyed being with Leonard at meetings and over the many years I appreciated his dedication to his village of Saddle Rock. His leadership was an example of what makes us a great community.”
“Without question Len Samansky was an icon within the Great Neck Community. His love of the fire and EMS service and his advocacy for it have been well documented. But there is more. Although his village is not a member, the Mayor was a strong proponent of our Park District. His defense of local government was fierce, and it was best demonstrated by his display of the flag ‘Don’t Tread on Me’ at meetings of the Great Neck Village Officials Association.”