Written by Wendy Karpel Kreitzman Friday, 12 March 2010 00:00
(Editor’s Note: The Great Neck Record requested very specific information from each candidate: a short biography and the answers to three questions (expertise or experience, reason for running, top issue to be addressed). We received a variety of responses. Although we are strict with the 500 to 600-word limit, we are publishing the responses as received. The election is Tuesday, March 16. Incumbent Mayor Jean Celender is running with incumbent trustees Pam Marksheid and Ted Rosen. Stu Hochron is running for mayor with trustee candidates Michael Glickman and Scott Schwartz.)
I have lived in a cooperative building on Overlook Avenue for the past 30 years with my husband, Jeffrey Schwartz, the cooperative’s long-time board president. We have a daughter.
Since my arrival I have served in village government in various positions, including trustee and deputy mayor, and in 2000 I was proud to be elected first woman mayor of Great Neck Plaza. As mayor, in addition to my executive duties, I chair the Vigilant Fire Department Liaison Committee and serve as member of the Board of Directors of the Water Authority of Great Neck North, Great Neck Plaza BID, Chamber of Commerce, Great Neck Arts Center and CLASP. I am the board’s liaison or co-liaison to various village resident committees.
I have more than 30 years of experience in private consulting, the last 25 as president of JAC Planning Corp., a planning and environmental consulting firm in the Plaza, which performs environmental studies, public participation and community outreach, transportation planning and related services.
I have BA and MA degrees in geography, specializing in urban planning, from Briarcliff College and Arizona State University.
Why am I running for re-election? I seek re-election as mayor to build upon the initiatives and programs instituted during my tenure. While much has been accomplished, there remains much to be done, including completion of several ongoing projects. I am aware that this election falls during the most severe economic crisis since the Great Depression, and it has impacted many village residents and merchants. It is critically important during this time that village government stimulate local business without increasing the financial burden on residents. In order to accomplish this, the village needs an effective, fiscally responsible mayor with a proven track record of holding our tax rate unchanged for the past four budget years. Instead of raising taxes, I have worked hard to bring in over $3 million in federal and state grant monies, which enabled the village to undertake various projects at minimal cost to taxpayers. As a result, our streets and sidewalks are safer and more walkable, we enhanced the beautification of our village, and have been able to preserve and build upon the attributes that make Great Neck Plaza a special place.
My experience and expertise include: I am intimately familiar with village administration and issues affecting residents, merchants and visitors. I have developed valuable working relationships with neighboring villages and municipalities, as well as county and state governments, evidenced in part by my ability to apply for and obtain significant grant monies. I bring a unique talent and experience as an urban planner; as mayor I look to maintain the Plaza’s hometown feel and sense of community, while striving to develop and implement ways to balance growth and improve the quality of life in the village.
The most pressing issue facing the Plaza is the economy and taxes. We have been in a deep national recession and I am confronting this issue by facilitating adoption of budgets holding the village tax rate to a zero increase for the past four budget years. I was able to hold the line on taxes while undertaking major traffic and pedestrian improvements, infrastructure repairs, as well as numerous downtown enhancement/beautification projects, including public art initiatives. My administration was able to achieve these results, in large part, due to my urban planning experience and expertise in obtaining federal and state grants, paying 80 to 90 percent of the cost of these projects. I am sensitive to the issues concerning the economic vitality of downtown and believe that policies and programs I have implemented, and seek to continue, will attract investment in downtown businesses and properties.
As president of the Great Neck Co-op and Condominium Council since its inception in 2001, led a crusade that resulted in a 6.5 percent school tax reduction for all of Great Neck’s co-op and condominium owners. This was accomplished without decreasing our school budget or increasing the tax on individual homeowners. I have served on the board of The Bond Parc Condominium (president for 14 years) and oversaw several large improvement/renovation projects, administered the financial health of the condominium, negotiated contracts and managed staff. During my tenure there has been no increase in monthly common charges. After receiving a B.A. from Hofstra University, I began my professional career as an executive in pharmaceutical advertising/medical education supervising $20 million a year budgets.
Growing up in Little Neck I remember Great Neck Plaza in its glory days. After raising our son in Dix Hills, my wife and I moved to the Plaza over 16 years ago.
kWhy am I running for office? Citizens for Plaza Reform stand for re-imagining Great Neck Plaza, revitalizing downtown and making local government work for you. The Plaza needs a full-time mayor to fully address the distinctive needs of its multicultural residents and wholly recognize the tremendous importance of our unique business and retail district. More attention needs to be paid to the business and retail district, as it is a very central part of the success of this community. In order to bring the Plaza back to the thriving community it was, we need creative insight and innovative changes. I am confident that as a responsible leader I am highly qualified to address and ensure that the policies enacted by our village board are proactive, workable and reflect the opinions of the people who live, work, and do business here. Now is the time for fresh ideas, new ways of conducting village business, with an accessible, independent voice of a full-time mayor.
What experience and/or expertise do I bring? While walking the streets of the Plaza daily, I frequently hear the concerns of the residents and shopkeepers. They lament the state of our downtown, (empty storefronts, inadequate parking) and whenever possible I try to address their concerns and offer assistance. I attend village trustee meetings so I can be personally involved and aware. I have served on the village’s Residents Parking & Pedestrian Safety Committee, Beautification Committee, Public Art Advisory Board, and the Board of Zoning and Appeals. I have attended the Nassau County Planning Federation’s conferences, been a member of the Nassau County Tax Assessor’s Committee on Tax Reform, and regularly attended meetings of the town, Park District, School Board and Library.
The issue I find most pressing right now is that there are too many empty stores and a lot of the occupied establishments do not live up to the image that is Great Neck. I want to keep our shopkeepers from going out of business, while at the same time attracting new stores and businesses. I suggest “bagging” the meters during busy shopping periods. An upscale, exciting, thriving downtown will help ensure and secure our property values. My agenda would include a number of other issues that directly affect the residents and storeowners and I would be happy to discuss them in an open debate.
I will work full time for all those who reside and work in the Plaza. I believe I am worthy of the trust of the people. As a full-time mayor, I plan to dedicate myself to promoting, protecting and enhancing the value of our residential areas, downtown shops, restaurants, commercial properties, and businesses by making Great Neck Plaza an exciting and vital place to live, visit, work, shop, and play.